Engaging Rural and Alaska Native Undergraduates & Youth in Arctic STEM



Overview

Savoonga, St. Lawrence Island, Alaska. Photo by Lisa Sheffield Guy.Savoonga, St. Lawrence Island, Alaska. Photo by Lisa Sheffield Guy.

The Arctic is changing at an unprecedented rate, with consequences for Arctic residents—particularly Indigenous peoples. Along with these changes are new challenges and a growing need to engage and train the next generation in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields that are specifically focused on the Arctic. To successfully address the challenges, institutions working in the Arctic need to represent and be inclusive of the communities most affected by changes happening in the region. To start addressing these issues, the Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee (IARPC) Arctic STEM Education Working Group decided a workshop was needed to focus on Arctic Undergraduate and Youth STEM programming.

Originally, an invite-only workshop was scheduled for 28-29 April 2020; however, due to COVID-19, this in-person workshop was cancelled. At this time, the Steering Committee is discussing on the structure of a future workshop. The exact delivery method and time and date are to be determined. Regardless of the format, the goal is to bring together representatives from Alaska Native undergraduates and youth, federal agencies, researchers on Arctic STEM projects, Indigenous faculty, and community members, to discuss the gaps, challenges, opportunities, and successful practices to increase and support the representation of rural and Alaska Native undergraduates and youth in STEM education and career pathways. Prior to the workshop, open "Listen & Learn" sessions were held to provide opportunities for discussion on these issues.

Broader Impacts

The broader impacts of this workshop include generating solutions and forming partnerships to develop sound strategies for augmenting diversity and inclusion efforts of rural and Alaska Natives in STEM. Participants in this workshop will identify opportunities for improving STEM engagement and diversity efforts, and provide guidance on where additional efforts can be focused to increase Alaska Native representation in Arctic STEM.

Project Activities

In 2020, we hosted several "Listen & Learn Sessions". The purpose of these sessions is to provide a shared space for discussing challenges in Arctic STEM and opportunities for improving engagement of rural and Alaska Native undergraduates and youth in Arctic STEM fields and activities. Discussions are used to help formulate the final workshop agenda. These sessions were open to the public.

Listen and Learn Sessions

Below is a list of the sessions held to date:
(1) Discussion at the Alaska Marine Science Symposium was held Wednesday, 29 January 2020 during the Alaska Marine Science Symposium Ocean Educator Night, Anchorage, Alaska
(2) Discussion on Engaging Rural and Alaska Native Youth in Arctic STEM was held Tuesday, 11 February 2020 at the Alaska Forum for the Environment Conference, Anchorage, Alaska
(3) Discussion held during the Youth Workshop with Alaska Youth for Environmental Action (AYEA) on 14 February 2020 at the Alaska Forum for the Environment Conference, Anchorage, Alaska
(4) Discussion (virtually) with the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program (ANSEP) at the University of Alaska Fairbanks on Tuesday, 7 April 2020.

Originally planned was a session at the One Health Conference on Friday, 13 March 2020, University of Alaska Fairbanks. This session was cancelled due to the cancellation of the conference.

Notes and themes emerging from these sessions is available in Products.

Engaging Rural and Alaska Native Undergraduates & Youth in Arctic STEM Workshop

The two-day workshop, originally scheduled 28-29 April 2020 at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, was cancelled due to COVID-19. Information will be posted here about future dates and venue.

The workshop will discuss the following topics:
1. Broaden understanding of key barriers, challenges, and opportunities in engaging rural and Alaska Native undergraduates and youth participation in STEM fields;
2. Communicate methods and programs that are successful in engaging rural and Alaska Native undergraduates and youth in STEM education programs and workforce development;
3. Share perspectives on what is working and what needs to change; and
4. Discuss ways in which workshop participants can advance individual and collective efforts towards increasing rural Alaskan and Alaska Native undergraduate and youth engagement in Arctic STEM education and career pathways.

Resources

A number of resources have been collected for learning more about engaging youth in STEM. This is a growing body of knowledge; if you have contributions, please contact the ARCUS staff. Notes from the Listen and Learn sessions have been added to Products.

Contact

For more information and/or if you have questions about participating in any of these activities, please contact Janet Warburton at warburton [at] arcus.org.

Acknowledgements and Partners

This work is funded by the National Science Foundation under Cooperative Agreement No. PLR-1304316.
Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

A special thanks to the Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee (IARPC) Arctic STEM Education Working Group for supporting this work, and the International Arctic Research Center at University of Alaska Fairbanks for co-collaborating and partnering in the Listen & Learn Sessions, writing reports, and collaborating on the workshop planning. This work is being facilitated by Alli Harvey with Information Insights Inc., Fairbanks, Alaska.

Steering Committee Members

Principal Investigator, Research Enrichment Core, NIH-BLaST

Organizer Photo

Michael Castellini

University of Alaska Fairbanks
Fairbanks, AK
United States

Tribal Liaison

Organizer Photo

Malinda Chase

University of Alaska Fairbanks
Fairbanks, AK
United States

Student Representative

Organizer Photo

Kimberly Pikok

University of Alaska Fairbanks
Fairbanks, AK
United States

Student Representative

Organizer Photo

Michelle Quillin

University of Alaska Fairbanks
Fairbanks, AK
United States

Student Representative

Organizer Photo

Margaret Rudolf

University of Alaska Fairbanks
Fairbanks, AK
United States

National Partnership and Science Director, Alaska Native Science & Engineering Program

Organizer Photo

Beth Spangler

University of Alaska Anchorage
Anchorage, AK
United States

Policy Analyst

Organizer Photo

Sorina Stalla

U.S. Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee
Fairbanks, AK
United States

BLaST Reporting & Outreach Coordinator

Organizer Photo

Amy Topkok

University of Alaska Fairbanks
Fairbanks, AK
United States

Additional Organizers

IARPC Advisor

Organizer Photo

Kaja Brix

NOAA Fisheries
Fairbanks, AK
United States

Facilitator

Organizer Photo

Alli Harvey

Information Insights
Fairbanks, AK
United States

IARPC Advisor

Organizer Photo

Elizabeth Rom

U.S. National Science Foundation
Alexandria, VA
United States

Indigenous Expert

Organizer Photo

Sean Topkok

University of Alaska Fairbanks
Fairbanks, AK
United States

Principal Investigators

International Arctic Research Center, Partner

Organizer Photo

Vladimir Alexeev

International Arctic Research Center (University of Alaska Fairbanks)
Fairbanks, AK
United States

Project Lead, ARCUS

Organizer Photo

Janet Warburton

Arctic Research Consortium of the U.S.
Anchorage, AK
United States

Executive Director, ARCUS

Organizer Photo

Helen Wiggins

Arctic Research Consortium of the U.S.
Wasilla, AK
United States

Summary on Emerging Themes from Listen and Learn Sessions

The following summary articulates the main themes that emerged from the facilitated Listen and Learn sessions. These listening session themes will guide additional activities and a workshop which will gather representatives from Alaska Native youth and undergraduates, Indigenous Faculty, principal investigators on Arctic STEM projects and grants, federal agencies, and community members.

Input from the Listen and Learn sessions were grouped into topics and labeled with an overarching theme. The key themes that emerged were:

  • Cost-Benefit of Participating in Programs
  • Accessibility
  • Relevance
  • Community Engagement
  • Long Term and Post-Program Engagement
  • Funding
  • Outreach and Recruitment
  • Mentorship
  • Partnerships

Under each theme is the input and guidance from the sessions that that feeds into the theme.

Cost-benefit of Participating in Programs
Draft Guidance: Evaluate the cost vs benefit of participating in programs, not just for the participant but for their community (financial and otherwise). Make adjustments to the program and incentives accordingly.

Input from Listen & Learn Sessions:

  1. Provide competitive funding for students who come from lower-income families and are participating in a program instead of being paid to work
  2. Understand that when a student leaves their community to participate in a program, you are removing a pillar of the community - students often support their families and communities financially and otherwise in the summer
  3. Make academic credit available for students participating in programs

Accessibility
Draft Guidance: Ensure that programs are accessible to the demographic you are seeking to attract.

Input from Listen & Learn Sessions:

  1. Create local opportunities and bring STEM programs and opportunities to communities as to not add to “exodus” from communities
  2. Ensure that programs are open to non-traditional students
  3. Connect with programs that support younger students so that students are prepared when they enter into undergraduate programs
  4. Assess applicants on more than just GPA and written applications. Include things like letters of community support, community service history, and face-to-face conversations
  5. Make program timing flexible - most programs are outside of communities and last the duration of the summer. It is hard for students to leave for the whole summer because of subsistence needs and practices
  6. Have programs at different times like winter – it gives students something to do in winter when it is dark, summer is for subsistence and winter could be good for mental health
  7. Offer options for remote connection and participation

Relevance
Draft Guidance: Make programs and projects relevant to place and community interests/needs.

Input from Listen & Learn Sessions:

  1. Use community relevant concepts, challenges and community driven examples in programs and for projects
  2. Use applied and hands on examples from communities
  3. Make sure that programs and training opportunities connect to pathways back to communities
  4. Incorporate Traditional Ecological Knowledge and values throughout program
  5. Include vocational trades and skill development in STEM programs
  6. Include students and community members in the design of research projects
  7. Acknowledge there are other ways of knowing
  8. Understand what students longer term goals are, and understand that it is not just about getting students into PhD programs
  9. Identify areas of STEM lacking in communities and build programs around these needs

Community Engagement
Draft Guidance: Ensure respectful, honest, and consistent engagement with communities.

Input from Listen & Learn Sessions:

  1. Commit to long term engagement with communities
  2. Engage and integrate scientists and researchers who work in communities into programs & education systems
  3. Incorporate Traditional Knowledge and community knowledge into programs and projects
  4. Consider whole community and family when engaging a student
  5. Honor students existing role in STEM in their communities within programs
  6. Ensure appropriate inclusion and compensation for local experts and Traditional Knowledge Holders
  7. Engage communities in the curriculum development and research questions
  8. Consider how to engage students’ long term to keep them engaged in STEM
  9. Engage communities through citizen science and environmental monitoring and connect back to program/projects
  10. Ensure to the best extent possible that programs are run by indigenous people, include Indigenous elders, and that students are surrounded by other Indigenous students

Long Term and Post Program Engagement
Draft Guidance: Engage students both before and after program.

Input from Listen & Learn Sessions:

  1. Maintain relationships with students post-program
  2. Engage younger students in programs through various formats so that younger students are prepared and know what they need to do to fully participate in programs in the future
  3. Create student cohorts so students can support each other both during program and after the programs are finished
  4. Continue to engage students after the program through activities like conferences and helping them connect to job opportunities and other active research opportunities
  5. Ensure that students have the opportunities to program programmatic feedback
  6. Helps students identify and obtain their next opportunity

Funding
Draft Guidance: Ensure adequate funding for programs and students.

Input from Listen & Learn Sessions:

  1. Fund scientists to do more face to face engagement in communities
  2. Connect with organizations and agencies to sponsor students in programs
  3. Consider how STEM programs are funded. If they are funded from out of state how do they know what local priorities are? If funded by the state how can they be protected from political fluctuations?

Outreach & Recruitment
Draft Guidance: Conduct targeted and community based (in-person) outreach and recruitment.

Input from Listen & Learn Sessions:

  1. Conduct contextualized and face-to face outreach and recruitment in communities
  2. Connect with people from rural Alaska who have STEM jobs as examples to students
  3. Begin outreach starting at early age so students know what opportunities are ahead of them
  4. Include rural campuses, vocational schools, and regional training centers in outreach and engagement activities
  5. Engage students who have participated in programs to go back to community and work with tribes and schools to do outreach
  6. Advertise to whole community, utilizing public spaces like libraries, recreation centers, at community events, and schools
  7. Work with teachers and guidance counselors to connect with students
  8. Help guide students through the application process and ensure that students have enough time to work on applications. Students often need to use school internet to apply so make sure that applications are not just open over holidays and breaks.

Mentoring
Draft Guidance: Prioritize mentorship before, throughout, and post program.

Input from Listen & Learn Sessions:

  1. Set up near-peer mentoring, where older students mentor younger students
  2. Create peer to peer cohorts so students can mentor and support each other
  3. Engage community Elders to be mentors
  4. Consider options for pre-program mentorship to help students be prepared for the program
  5. Provide options for mental health support
  6. Ensure that social support exists for students to reduce culture shock, especially for students from rural communities separated from family support structures
  7. Mentors should teach soft skills like public speaking and networking

Partnerships
Draft Guidance: Connect and partner with community organizers and employers.

Input from Listen & Learn Sessions:

  1. Partner with communities and Tribal governments
  2. Create opportunities for student exchanges between campuses and communities
  3. Connect rural communities to each other to share STEM work and experience and best practices/successes/challenges. This creates a community of Arctic STEM across the Arctic.
  4. Offer free training for jobs as a part of this (connected with potential employers)
  5. Establish employer partnerships so students can be deliberate as to what they are working towards

NOTE: This information is just the start of the discussions and doesn't represent any final product. The Steering Committee and organizing team wanted to share what we have learned to date. If you have questions about the process or this information, please contact Janet Warburton at warburton [at] arcus.org.