It is an unfortunate reality that people from underserved communities are underrepresented in the STEM workforce. One minority group included in this underrepresentation is Native Americans. According to 2013 report from the U.S. Census Bureau, Native Americans and Alaska Natives comprise only .4% of the STEM workforce.
While this statistic is troubling, programming exists around the country to encourage Native American youth to pursue STEM careers. These initiatives all aim to build a STEM pipeline that will expose students to STEM education from an early age and help them sustain an interest in a STEM subjects throughout their lives. Read on to learn about some of these programs.
The Alaska Native Science & Engineering Program
The Alaska Native Science & Engineering Program (ANSEP) partners with more than 100 middle schools, high schools, universities, nonprofit organizations, corporations, and government agencies to achieve better Alaska Native representation in STEM careers. Offering continuous educational support from sixth grade through graduate school, the program has won awards from Harvard University, the U.S. Department of the Interior, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the Office of the President of the United States.
One highlight of ANSEP is a two-week summer camp for middle school students that includes building a computer, participating in biology experiments, and learning about earthquakes. High school students can take advantage of an accelerated program that enables them to earn college credits in biology, civil engineering, and psychology. For students at the university level, ANSEP offers group study sessions, co-enrollment in classes, and mentoring services.
The Native American Science and Engineering Program
The University of Arizona (UA) offers the Native American Science and Engineering Program (NASEP) for Native American high school youth. This program aims to strengthen the representation of Native American workers in STEM fields by introducing Native American youth to the many possibilities available to them in the STEM workforce.
NASEP consists of several components. One component is a week-long summer camp on the UA campus that gives students the opportunity to build a computer, complete geoscience research, network with local Native American STEM professionals from such companies as Raytheon and IBM, and receive an iPad mini. Throughout the school year, NASEP continues to engage students in college-prep activities through e-mail, phone, social media, and text messaging.
The Helping Orient Indian Students and Teachers into STEM Program
The University of Idaho established the Helping Orient Indian Students and Teachers into STEM (HOIST) program. A partnership between the state of Idaho, the University of Idaho, several Native American tribes from Idaho and the greater Northwest, this program aims to strengthen the Native American STEM pipeline by raising awareness of STEM career possibilities among Native American youth.
HOIST features a six-week summer STEM immersion program for Native American high school students on the University of Idaho campus. Participants take courses in math, English, and science in order to learn about college-level academic expectations. Students also participate in internships with University of Idaho researchers, go on field trips, and attend presentations by professionals and experts in a variety of STEM fields.
The Natives in STEM Program
Natives in STEM is a joint effort of the New Mexico Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (NM EPSCoR) and the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES). Through a variety of channels, including posters, its website, and social media, this initiative highlights the stories of Native American STEM professionals to raise awareness of the role Native people play in the STEM workforce.
To date, 15 Native American STEM professionals from eight different tribes have been highlighted on posters. Their career fields include engineering, environmental science, forestry, conservation science, hydrology, GIS technology, renewable energy, and chemistry. The Natives in STEM website also highlights STEM-related achievements by Native American youth in New Mexico.
The Nurturing American Tribal Undergraduate Research and Education Program
The Nurturing American Tribal Undergraduate Research and Education (NATURE) program is the result of a collaboration between the State of North Dakota, the University of North Dakota, North Dakota State University, and five Native American colleges. This program consists of several different components that encourage STEM education and workforce development among the state’s Native American population.
The various components in the NATURE program include weekend programming and several summer camps for Native American high school students. The weekend programming occurs monthly throughout the school year and features a curriculum designed by university faculty, tribal college faculty, and reservation high school teachers. The two-week summer camps, which take place on university and tribal college campuses, provide opportunities for Native American youth to experience college-level STEM education and participate in hands-on scientific research.