ANCHORAGE, Alaska - From being a Turquoise (highest level) sponsor to playing a prominent role in the opening and closing ceremonies, the Navy's presence was seen and felt at the AISES National Conference here, Nov. 1-3.
This year's conference theme was "Adapt-ability" - working together to "...find adaptable solutions to the challenges facing humanity" according to Dr. Mary Jo Ondrechen (Mohawk), Chair of AISES board of directors. Dr. Ondrechen added "Using our scientific knowledge to take on environmental challenges, promote economic growth, preserve our natural resources, and enable human survival, we are honoring the sacrifices and valor of our forebears." Two thousand science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) students and professionals took part in this year's conference.
AISES, formed in 1977, has substantially increased participation of American Indians and Alaskan Natives in STEM education and career fields. The model AISES promotes is the "full circle of support" meaning its programs and resources target progression from pre-college, undergraduate, graduate, professional career through retirement. Programs include events such as the national conference, professional development and networking opportunities, mentoring programs, community service, research presentations, and awards recognition. Resources are provided through scholarship programs which have provided over $8.7M to nearly 5,000 students. Over 3,000 AISES members represent over 200 tribal affiliations. To learn more, visit the AISES website at www.aises.org. Arguably, AISES is the most comprehensive and effective organization in America for increasing student interest and enrollment in STEM fields.
The AISES national conference provides an excellent opportunity to demonstrate that the Navy is an employer of choice. Military and civilian representatives from all sectors of the Navy interacted with AISES attendees in several forums.
Rear Adm. Samuel J. Cox, director of intelligence for U.S. Cyber Command, a Sequoyah Fellow since 2010, was the speaker at the professional member's dinner and served as a judge for graduate STEM research poster presentations. Capt. Jeffrey Trussler (Cherokee), recipient of the 2008 AISES Executive Excellence Award and currently assigned to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, actively participated in several training sessions and was a speaker at the closing ceremony. Trussler and Ms. Betty Vega, Pacific Fleet Inspector General both served as judges for undergraduate STEM research poster presentations. Donn Murakami, Office of Naval Research presented "Sustainable Technology Initiatives in Hawaii" during one of the professional sessions. And Capt.Horacio Fernandez, director of diversity at Navy Recruiting Command, took every opportunity to encourage STEM students to consider applying their talents through service in the Navy.
For each sector of the "full circle of support", the 2012 AISES National Conference provided three days of learning sessions, student presentations, career fair, awards, traditional events and more. For the Navy, this conference was an opportunity for engagement with the brightest STEM talent for the future.
Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet sponsored Ms. Vega's participation in the AISES conference as part of the diversity affinity engagements program.