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Letter from the Chair
Strengthening industry partnerships, solid programs, and growing research capabilities are driving the Mining and Explosives Engineering Programs to continued success. Many changes to the mining engineering curriculum were implemented for 2017. These changes were necessary based on input from industry, students, and faculty alike. The curriculum will continue to evolve with industry needs, culminating in our most important goal: produce high quality mining engineers for industry. We produced 52 graduates in the 2016-2017 academic year. We were also the largest undergraduate mining engineering program in the US according to the 2017 SME department chair survey. Enrollments will soften a bit this year with the completion of the Botswana 2+2 program. Recruiting efforts are stepping up to meet the growing needs of industry. All of the industry sectors are starting to echo needs for more graduates. This is a great place for us to be!
Our student teams are simply dominating in what they do. The mucking teams brought home plenty of hardware from Kentucky as the Men’s B-Team won the overall, and The Lady Muckers won the overall for the fourth year in a row. Our mine rescue team also performed well, taking First Place in first aid and fourth in the field at our invitational competition in September. I’m so proud of all of them.
The explosives engineering program is taking bold new steps to create an MS program in Explosives Technology. This program is targeted towards potential students that are currently involved in the industry, have science or technical backgrounds, but are not engineers. The program has already garnered much interest from potential students.
I have been busy working with faculty to enhance the programs reputation abroad. Dr. Frimpong and I travelled to Ecuador in September to advance negotiations with the University Of San Francisco De Quito (USFQ) to assist them with standing up a mining program. S&T’s role will be to act as a resource for students in a 2+2 program where students from Ecuador will complete a degree in mining engineering at S&T after completing two years at USFQ. During the visit, it was obvious that the burgeoning mining industry will support these graduates with career opportunities upon their return. The explosives engineering faculty also welcomed representatives from China for explosives training at the Kennedy Experimental Mine Building. I traveled to China in October to negotiate a five year agreement to provide industry training to approximately 100 trainees per year.
Shirley Hall retired this year, and we will miss her services immensely. I know that she was a key resource for many of you through the ten years that she was part of our family. Also, Dr. Stewart Gillies, who retired in the spring of 2016, will be recognized at the winter commencement for his designation as Professor Emeritus in Mining Engineering.
My goal over the next year is to develop a plan to raise funds and endow our mining engineering program. Academic pressures for research and cyclical industries have driven many US mining engineering programs into closure over the past 20 years. This trend continued with SIU announcing the closure of its mining engineering program earlier this year. University administrations driving further focus on research and scholarly output in high impact factor journals has posed a challenge attracting and retaining quality faculty for mining who don’t traditionally publish in these venues. For this reason, endowments are critically important. Look for me to be asking you for advice on how to proceed with this endeavor. In the interim, we are recruiting the best talent available and succeeding to meet the needs of university administration while staying true to our reputation for producing quality undergraduate mining engineers. We must embrace what the academic world values to maintain our stature at university. The administration will be looking at return on investment with faculty hires, so strength in this area allows us to keep the faculty positions we need to manage our curriculum. Research expenditures are trending up and faculty are focused on increasing research output. For those of you with research needs of your own, I encourage you to investigate working with S&T to meet these needs through our faculty and graduate students. The coming year will be a great success thanks to the hard work of our faculty, students and staff. They are accomplishing great things.
Dr. Braden Lusk