Michigan Tech resurrecting mining engineering degree program

April 8, 2019

Michigan Technological University announced that it is reviving its mining engineering program.

The mining engineering department was the first department established at the school in 1885 when the school was formed as the Michigan Mining School, however, the program was suspended in 2004 because of shrinking faculty and enrollment.

“At the time it was suspended, it was a real slap in the face to the history of Michigan Tech,” John Gierke, chairman of Tech’s Department of Geological & Mining Engineering & Sciences told the Daily Mining Gazette.

The outcry was immediate, and the process to bring back the mining engineering program began and the mining engineering bachelor’s degree will return to Michigan Tech this summer.

The proposal to restore the program has been approved by the Tech Senate and the administration.

On the wane in the late 1990s, the program had been moved under the umbrella of the Geological Engineering Department in “something of a forced marriage,” Gierke said.

At the time it was discontinued, the program had four faculty and a handful of students. At the time it was eliminated in spring 2004, no mining engineering courses had been scheduled for the next year.

Soon after Glenn Mroz became university president in 2004, talks to reinstate the program began, both within GMES and with a panel of industry members and academics.

A report with recommendations for a new program was submitted in 2013. Two faculty members came on board.

Assistant professor Snehamoy Chatterjee has stayed with the university. The other eventually left but was replaced this year with lecturer Nathan Manser, an alumnus of the program.

With faculty in place, the department finalized the proposal and submitted it this year.

Rather than resurrect the 15-year-old curriculum, they started from scratch in devising the curriculum, taking department and university

strengths into consideration, Chatterjee said.

With the requirements in accreditation for mining programs, it wound up overlapping with the old program by about 80 percent, Chatterjee said.

“There’s a lot of new things happening in the industry, like in digital technologies and a lot of smart mining, so you need to incorporate those things,” he said. “So you have to have some electives that can address those issues.”

About five students are expected in the program for this fall, including three current Tech students switching their major.

With a full year for recruiting students, enrollment could double next year, Gierke said. Within three or four years, he thinks, they could have 20.
Response from alumni has been through the roof, Gierke said. During the hiatus, graduates not only complained about the suspension, they backed it up with donations. As a result, the mining engineering degree now has 15 years worth of scholarship funds from donations earmarked for the then-nonexistent program.

Another reason the program took so long to come back is the departure of the old lab equipment. New technology being brought in includes a donated $25,000 piece of equipment that allows students to do surveys with drones and cameras allowing them to do surveys in a fraction of a time. It’s already been used to map the damage in Ripley after last year’s flood.

“That’s another important feature of this new program, is the new technology and getting the students’ hands on that in their education,” Gierke said.


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