Wagner: SME Board intern broadens wheelhouse

June 21, 2022

Here are excerpts of a brief interview Mining Engineering (ME) conducted with Richard Wagner, an SME Board intern.

ME: Please explain your SME path to intern with the SME Board of Directors, i.e., past committee and chair positions.

Wagner: My involvement with SME began to take off when I joined and became active in my local section (Pittsburgh). They welcomed my involvement and encouraged my participation in other areas of SME. I took their advice and sat in on a Coal and Energy (C&E) executive meeting at an annual conference. It wasn’t long after raising my hand to pitch in on some committees that I found myself as program chair and soon after that, chair of the C&E Executive Committee.

During my tenure on the C&E Executive Committee I had the good fortune of being nominated and appointed to two strategic committees: the Strategic Nominating Committee and the Professional and Educational Development Strategic Committee. Both provided me with the opportunity to meet a broader group of colleagues at SME and invigorated a passion for me to contribute more outside of my wheelhouse. When the SME Board of Intern Program was announced, I thought this was a perfect opportunity, and I was proud to be selected to serve in this role.

ME: What are your goals as an intern member of the SME Board?

Wagner: As a board intern, my primary goal is to be a sponge. There is so much knowledge the directors and SME leadership possess, and I hope to absorb as much of it as possible, and perhaps one day leverage that information to better serve SME as a director of the board. And, while drinking from the proverbial firehose, I’ll offer the unique experience I bring to the table as being “too old to be young and to young to be old.”

ME: What advice do you have for someone just joining SME or the mining industry?

Wagner: You’d be hard-pressed to find a more supportive and forward-facing industry then mining. There are certainly a lot of challenges the industry faces and the easiest are the technological hurdles. The biggest roadblock is that of public perception and that’s where SME and you can help make a difference. Being involved with both should not only accelerate career development but also one’s self-worth. Both the industry and SME provide numerous avenues for personal and professional development. I would encourage members to not only take full advantage of all those offerings, but to also pay it forward by jumping in and giving back.

ME: What are your thoughts about the near-term future of SME?

Wagner: Despite the recent downturn in membership, I feel SME is as strong as ever. I’m encouraged to see efforts to stay current and excited about the future as I look around the world at the new local chapters that are forming. I believe SME is positioned to stay relevant and to become the international society of preference for those in the mining and supportive industries.

ME: What are your thoughts on the mining industry?

Wagner: The mining industry is certainly facing a challenging yet exciting time. Most all industries are being confronted with a rapid turnover in employees. This is something I believe mining is handling well given most companies invest in a mentorship/training program that well equips the next generation to step into more senior roles earlier. The industry is also experiencing rapidly developing new technology. Automation in its earlier days received mixed opinions, however; the safety, efficiencies and productivity realized by this implementation has changed most people’s perceptions. These are exciting times to be entering the mining industry. I couldn’t be prouder to be associated with such a progressive industry on all fronts from diversity to environmental stewardship and all points in-between.


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