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As the world digitises, only professionals who roll with the times will stay in demand. Thankfully, universities across the globe are reworking their offerings to accommodate. Few, however, are dedicating their entire purpose to it. Hence, it’s safe to say that science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)-focused institutions like the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology are hard to come by. 

Nowhere else will you find the best in their field seeking solutions to ice formations in soil, developing virtual reality training modules that mimic mining environments, innovating bioplastics for use in agriculture, helping students explore counterfeit drug prevention, or comprehend the origins of dinosaurs.  

Nestled in the eastern slope of the Black Hills — in Rapid City, South Dakota — is a campus where there is always a new discovery. Options are seemingly endless to those ready to get involved — they take their pick from over 20 bachelor’s degrees. A rolling lineup of accelerated master’s degree programmes is explorable as well, meaning learners can opt to complete both an undergraduate and postgraduate qualification in as little as five years. 

At the undergraduate level, topics include Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, Biology, Biomedical Engineering, Business Management in Technology, Chemical Engineering, Chemistry, Civil Engineering, Computer Engineering, Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, Geological Engineering, Geology, Industrial Engineering and Engineering Management, Mathematics, Mechanical Engineering, Metallurgical Engineering, Mining Engineering, Physics, Pre-Professional Health Sciences, Pre-Chiropractic, Pre-Dentistry, Pre-Medicine, Pre-Physical Therapy, Pre-Physician Assistant, Pre-Pharmacology, as well as Science, Technology, and Society

Each path is experiential in its own unique way. All qualifications emphasise the importance of hands-on learning, enabling students to get their hands dirty in maker spaces and state-of-the-art laboratories that feature industry-level equipment they will one day use as professionals. Undergraduates are welcome to engage in research as well. 

The theme of practical learning persists through the engineering CAMP (Centre of Excellence for Advanced Multidisciplinary Projects) programme, where students, faculty members and industry leaders work together on real-world endeavours. In the past, they’ve built alternative fuel vehicles, a concrete canoe, an unmanned aerial vehicle, a mini Indy, and a Baja car, while others worked on projects that revolve around robotics or hydrogen fuel cells.

When ready, they apply knowledge beyond campus. South Dakota Mines’s students intern at over 153 companies in 35 states, earning an average of US$20 an hour. Abroad, they build orphanages in Chile or broaden their geological horizons in Turkey — 15% of learners participate in paid research positions before graduating. Every year, some even design and build a brand new Formula racing car from the ground up, testing it in Ford’s famed wind tunnel before competing against other universities nationwide — just one of the 10 competitive engineering teams at South Dakota Mines working their way to triumph.

It’s little wonder outstanding outcomes are guaranteed to all or why South Dakota Mines ranks first for return on investment — think an average starting salary of US$66,516.

In fact, PayScale lists South Dakota Mines among the top 100 schools in the US for impressive early and mid-career salaries. Similarly, SmartAsset named South Dakota Mines first in the state for both value and starting salary. Understandably so when 97% of graduates gain placement — oftentimes prior to graduation. 

More than three-quarter (77%) of graduates land paid internships and research positions that lead to full-time employment. For example, a computer engineering major Dakotah Rusley interned at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre before being offered a full-time position to kick off post-graduation. Students Kirstie Gildemeister and Kelsey Fitzgerald won the 2021 Giant Vision award for their company, Hydrolyst LLC, which has the potential to greatly improve efforts to store energy generated by solar and wind power. Douglas Bachand, an industrial engineering graduate, created his own ski company, Full Send Ski Company, well before completing his programme. This year, Whytneigh Duffie, a Ph.D. candidate in the Karen M. Swindler Department Chemical and Biological Engineering, took home first place in the student division with her business, Disappex LLC. Maryam Amouamouha, a Ph.D. candidate in the Karen M. Swindler Department Chemical and Biological Engineering, also won the business competition with her company, AMBER LLC. 

Others achieve their goals immediately after their commencement ceremony. Like Henry Wegehaupt, who graduated from  South Dakota Mines with an electrical engineering degree before being awarded a US$100,000 grant from the US Department of Agriculture to continue research and development on an automated cattle-feeding system that he began developing as a student.

Feel you’re capable of achieving the same? South Dakota Mines believes you can too. Click here to join its dynamic, diverse student body of 40 nationalities today. 

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