A new partnership between Colorado School of Mines and Caterpillar is providing hands-on leadership training and industry mentorship to student leaders in mining engineering.
Four Mines students – all serving on the executive team of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration (SME) student chapter – spent their fall break last semester at the Caterpillar Tinaja Hills Demonstration Center in Green Valley, Arizona, for the Caterpillar Student Leadership Experience Program.
Designed specifically for Mines, the unique leadership program exposed students to the value of a servant leadership approach and leveraging their own individual strengths to motivate and lead others. Activities included a StrengthsFinder assessment, panel discussion on career experiences and lessons, and skill-building presentations on leadership styles, organizational climates and effective team building.
Students also toured CAT’s Tucson Proving Grounds and had the opportunity to operate equipment at the Tinaja Hills training facility. Sessions were led by some of the top managers and executives in CAT’s Surface Mining & Technology Division.
“We learn a lot of the technical and the academic things at school, but this was a great chance to learn more about the people-based side of things – how I can communicate what I want most clearly and if I encounter someone who is very different from me, how I can communicate with them and work together as a team?” said Tyler Rockley MS ‘17, who was SME treasurer prior to graduation and is now interning in the Denver office of a mining consulting company before he joins explosives company Orica this summer.
SME Secretary Kinsley Costner, a junior studying mining engineering, said it was pretty fun, too, to try their hands at operating backhoes, dozers and loaders at the training facility.
“It reinvigorated the passion for why I chose mining. Their offices are right next to a mine – it was really cool to see people who get to make money with this degree,” Costner said. “We also got to see innovations and what’s coming up. In a few years, we could be designing mines for autonomy.”
Also attending the program were SME President Evan McCombs and Vice President Roland Daniels.
“Programs like this are intended to demonstrate our commitment to investing in future leaders within the mining industry whether they choose to work for us or one of our customers someday,” SM&T Lead HR Manager Ben Cordani said. “Colorado School of Mines has been a great partner and we look forward to continued engagement with both their students and faculty.”
Caterpillar plans to offer its Student Leadership Experience program again this year in May for the next class of SME officers at Mines. Elections are scheduled for Feb. 14.
Hugh Miller, associate professor of mining engineering, accompanied the students on the trip and said one of the things that stood out to him was the program’s emphasis on interactive discussions between students and CAT executives and management.
“The three-day program provided these students with a unique hands-on opportunity to develop professional and leadership skills intended to expand their abilities to leverage their own strengths to motivate and lead others, as well as positively influence individual and group performance,” Miller said. “It was truly a tremendous experience for these students and we’re grateful to CAT for making this program possible."
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