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Mines Students Complete Internships at 200 Employers in 30 States
Release Date Thursday, August 21, 2014
Among the students who worked at 200 employers this summer was Rashyll Leonard, a junior physics major from Montrose, Colo., who traveled a mile underground each day at the Sanford Underground Research Facility in Lead, S.D. Students submitted own photos from their summer work experiences.

RAPID CITY, S.D. (Aug. 21, 2014) –South Dakota School of Mines & Technology students reported working this summer in internship, co-op or undergraduate research experiences with more than 200 employers in 30 states, the District of Columbia and Morocco.

South Dakota led the way with more than 70 employers from 17 communities across the state hiring students as interns to work on specific projects or research areas.

South Dakota employers included manufacturing companies Daktronics, Raven Industries, SymCom/Littelfuse, Trail King, Worthington Industries and Terex. Students were drawn to telecommunications and engineering firms, as well as several state and federal agencies.

Students not only gained experience, but earned a living too. The average hourly wage topped $17.65/hour, with some employers also providing housing allowances, bonuses and relocation expenses. In all, 340 students gained valuable career experience in their fields of study.

School of Mines students contributed to high profile companies like Amazon, Cargill, Polaris, Walt Disney World, Ford, Honda, Kimberly-Clark, as well as NASA and the Sanford Underground Research Facility in Lead, S.D.

“Three fourths of Mines graduates have an internship or co-op experience before they graduate. It gives our students real world experience that helps prepare them as professionals,” said Heather Wilson, president of Mines. “I’m particularly pleased that so many of our students found summer positions in South Dakota companies”

South Dakota is one of the few states in the nation that has increased the amount of manufacturing in the state since the recession in 2008, and a significant number of companies locate in South Dakota to serve the surrounding energy industry. Unemployment is low, there are no individual or corporate income taxes, and engineers and scientists are in high demand.

“Half of the students at Mines come from outside of South Dakota,” said Wilson. “We are importing talented, hardworking high school students who are going to be engineers and scientists. They have lots of options, and we welcome South Dakota companies who want to recruit them.” 

Rashyll Leonard, a junior physics major from Montrose, Colo., spent the summer as a science intern at the Sanford Underground Research Facility, where she primarily focused on the Majorana collaboration. The Majorana group of 100 scientists from 19 institutions worldwide, including the SD School of Mines, is working to find neutrinoless double-beta decay a mile underground.

“I traveled underground every day and entered a clean room in order to help build the Majorana Demonstrator,” she said. “I was fortunate enough to help in every stage of the process, from growing the world’s purest copper to helping assemble detector units in the glove box. This was an experience of a lifetime, and I could not think of a better way to spend my summer,” said Leonard, who is president of the Circle K service organization on campus.

“Companies look at internships as a talent pipeline,” said Darrell Sawyer, assistant vice president for student development. “They know the School of Mines students, and they have seen their work.”

Audra Basal, a junior geology major from Marquette Mich., spent the summer working at Eagle Mine, a subsidiary of Lundin Mining in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Basal worked in the exploration geology department, logging core and helping prepare for seismic testing that will occur later this fall.

She also spent valuable time in the company’s mine site. “I got to spend the day underground with our mine geologists learning about grade control, mapping, and sampling of muck piles,” Basal said. “I even got to take a ride in one of our haul trucks. It was by far the highlight of my summer.”

It’s not uncommon for internships to help shape the way a student sees the field they are interested in, or to refocus or confirm the studies they have chosen, Sawyer said. Basal, for example, now plans to focus more energy on mine geology and working underground.

Taylor Schoenfelder, a senior chemical engineering major from Dimock, S.D., interned at Cargill in Sioux City, Iowa. During his time at the company, he managed more than a million dollars’ worth of projects and was excited when he had a real-world effect on the company’s bottom line.

“A highlight of the time I’ve been here so far was when I found a solution that was going to save Cargill over $180,000,” he said.

Besides resume-building for the future, internships are often followed by an invitation back to the company for a full-time job, Sawyer said.

The most recent placement figures compiled by the university’s Career & Professional Development Center show 98 percent of 2012-2013 graduates landed jobs in the field for which they studied with an average starting salary of $60,020 or enrolled in graduate school. Twelve of the university’s 16 majors had 100 percent placement rates.

Classes for the fall semester begin Monday, Aug. 25.


About SDSM&T

Founded in 1885, the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology is a science and engineering research university located in Rapid City, S.D., offering bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. The university enrolls 2,640 students from 45 states and 37 countries, with a student-to-faculty ratio of 14:1. The average starting salary for graduates is $62,020 with a 98 percent placement rate. Find us online at, on Facebook at and on Twitter at