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Mines women among 50 nationwide selected for Kiewit leadership conference
Release Date Thursday, November 21, 2013

RAPID CITY, S.D. (Nov. 21, 2013) – Two School of Mines students were recently chosen among a cohort of 50 young women to attend an all-expenses-paid North American Kiewit leadership seminar.

Micah Steffes, a civil and environmental engineering sophomore from Fargo, N.D., and Erin McCullough, a senior mining engineering major from Olympia, Wash., attended the sixth annual Women in Construction Leadership Seminar aimed at building a pipeline of talent from the classroom to the boardroom.

The conference held last week in Omaha, Neb., featured educational presentations and roundtable discussions, including a panel with Mines alumna and Kiewit Vice President for Environmental Connie Determan. Determan earned her bachelor’s in civil engineering in 1984 and completed a master’s the following year, both at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology

But McCullough’s favorite part was seeing it all in action.

“We took a field trip to a coal-burning power plant in western Iowa. As a mining engineering student, I especially enjoyed learning about how processes are adjusted to scrub different qualities of coal,” McCullough said.

Her takeaway was painted with a broader stroke. “Society tends to focus on how to instill desirable personality characteristics that are not always natural for people instead of enhancing the strengths that they already have. This new perspective – celebrating the positive and disregarding imperfections – is a mindset that will help attendees find the best in others in both their personal and professional capacities.”

Steffes built on that theme. “The best part about a conference like this is it creates a space where being a girl isn’t the thing that makes me different or stand out, it’s my talents and strengths [as an individual].”

Molly Gribb, Ph.D., head and professor of the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, participated in the event as an honorary attendee.


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 $62,400 with a 98 percent placement rate. Find us online at, on Facebook at and on Twitter at