News Releases

New Civil & Environmental Engineering Ph.D. and Student Innovation Center Approved for Mines
Release Date Thursday, June 12, 2014

RAPID CITY, S.D. (June 12, 2014) – The Board of Regents has approved a number of initiatives for the School of Mines at its meeting. The Board approved the addition of a Ph.D. in Civil & Environmental Engineering, a Minor in Petroleum Systems, a certificate program in Geospatial Technology and three Preliminary Facility Statements, including one for a showplace Student Innovation Center for multi-disciplinary project-based learning.

“Mines is growing, and we need to make sure that we continue to provide the exceptional education for which we are well known,” said Heather Wilson, president of the School of Mines.  “These two new degrees meet a need for the state and the region, and the facilities we will be designing will help us prepare engineers and scientists for the complex problems of the twenty-first century.”

Ph.D. in Civil & Environmental Engineering

South Dakota was the only state in the nation that had no university offering a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering and the demand for this expertise continues to grow, said Molly Gribb, Ph.D., professor and head, Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering.

“According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, the U.S. needs to invest $3.6 trillion nationally by 2020 in aging infrastructure. As a result, highly trained civil engineers are needed now more than ever. Furthermore, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment of civil and environmental engineers during the next decade to grow faster than the predicted average growth rate for all occupations,” said Gribb.

Gribb added that the new doctoral program will also provide needed continuing education for local engineers such as those at the United States Geological Survey Water Science Center and RESPEC Consulting & Services.

Currently RESPEC employs more than 225 professionals, 40 percent of whom have achieved a master’s or doctoral degree. “In any given year, RESPEC supports two or three Ph.D. students. Without local options, we are forced to send employees seeking graduate-level education to out-of-state universities,” said RESPEC CEO and President Todd Kenner, P.E. He adds that the School of Mines doctoral program will allow employees to reside locally while pursing higher education and attract new talent to South Dakota that companies like RESPEC can then retain in the state after degree completion.

Facilities for Excellence

Three Preliminary Facility Statements were approved by the Board of Regents.

  • Student Innovation Center: The Student Innovation Center will prepare leaders in engineering and science through multidisciplinary, project-based learning experiences in a team-orientated environment. In 1997 the School of Mines built a Center for Advanced Manufacturing & Production to house project-based learning and competitive engineering teams. At that time, there were 40 students and 4 teams. Today, the facility supports 14 competitive engineering teams and 350 students. There are more than 60 design projects annually that involve nearly 500 students in addition to the competitive teams, requiring the construction of a new, flexible space for collaborative work.
  • Mineral Industries Building Renovation: Mines is one of only five universities nationwide that retains programs and expertise in all of the disciplines important to the mineral industries: Geology & Geological Engineering, Mining Engineering and Metallurgical Engineering. The renovation of this facility, built in 1962, will strengthen the rigorous engaged learning and interdisciplinary research that is the hallmark of exceptional engineering education for the problems of the twenty-first century industry.
  • Chemistry & Chemical Engineering Building: The rapidly growing applied biology degree, started at Mines this year, and continued growth of chemical engineering demands new laboratories for teaching and research.  Mines has disused space in this building that has not had any major upgrades since 1957 and intends to fit out labs and faculty offices for this successful program.

These approvals will allow the School of Mines to begin planning, design and fundraising for the improvements.

Minor in Petroleum Systems

Regents also approved a new Minor in Petroleum Systems aimed at better serving the growing energy industry needs of the upper Midwest. The minor is one part of a broader energy resources initiative at Mines that includes both research and teaching.

Available in the fall to any School of Mines student wishing to broaden their career options, the new minor will offer an 18-credit program in a mix of new and existing courses, including core courses in drilling and production engineering, fluid mechanics and a petroleum field course.

“Mines is in the middle of one of the largest energy producing regions of the country. We are equidistant from the Bakken, the Powder River Basin and the Denver Basin,” Wilson said.  “The energy industry is important to the economic future of western South Dakota, and we will prepare engineers and scientists for leadership in this industry.”

Certificate Program in Geospatial Technology

This certificate requires 12 credit hours of study. The program is geared to Black Hills area professionals who seek to expand their skill sets or retrain for a career in gathering, storing, processing and delivering geographic information. In western South Dakota and adjacent states, no certificate programs, and few degree programs, currently exist in this specialized field, making this new certificate program highly desirable.


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