SD Mines Honors Program

Challenging academics is a given at Mines, where most of our entering students would qualify for the academically-oriented honors programs at most universities. That's why our Honors program is different. It's designed to challenge and develop exceptional students beyond academics: developing leadership by solving problems that benefit others.

To our knowledge, no other university offers an honors program quite like this one. It emphasizes leadership, teamwork, community involvement, problem solving, and puts science and engineering in the real world context where it does what it was always meant to do: improve our world.

A Unique Program for Highly Motivated Students

  • Future leaders make a difference by solving real problems that matter to people in the community and world around us.
  • Multidisciplinary teams work in small groups with faculty and professional partners, providing the opportunity to develop leadership, project management, analysis and design skills beyond the classroom.
  • Students are involved in special leadership and professional development events to enrich the Honors experience.

There is no additional fee for Honors Program students, and selection is competitive. Freshman Honors students are strongly encouraged to live in the Honors section of Connolly Hall. Junior and Senior Honors students also have preference for on campus housing in Rocker Square I and II.

Example Projects

Black Hills Raptor Center

Black Hills Raptor Center

A project to build a permanent complex outside of Rapid City to include a clinic space, raptor rehabilitation center, and education center for educational activities and scientific studies. The Black Hills Raptor Center is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the care and conservation of native wildlife and habitat in South Dakota through education, rehabilitation and study.

The BHRC (Black Hills Raptor Center) plans to build a permanent complex outside of Rapid City. The new complex will include a clinic space, a raptor rehabilitation center, educational center for group activities and scientific studies, one human residence, and permanent enclosures for educational birds. The designs of the complex will be environmentally focused, and will include shelterbelt plantings, pollinator friendly gardens, rainwater collection, greywater reuse, and passive solar energy. Although many of the designs and plans are already in place, the BHRC is asking for design recommendations for a rainwater and greywater reuse system, and for structural guidance.


YFS Fullerton Farm

Youth and Family Services Fullerton Farm

Fullerton Farm is a 3 acre parcel of land donated to Youth and Family Services (YFS) to develop for use as a community garden and youth learning center; a place where children can learn about growing food and meal preparation. YFS has been working with children and families in western South Dakota since 1965.

Youth and Family Services Fullerton Farm is a 3 acre parcel of land located in Box Elder, SD, that was donated to Youth and Family Services (YFS). This land was donated so that it could be used as a garden and youth learning center. Produce from the garden would be used in meal preparation by YSF cooking staff and shared with families participating in the program. These products and goods would also be displayed in farmer's markets and 4H-related events.

YFS needs help in developing the site plan and design the facilities for the community garden. The needs of many stakeholders -- YFS, City of Box Elder, Ellsworth Air Base, State of South Dakota -- will have to be considered. Based on preliminary discussions, the project will focus on the following problem areas:

  • Drainage issues
  • Assessment of existing structures
  • Development of road/trail access
  • Creation of an outdoor educational facility
  • Fruit tree orchard development and maintenance
  • Bee-keeping habitat
  • Sports area for soccer and archery

Black Hills Playhouse

Wastewater Systems at Black Hills Playhouse

The Black Hills Playhouse is one of the oldest continuously-operated non-profit summer stock theaters in the USA. Founded by USD drama professor, Dr. Warren Lee, the playhouse and its dormitories for actors were constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933. Still a huge summer draw for local residents and the many tourists who come each year to the Black Hills area, the BHP has been experiencing flooding and is in need of solutions to improve their wastewater and septic infrastructure.

Located in Custer State Park, the Black Hills Playhouse (BHP) is a non-profit theater that has provided theatrical performances for almost 70 years. The theater and grounds are managed by the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks, and the Playhouse relies on park fees to help support infrastructure and environmental needs at the BHP. The BHP campus contains the Warren M. Lee Theatre, five dormitories, costume and prop shops, and a snack bar. The current wastewater treatment system was installed in 1979 and consists of two septic tanks connected to an evapotranspiration (ET) field. All campus buildings are connected to the sewer system. BHP has been experiencing flooding of the Theatre building, flooding of the ET field, and frequent pumping and hauling of the septic tanks. The focus of this project will be design alternatives to remediate the aforementioned issues and to present a preliminary impact analysis of the design alternatives.


Rosebud Reservation Development

Community Development at the Rosebud Reservation

The Rosebud Economic Development Corporation is planning the Keya Wakpala Waicageyapi development in an area near Mission, SD. The master plan includes housing, commercial development, educational facilities, and water and energy services. The development will reflect the indigenous culture of the Sicangu Oyate (the Upper Brulé Sioux Nation) - also known as Sicangu Lakota, and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe (RST), a branch of the Lakota people.

In 2012, the Rosebud Economic Development Corporation (REDCO) obtained 590 acres of tribal trust land. This land is located just west of Mission, SD and is located near the center of a Lakota tribal population. REDCO is working with the architecture firm, Blue Start Studio, to plan the development: Keya Wakpala Waicageyapi. Through community input, the design team refined the community priorities into a conceptual master plan. The master plan will take 10-20 years to complete and includes housing, businesses, learning environments, clean water, energy, and infrastructure. All designs are to be reflective the indigenous culture, relationships and responsibilities to the land. The design will also use ecologically engineered systems using green and natural building, ecological wastewater treatment, renewable energy development and integrated agricultural systems. The project is to support, cultivate and re-emerge the cultural values and relationships.


Honors Program Graduation Requirements

  • Successfully complete 4 semesters (6 credits) of Community Project Leadership
  • Complete the Mines Advantage professional development program
  • Participate in four Honors experiences during your undergraduate degree program
  • Serve at least two semesters in an elected or appointed leadership position in a club, team, organization, professional society, fraternity or sorority, or hold an analogous or more significant leadership position as determined by the Dean of Students
  • Submit and receive approval of an Honors Portfolio documenting Honors program activities including Community Project Leadership reports

How to Apply

  • Existing Mines students can apply to be admitted to the Honors program after successful completion of their first semester but before completion of their sophomore year. They must demonstrate a strong academic record and potential for leadership, and have the recommendation of their department chair.