The School of Mines welcomes GEAR UP to campus
A summer fixture on the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology campus, the SD GEAR UP Honors Program, is back for the 18th consecutive year.

The purpose of this program, previously known as SKILL and NASA Honors, is to prepare American Indian students to be successful in the college setting. This is a six-week residential program that began June 5 and will end July 18.

Much of the funding for the program comes from a federal GEAR UP grant through the State of South Dakota Department of Education Office of Indian Education. SD GEAR UP is operated in collaboration with the Oceti Sakowin Education Consortium and 24 partner middle schools, including American Horse, Batesland, Cheyenne Eagle Butte, Crazy Horse, Crow Creek, Enemy Swim, Little Wound, Loneman, Lower Brule, Marty Indian School, Our Lady of Lourdes, Pine Ridge, Porcupine Day, Rapid City North Middle School, Red Cloud Indian School, Red Shirt, Rocky Ford, Saint Francis Indian School, Takini, Tiospaye Zina, Todd County, Wakpala Smee, Wolf Creek, and Wounded Knee.

School of Mines alumnus Stacy Phelps, GEAR UP program director, has been involved in this program since its inception and was honored as a School of Mines Outstanding Recent Graduate in 2003. Phelps was also honored with the U.S. Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring.

This year the program has attracted more than 220 students in grades 9-12 and several college students. Nearly two-thirds of the students are female, and approximately 85 percent of the students are American Indians, many of whom are potential first-generation college students. Of those students who graduate from the program, virtually 100 percent also graduate from high school, 85 percent attend college, and 7 percent enter the military. A middle school component will have students in grades 6-8, along with their parents, visit for a few days to tour campus and learn about the programs available.

Students must apply to enter the program and are selected based on academic achievement and teacher recommendations. Students represent all nine tribes in South Dakota: Cheyenne River, Crow Creek, Flandreau-Santee, Lower Brule, Oglala, Rosebud, Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate, Standing Rock and Yankton.

The curriculum includes math (algebra, trigonometry, pre-calculus, and college algebra), science (physical science, biology, chemistry, and physics, including laboratories), English, computers and life skills (goal setting, leadership, study skills, personal finance, and college preparation). The curriculum also includes special initiatives such as a science fair, Academic Olympics, SEMAA (Science, Engineering, Mathematics, and Aerospace Academy), and a daily seminar. The curriculum is further enriched with field trips, recreation and sports, college visits and cultural activities.

In addition to hosting the program on campus, the School of Mines interacts with GEAR UP in several ways. Faculty and staff members, researchers, and administrators offer a daily seminar to present topics on career exploration and personal development. Mini-courses and activities will be offered in a wide variety of topics to interested students with a hands-on, engaging approach. Tours are provided in the many labs across the campus. The twelfth graders will participate in shadowing experiences with a professional in their fields of interest.

For more information and opportunities for involvement, please contact Carter Kerk at (605) 394-6067 or; Travis Kowalski at (605) 394-6146 or; Scott Wiley at (605) 394-1828 or; or Jessica Tsingine at



Feathering Ceremony honors Native American graduates
The South Dakota School of Mines & Technology held a spring Feathering Ceremony to honor graduating Native American students Friday, May 7.

The students receiving their feathers at this ceremony were Kathryn Buchy (Cherokee), an industrial engineering student from Martin; Jessica Chretian (Oglala Lakota), an industrial engineering student from Rapid City; Adam Dell (Oglala Lakota), an interdisciplinary sciences student from Rapid City; Stewart Fryslie (Faraones Llanera Apache), an electrical engineering and physics student from Fountain Valley, Calif.; Deanna Shoup (Sicangu Lakota), an interdisciplinary sciences student from Rapid City; and Channing Thompson (Turtle Mountain Chippewa), a chemistry student from Rapid City. Weewahste Conroy (Oglala Lakota), a South Dakota State University nursing student, will also be honored.

The event opened with the Wild Horse Butte Tokala Intertribal Color Guard, followed by a welcome from Scott Wiley, coordinator of the Office of Multicultural Affairs at the School of Mines. The ceremony continued with an opening prayer, followed by remarks from School of Mines President Robert A. Wharton, Ph.D., Pine Ridge High School Principal Robert Cook, professor of social sciences Dr. James McReynolds, and writer and poet Elizabeth Cook-Lynn.

Rapid City School District Cultural Resource Specialist Harriet Brings introduced the honoring ceremony and tradition. One of the highest honors in the Lakota society is to receive an eagle feather or plume for an honoring. Traditionally, a child receives their first feather or plume as a baby, and continues to earn them with great accomplishments. Eyapaha, Geraldine Yellowhawk smudged and blessed the feathers. Parents or a chosen relative were invited forward for the tying of the feathers.

The program also included a buffalo stew, wojapi and fry bread meal.



School of Mines student receives Leadership Award
Adam Dell, president of the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology's chapter of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), was recently awarded the Leadership Award at the national AISES Leadership Conference, held in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Feb. 13, 2010.

The Leadership Award recipient is selected from among the conference attendees and is awarded to an individual that has most demonstrated the qualities of a leader — including communication skills, respect, integrity, vision, and goals.

"Being part of AISES has shaped me into the leader I am today," Dell said. "It has also provided me with the understanding that we can shape the future — the difference is you!"

Dell, an interdisciplinary sciences student from Rapid City, has served as the president of the School of Mines AISES chapter for four years, and is dedicated to the AISES mission to substantially increase the representation of American Indian and Alaskan Natives in engineering, science and other related technology fields.



Alumnus Stacy Phelps receives Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring
Stacy Phelps, a 1996 mechanical engineering graduate, is a recipient of a Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring. Phelps received the award during a ceremony held Jan. 6, 2010, at the White House.

"On behalf of the School of Mines, I congratulate Mr. Phelps on this distinguished recognition. He is the perfect example of the leadership roles our graduates take in all sectors of society," President Robert A. Wharton, Ph.D., said. "His work in mentoring Native American students in science, mathematics, and engineering is crucial to helping those students develop academically. Lila waste ecanu (you did very good)!"

The honor is awarded each year to individuals or organizations in recognition of the crucial role that mentoring plays in the academic and personal development of students studying science or engineering and who belong to minorities that are underrepresented in those fields. In addition to being honored at the White House, recipients receive $10,000 to advance their mentoring efforts.

"It is an honor, privilege and responsibility for each of us to preserve our legacy and body of work by mentoring the future generation of STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] professionals," Phelps said. "I believe that STEM professionals are our most critical assets and can serve as the foundational building blocks of a nation's public infrastructure. Mentoring future graduates in STEM is one of the most efficient and effective ways to ensure the prosperity and advancement of our communities through the types of innovations and solutions that only STEM can provide."

Phelps currently serves as the chief executive officer of the American Indian Institute for Innovation (AIII). At AIII Phelps is working on using what he has learned since 1992 in working with American Indian students to develop a residential STEM and health-focused academy for American Indian students from ninth grade through the second year of college. This would serve as a significant effort to dramatically increase the number of American Indian STEM professionals at the baccalaureate degree level that can serve tribal and rural communities of South Dakota in very critical and important areas.

One facet of Phelps' mentoring work brings him back to his alma mater each year. He serves as project coordinator for the South Dakota Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (SD GEAR UP) Honors Program, a summer fixture on the School of Mines campus for 17 years. The purpose of this program, previously known as SKILL and NASA Honors, is to prepare Native American students to be successful in the college setting.

In 2009, the summer program on the School of Mines campus grew to serve more than 220 students in grades 9-12 and several college students. More than 85 percent of the students were Native American, representing all nine tribes in South Dakota. Many of the students are potential first-generation college students. Of those that graduate from the program, virtually 100 percent also graduate from high school, 87 percent attend college, and nine percent enter the military. SD GEARUP as a statewide effort serves more than 3,000 students and their families in grades 7-12 in 24 middle schools and 14 high schools through various interventions and programs focused on college awareness and readiness.

"SD GEAR UP uses engaged experiences, partnerships and curriculum to ensure students utilize their high school experience as a bridge to college," Phelps said. "The School of Mines continues to be a full partner in providing access to facilities, staff and faculty that have become a cornerstone to providing a quality and enriching experience that improves the future of our students and our communities."



Tiospaye in Engineering Scholars honored
South Dakota School of Mines & Technology recently celebrated the first group of 22 Tiospaye in Engineering Scholars at an Honoring Ceremony. Beau White, the master of ceremonies, introduced three speakers for the event: Dr. Duane Hrncir, interim provost and vice president of academic affairs, represented the university; Jacqueline DeMent spoke on behalf of the students; and Stacy Phelps delivered the primary address. Phelps also sang an honoring song for the scholars while attendees congratulated the scholars in a receiving line.

Tiospaye is a Lakota word meaning extended family. The Tiospaye program provided financial, academic, professional and social support structures to Native American students. The extended family of engineering mindset fosters a sense of community and cooperation among scholarship recipients, other students, staff and faculty members, administrators, alumni, employers, community leaders, student family members, tribal members and tribal college partners. This multifaceted approach significantly increases the students' success rate. For more information about the program, go to

The Fall 2009 Tiospaye Scholars:

Derek Bankston, mechanical engineering, Aberdeen
Aarika Begay, mechanical engineering, Phoenix, Arizona
Natasha Begay, industrial engineering, Page, Arizona
Clarita Begishe, mining engineering, Rapid City
Kimberlynn Cameron, geological engineering, Wakpala
Jessica Chretien, industrial engineering, Rapid City
Jacqueline DeMent, civil engineering, Rapid City
Josh Huston, engineering, Porcupine
Joshua Knock, civil engineering, Rapid City
Nathan Koch, environmental engineering, Box Elder
Sean Long Fox, metallurgical engineering, Rapid City
Ryan McLaughlin, electrical engineering, Oglala
Taylor Molash, civil engineering, Fort Yates, North Dakota
Tully O'Leary, mechanical engineering, Eagle Butte
Jon Ramsey, mining engineering, Spearfish
Ryley Rapp, civil engineering, Rapid City
Vanessa Sevier, civil engineering, Pierre
Jessica Tsingine, industrial engineering, Tuba City, Arizona
Casey Volk, computer engineering, Fort Yates, North Dakota
John Watters, engineering, Rapid City
Beau White, mechanical engineering, Pine Ridge
Kevyn Zephier, mining engineering, Rapid City