Mines News

Release Date Thursday, July 13, 2023

South Dakota Mines Mechanical Engineering Faculty Member Named ELATES Fellow

Dr. Cassandra Birrenkott, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Mines, has been accepted into the most recent cohort of the prestigious ELATES program at Drexel University.

Cassandra Birrenkott, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at South Dakota Mines, has been accepted into the 2023-2024 cohort of the prestigious Executive Leadership in Academic Technology, Engineering and Science (ELATES) program at Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pa.

Drexel describes ELATES as “a national leadership development program designed to promote senior women faculty, and faculty allies of all genders, in leadership for academic engineering, computer science and other STEM fields into effective institutional leadership roles within their schools and universities with a demonstrated commitment to increasing the representation of women in STEM."

Birrenkott says she is excited for the opportunity to take part in the program and bring what she learns back to Mines.

“Our vision on campus is to develop world class leaders. I once had a mentor tell me, ‘You can’t be what you can’t see,’ and I love that quote because it highlights that if we are expecting our students to be leaders, we need role models of good leadership in every part of our campus,” says Birrenkott. “Being accepted to ELATES was certainly not an individual effort on my part; it included support from multiple leaders on campus. I feel very fortunate that the administration at Mines was willing to encourage me to apply for ELATES.”

Birrenkott also received a scholarship from the Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network (KEEN) that covers her tuition in the program. Birrenkott says support from the KEEN network has been critical in helping Mines meet industry demand for well-rounded students who thrive on multidisciplinary teams.

“The combination of the developmental leadership that ELATES will provide and the curiosity, connections, and creation of value that KEEN emphasizes is really important on our campus,” says Birrenkott.  “We can teach our students exceptional academics, but industry also requires students to excel at soft skills like teamwork, collaboration, consensus building and emotional intelligence. Leadership starts at the top, and having the opportunity to learn these skills as a faculty member will help to propel our students to leadership positions as well.”

“We’re so fortunate to have world-class leaders across our campus like Dr. Birrenkott,” says Mines President Jim Rankin. “I’m highly confident in the success of our university in the decades to come because we have faculty like Dr. Birrenkott taking on initiatives like ELATES.”


About South Dakota Mines  

Founded in 1885, South Dakota Mines is one of the nation’s leading engineering, science and technology universities. South Dakota Mines offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees and a best-in-class education at an affordable price. The university enrolls 2,493 students with an average class size of 24. The South Dakota Mines placement rate for graduates is 98 percent, with an average starting salary of more than $70,036. For these reasons  South Dakota Mines is ranked among the best engineering schools in the country for return on investment. Find us online at www.sdsmt.edu and on FacebookTwitter, LinkedInInstagram, and Snapchat.

Contact: Mike Ray, 605-394-6082, mike.ray@sdsmt.edu