Mines News

Release Date Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Mines Graduates Show the Value of South Dakota Freedom Scholarship on State’s High-Tech Economy

Henry Wegehaupt is one example of a past scholarship winner and Mines graduate who has stayed in South Dakota and is making a positive impact on the state economy.

Many South Dakota Mines graduates show that scholarships can make a difference in the state’s high-tech economy.  

Henry Wegehaupt is one example. The young entrepreneur is building a new business around a cattle-feeding system he developed while a student at Mines. Wegehaupt says the Dakota Corps Scholarship helped him make the decision to attend Mines, which ultimately kept him in state and fueled his desire to support South Dakota farmers. His company, Provender Technologies, is dedicated to creating value for cattle operations through automation. 

“My plan was to go out of state for college, and I had already purchased my student football tickets at UNL; but the Dakota Corps Scholarship was a financial opportunity I could not pass up,” says Wegehaupt, who finished his degree in electrical engineering at Mines in 2017. “That scholarship took a big burden off me and my family, and it allowed me to focus on school.” 

As an entrepreneur, Wegehaupt needs to manage risk. Not having the burden of college debt made him more willing to take the leap into starting his own business. While Wegehaupt maintains his humility and works to manage expectations, his venture is proving very successful so far. At 26, he’s the youngest person in the state to receive a Small Business Innovation Research grant. 

“The support of everyone at Mines, the entrepreneurial ecosystem at the university, and the Dakota Corps Scholarship led me to pursue my definite goals sooner rather than later. I am really enjoying this endeavor. Had I been worried about paying off student loans, I might not be in this position,” says Wegehaupt. 

The South Dakota Legislature is now considering a $50 million proposal by Governor Kristi Noem to create the new South Dakota Freedom Scholarship. The effort includes philanthropist T. Denny Sanford and First PREMIER Bank, who are providing $50 million each. An additional $50 million will be raised from other sources to create a $200 million fund in support of needs-based scholarships.           

This new scholarship will yield more success stories like Mariya Sachek, a 2019 Mines electrical engineering graduate who is now a product marketing engineer at Vishay in Yankton. The Dakota Corps Scholarship she received gave her the freedom to focus on her studies while at Mines. It also helped her quickly get established after graduation. “It allowed me to find my footing really quickly. I began spending a lot of my paycheck in the local economy in Yankton right away rather than paying off big student loans,” says Sachek.   

Jacob Milbrandt agrees. He is a 2019 chemical engineering graduate now employed by POET. “I never wanted to leave South Dakota, and the scholarships I received gave me an opportunity to stay close to my home roots and contribute to my hometown economy,” says Milbrandt. He believes funding scholarships for scientists and engineers will have a solid return on investment for the state. “The projects I have been involved in while at POET have had a large enough economic impact to more than pay back the scholarship investment made in me,” Milbrandt says.    

Right now, about 31% of Mines graduates stay in the state and work in science or engineering fields. “We’re always trying to increase this number by supporting the growth of the state’s own high-tech economy. We also need a steady stream of new students, and this scholarship will help us accomplish these goals,” says Mines President Jim Rankin. “The timing for the South Dakota Freedom Scholarship could not be better. The new Ascent Innovation campus in Rapid City is paving the way for a high-tech economic boom the Black Hills and Mines graduates make up the backbone of this economy. The South Dakota Freedom Scholarship will have a very positive impact on the state’s future.” 

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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 2,475 students with an average class size of 24. The South Dakota Mines placement rate for graduates is 96 percent, with an average starting salary of more than $66,500. For these reasons College Factual ranks South Dakota Mines, the #1 Engineering School 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