Mines News

Release Date Monday, December 5, 2016

SD Mines Launches Honors Program for Class Entering 2017

A School of Mines team installs a hoophouse at Oglala Lakota College on the Pine Ridge Reservation. The hoophouse is a food sustainability project and offers students access to healthy food options and could potentially become a profitable produce market for the surrounding community.


RAPID CITY, S.D. (Dec. 5, 2016) – Citizens in and around Rapid City will benefit from engineering projects designed to solve real-world problems through a new undergraduate honors program announced today by the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology.

Students accepted into the SD Mines Honors Program starting next fall will be part of teams of future engineers and scientists who complete one or more community projects during the course of their degree.

Each year about 5 percent of the incoming freshmen class, or about 30 exceptional students, and some highly motivated sophomores will be accepted into the program. As a result, dozens of science and engineering projects benefitting the community will be tackled within a few years.

Mines seniors have long been tasked with design projects that benefit the community – everything from developing adaptive equipment for people with disabilities to assessing and fixing the drainage around the Black Hills Playhouse, to designing and building a greenhouse, to writing software for the Dahl Museum. 

The new South Dakota Mines Honors Program will build on this concept and get students involved earlier in community-based project leadership. This project-based approach is complemented by an array of leadership and professional development opportunities to round out the rigorous academic program at Mines. 

“To our knowledge, no other university offers an honors program quite like this. Over time, the engagement of teams of engineering and science students each semester on problems that matter to the community will make Rapid City an even better place to live,” said South Dakota Mines President Heather Wilson. “It will also provide a great added benefit for exceptional students to develop as leaders in engineering and science, solving real-world problems.”

Four projects currently underway illustrate the kinds of projects that Mines students will be engaged in. Mines students are:

  • Designing facilities and developing a site plan that focuses on problem areas such as drainage issues, road/trail access and maintenance of a fruit tree orchard for Youth and Family Services Fullerton Farm in Box Elder.  
  • Designing an ecologically sound wastewater treatment system and a conceptual master plan for the Rosebud Economic Development Corporation.
  • Designing drainage, lighting and other facilities upgrades at the Rushmore Little League baseball complex.
  • Building a system to test reliability and improve design of low-cost, robust wheelchairs for the humanitarian, faith-based nonprofit Free Wheelchair Mission, which provides wheelchairs for free to people with disabilities living in developing nations.

    The science, technology, engineering and math degrees offered at Mines are already challenging. Students get personal attention in small classes, and 75 percent of Mines students would qualify for the academically-oriented honors programs at most universities.

    “This new honors program will offer an exceptional cohort of students the opportunity to develop leadership and problem-solving skills while working on real-world problems in our community,” Wilson said.

    To graduate from the SD Mines Honors Program students will:

    • Have four semesters of community-based project leadership experiences.
    • Participate in four honors experiences intended to broaden a student’s perspective and develop their ability to understand and tackle the most difficult problems of the 21st century.
    • 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.
    • Complete the Mines Advantage professional development program.

    The university has established a community advisory board, which will meet for the first time on Dec. 20, to help identify suitable problems for Mines students to work on, as well as recommend other honors experiences. Advisory board members may encourage and solicit community organizations to submit potential projects.

    All students who are applying as freshmen to SD Mines for the class entering Fall 2017 will have an opportunity to apply for the honors program. Selection will be competitive and based on academic excellence, commitment to service and leadership potential. Honors program students will have the option of living in the honors section of the university dormitories. Honors program students will also have preference for on campus housing as upperclassmen.  

    Click on the SD Mines Honors Program webpage for additional details and contact information.


    About SD Mines  

    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 2,654 students with a student-to-faculty ratio of 15:1. The SD School of Mines placement rate for graduates is 97 percent, with an average starting salary of more than $61,300. Find us online at www.sdsmt.edu and on  Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Snapchat

    Contact: Fran LeFort, (605) 394-6082, Fran.LeFort@sdsmt.edu