Dr. Michael Nelson, Chair of the Department of Mining Engineering, belongs to an organization called the Society of Mining Professors. A few years ago, Nelson attended a meeting for the group, and someone commented on the need for students to have the skills necessary to function in a global company; it is not enough for them to be able to do the math and know the science behind their work. Nelson was inspired to create an international exchange for students that would enable them to be more well-rounded in their business skills.
Nelson contemplates this often, as many mining companies operate worldwide, and the industry is becoming increasingly international. Today, many alumni of the University of Utah’s mining program work overseas. The Kennecott Copper Mine is owned by a global company, Rio Tinto, and attracts many people from around the world to Utah.
To help his students keep up with the globalization of the mining industry, Nelson has developed student exchanges with universities in areas such as South America and east-central Asia. Students from Brazil, and Mongolia have come to learn more about mining education in America. Studying here is beneficial to the students, as the approach in the U.S. is more application-based and less theoretical. Nelson believes that it is important for students to know the many different ways that engineers are taught, and to have a hands-on international experience. Nelson also works to pair students who visit with an internship so that they can receive international business experiences during their experience in the U.S.
Nelson has created relationships with the companies Freeport-McMoRan, and Newmont Mining Corporation; both companies have mining operations in Peru and the United States. The University of Utah is sending its first mining student to Peru, where he will go to school for a semester at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru. This private school’s mining program is accredited by ABET, the same organization that accredits mining programs in the U.S. During his second semester in Lima, he will have the opportunity to work at one of Freeport’s mines, and then finish up his time in Peru with one more semester at PUCP.
Nelson was drawn to an exchange program with PUCP because like the University of Utah, PUCP is a commuter school, and the students temporarily studying in Peru will stay with families of Peruvian students. Nelson spoke of the numerous benefits that come from cultural immersion in a new place. He wants his students not only to learn from another university’s mining program, but for them to learn about other cultures, places, peoples, and especially about the reality of practicing business in a another country.
For more information on the University of Utah Mining Engineering department: