A community that challenges and supports
When speaking with Mines alumni, parents, supporters and even industry leaders, I have found that the Mines story is often best told through student voices. Everyone wants to hear about today’s Orediggers—their interests, aspirations and experiences at a top-ranked university well-known for its rigor, challenge and unique focus.
The same is true of Colorado’s legislators. I’m invited to the state Capitol a few times each year to provide updates on Mines. Recently, I brought three students with me to a committee focused on higher education. As expected, our elected officials politely listened as I provided an overview of our progress toward Colorado’s goals for higher education, but when our students spoke, they leaned forward in their seats.
The students were asked to share their stories and detail some of the challenges they’ve faced—and the resources, people and opportunities at Mines that have helped them overcome those challenges.
Cindy Sanchez, a senior graduating in May and Denver Scholarship Foundation recipient, shared her story of being a first-generation college student and talked about how a chance meeting with a Mines faculty member opened her eyes to the potential of STEM and inspired her dream of attending Mines. Cindy said she knew her dream was a long shot, but because of her persistence and strong interest, she was offered the opportunity to attend our summer Challenge program and pass tests in math and science. Through her hard work and mentor support, she now has nearly completed her mechanical engineering degree. Cindy ended her story by telling the committee that not only was she going to graduate with her undergraduate degree, but she’s also been accepted into Mines’ new advanced manufacturing graduate program to pursue a master’s degree.
Evaleena Reyes, a transfer and first-generation college student from Bakersville, California, shared a similar story. When she first arrived at Mines, the rigor and workload were overwhelming, and she struggled in her courses. After her first semester, she had two options: a) leave Mines or b) enroll in Bounce Back, a course designed to help students with study, time management and other critical skills needed for success at Mines. At the end of her second semester, Evaleena’s semester GPA was at a B+ level, and she’s been in good academic standing ever since. Evaleena now serves as the peer mentor/instructor for Bounce Back and shares her story and lessons learned with other Mines students.
The third student speaker was Dan Topham, who also graduates this spring. Dan is a leader on the Mines Activity Council—the organization that orchestrates E-Days and other campus events—and has been a strong advocate for and leader at Oredigger Camp since its inception. Dan spoke of the importance of extracurricular activities and how they lead to academic success, a strong connection to Mines and Orediggers taking care of other Orediggers. Through Dan’s story, the committee saw Mines from a new perspective—as a close-knit collaborative community where students step up to lead and take ownership for each other, their experiences and successes and the overall health of the community.
In hearing their testimonies, I was reminded just how big Mines is for them. They see their Mines journey not as a solitary slog but as a community endeavor. They all had different stories but came to Mines ready to work and have found supporters, benefactors, faculty and fellow students ready to join them in their experience. This is what makes a community and what makes Mines so special.
Paul C. Johnson, PhD
President and Professor