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College to be an academic partner in the development of a “2+2” mining engineering program

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College to be an academic partner in the development of a “2+2” mining engineering program

By Todd Haynie

THATCHER, AZ—Representatives from Eastern Arizona College, the University of Arizona, Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc., and Science Foundation Arizona (SFAz) announced a unique collaboration between Arizona’s community colleges, state universities, and industry partners in the development of the Institute for Mineral Resources. The announcement, made at a meeting in EAC’s Activities Center, highlighted an important aspect of this multimillion dollar initiative—that of preparing Arizona’s students to compete in the technology-based world of mining engineering.

In announcing the EAC partnership, Dr. William Harris, the president and CEO of SFAz, thanked EAC president Mark Bryce for his cooperation, saying, “linking the educational institutions of the state will create a superior workforce.”

The Institute is a consortium of researchers, industry partnerships, and other stakeholders from multiple disciplines brought together by the SFAz, a private/public partnership with the mission of helping spur new innovation in Arizona through the development of a research and education infrastructure.

The collaboration stems from a SFAz grant of $8.7 million with $8.8 million in matching funds from 15 mining industry partnerships, including Freeport-McMoRan. Its goal is to address regional, national, and global issues related to responsible discovery, production, and sustainable development of mineral resources.

Additionally, the Institute will focus on internationally competitive research and development innovations in mining technologies related to exploration, production, process efficiency, safety, and health.

A key component of the Institute’s mission is the development of a “Two plus Two” education pathway that will help community colleges attract interested and qualified students to complete a two-year technology based preparatory program with the goal of seamless transition into a bachelor’s degree program in mining engineering at an Arizona state university. Eastern Arizona College is the initial community college participant, with future collaborations expected among other community colleges throughout Arizona.

“Beginning with the Fall 2009 semester, EAC will be able to offer all of the courses that a student will need to enter the mining engineering program at UA as a junior,” explained Dr. Jack Bailey, EAC’s engineering instructor.

As part of this partnership, the UA will deliver two lower division engineering courses to EAC students via distance education. EAC will also develop and offer a class to cover a series of specialized engineering topics, thermodynamics, circuits, and engineering economics. This class will be taught on campus by EAC faculty.

“The geology program at EAC stands ready to fulfill the geology needs of the new 2+2 program in mining engineering with UA,” explained David Morris, EAC’s geology instructor. “The details are still being worked out, but [EAC] can offer, in partnership with UA, courses in mineralogy, petrology, and physical and structural geology designed to meet the needs of the mining engineering students.”

Dr. Mary Poulton, professor and department head of UA’s Department of Mining and Geological Engineering said the Institute “chose to pilot the program at EAC because of the strength of the faculty and their willingness to go on great adventures.”

“I’m absolutely thrilled,” said Bailey. “I feel [this collaboration] is a validation of EAC’s engineering program. I can’t imagine anything better to have happened for us, in terms of a relationship with a prestigious university.”

In addition, this partnership gives students from the Gila Valley greater local opportunities. Mike Proctor, Senior Associate Vice President for the UA’s Outreach and International Programs, said this program “is about growing your own. It’s about letting kids know that there is an opportunity in their own backyards. We want people to be able to stay here.”

Bill Konopnicki, Arizona District 5 representative who was also present at the announcement, said, “Today is about building the future of tomorrow. This is a wonderful opportunity and I’m excited [EAC] is involved. This opens the door for partnering that we couldn’t do otherwise.”

In his remarks, Dr. Phil McBride, one of EAC’s academic deans, related the story of the prominent scientist Dr. Henry Eyring, who, after moving to the Gila Valley as a boy, attended the Gila Academy (now Eastern Arizona College) and then elected to pursue mining engineering at the University of Arizona. Eyring went on to become a professor of chemistry at Princeton University, served as president of the American Chemical Society (1963) and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

Stating that both EAC and UA are proud to name Eyring as one of their alumni, McBride said, “both institutions are proud of the standard of excellence that is instilled within their students.”

“It is evident that we share an understanding of the importance of science, technology, engineering, and math in preparing the future leaders of our community and nation,” continued McBride. “EAC is excited about working with the University of Arizona, Freeport McMoRan, and the Institute for Mineral Resources in preparing quality technicians, chemists, metallurgists, and mining engineers who will serve our community for many years to come.”