For Katie Gardner, a degree in mining engineering is about having options. She began realizing the many choices available to UK mining students when, as a geology student, Katie attended a few Society of Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration (SME) meetings. “I saw the job opportunities and the on-campus interviews and switched over,” she says. Since making the change, Katie has only seen her education and career options increase.
For starters, though only two years into the program, Katie has been able to embark on travel experiences not available to most students. Participation in two SME conferences enabled her to visit Denver and Phoenix and, in March, she went to Reno for the International Mining Competition. Next year’s schedule promises to be just as busy: New Orleans in the fall, followed by Seattle in the spring as well as a trip to England. “We try to take a lot of field trips because our major is very hands-on,” says Katie.
In addition to traveling for conferences, Katie also interned last summer at a surface phosphate mine in the Tampa/Orlando, Florida area. Soon, she will head to Elko, Nevada for another internship, this time working in the engineering department at an underground gold mine. Such internships are common among mining students and offer wages well above those of other internships. “Last summer, I didn’t pay a dime,” says Katie enthusiastically. “They paid for me to travel down there and they paid for my housing.” Having at least two internships on her resume will increase her chances of landing a high-paying job enormously when interviewing during her senior year.
Speaking of interviews, one aspect of the mining engineering program which attracted Katie is that students have companies come to them! During the fall semester, mining companies visit the UK campus and conduct interviews for summer internships as well as post-graduation employment (in fact, Katie’s summer internship in Elko was secured during the fall semester). Katie is more than impressed by the interviewing opportunities. “A lot of mining people don’t have to go to career fairs because there’s no need. We get everything within our own in-house department. We don’t have to look for jobs—they’re thrown at us and if you don’t take advantage of it, you’re crazy!”
Enrollment in the mining engineering program has also broadened Katie’s outlets for student involvement and leadership development. Aware that there are few female students pursuing mining engineering degrees, Katie recently founded a UK chapter of Women in Mining—becoming only the third student chapter in the nation. Her goal is to offer community service and educational outreach through the chapter. “I would also like to contact the other chapters and do some joint field trips,” she says. “There aren’t a lot of women in mining. It’s a nice way to connect.”
As Katie surveys the future, she sees many attractive choices for a career, whether she pursues an MBA in order to focus on the international business side of mining or takes a job immediately after graduation. “Long-term, I can pretty much do anything I want to. It’s nice to know I’m always going to have job security because we can’t have anything without mining.” She agrees that her access as a mining student to high-paying job offers, interesting travel and captivating work is unparalleled among college programs—even other engineering programs. “There’s almost no limit to what this major can give me.”