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Graduates of the first UMD Iron Range Master of Engineering class: Rally Hess, Erin Shea, and April Ekholm along with University of Minnesota Regents, David McMillan and Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board Commissioner Anthony "Tony" Sertich.
Three graduates from the Iron Range/UMD Graduate Engineering Education Program were honored during a reception on Wednesday, April 25 at the Minnesota Discovery Center in Chisholm, Minnesota.
These graduates earned degrees that tie in to their current employment. April Ekholm has a master of engineering – chemical engineering with an engineering management minor. She works in the Technical Services department at Cliffs as a process engineer in the pelletizer.
Erin Shea has a master of science in engineering management. She works at Silicon Energy with the Inside Sales and Support Department.
Rally Hess also has a master of science in engineering management. He works at Cliffs as a senior manager in the Operations Procurement Department.
The program UMD offers coordinates well with the work being done on the Range.
"The degree is tailored to the growing industry on the Iron Range and the busy schedules of those working here. I find that employers are very supportive of their folks to go after advanced education," said Moe Benda, the director of the UMD program. "It's been great to offer engineering master's degrees to residents of Minnesota's Iron Range."
The Iron Range/UMD Graduate Engineering Education Program began in 2010. The classes focus on specific engineering degrees including: a Master of Science in Engineering Management (MSEM), a Master of Environment Health and Safety (MEHS), and a Master of Engineering (MEng) with specializations in Civil Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Electrical & Computer Engineering, Industrial Engineering, or Mechanical Engineering.
"It was easy to correlate with work and school because the program offers union classes," Ekholm said.
Classes are offered at the Mesabi Range Community and Technical College, Hibbing Community College, and Itasca Community College. Iron Range students also have access to UMD's world-class education via face-to-face instruction or over ITV.
The programs are coordinated through the UMD Swenson College of Science and Engineering in conjunction with the Arrowhead University Consortium. The Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB) provides financial support.
"You know, there aren't any four year or beyond bricks and mortar colleges north of Duluth or really east of Bemidji," Commissioner Tony Sertich of the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board said. "This provides more learning opportunity for the jobs of today and tomorrow, right here on the Iron Range."
Retaining students on the Iron Range after graduation has long been lamented as a regional obstacle but these three graduates bring hope for the future.
Written by Cheryl Reitan and Maeggi Licht, April 2012
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