From Mines to Mars

Friday, July 22, 2022

Dedicated students, distinguished colleagues and dear friends,

Happy Friday!

In June, a remarkable student achievement prompted me to reflect on the evolution of this wonderful university. The achievement, you may recall, was the third-place finish by our Mars Rover Student Design Team in the international University Rover Challenge. This was not the first time that S&T has defied all odds to climb the ladder of recognition in this competition. The S&T team won that event in 2017, finished second in 2018 and placed fifth in 2019.

Our rover teams aren’t the only S&T organizations to achieve national and international acclaim for their achievements. In fact, several other student design teams have achieved great success, including our Human Powered Vehicle Team and Formula SAE Team. Our students are shining for their research excellence, and our early-career faculty are receiving national recognition. Faculty are also receiving national awards for their scholarly activities and major, multimillion-dollar grants to develop stronger, lighter steel, new materials for hypersonic vehicles, and methods to extract minerals from the moon, asteroids and, yes, even Mars.

So how did we get to this point of so many national and international achievements and recognition from our modest roots as a mining school? The answer, I believe, is that at every stage of its development, this institution rose to meet the nation’s critical needs while also looking forward in anticipation of future situations that would require training of the excellent workforce needed to provide critical contributions to critical challenges. At every stage, the university provided training, motivation, inspiration and mentoring required to provide the “street-ready” engineers, scientists and problem-solvers needed by industry, business and government on a global scale. A quick review of our history highlights the four stages of evolution:

  • A land-grant school of mines: From its inception as the land-grant Missouri School of Mines and Metallurgy, S&T was established to meet the nation’s mining, metallurgical and civil engineering needs as the U.S. recovered from the Civil War and continued to grow as an industrial power.
  • From mines to engineering education: S&T evolved from a “school of mines” into a bona fide engineering school with the passage of the Buford Act of 1915. The campus soon added degrees in ceramic, chemical, electrical and mechanical engineering. Within a decade, the number of students majoring in these disciplines totaled 172, eclipsing the 127 students majoring in mining and metallurgical engineering. S&T soon rose into the highest ranks of undergraduate engineering schools.
  • From school to university: After World War II, the campus was bursting at the seams as military veterans arrived in Rolla to get their degrees through the GI Bill. S&T began the transition from an undergraduate engineering school to a research university. While research had been a part of the campus mission since the early days, that mission grew in the 1960s with the creation of the Graduate Center for Materials Research and construction of Missouri’s first nuclear reactor on the Rolla campus. In 1963, when MSM became the University of Missouri-Rolla (UMR), the campus broadened its STEM degree offerings. Beginning in the 1960s and beyond, the university added degree programs in the humanities, liberal arts and social sciences, and by the 2000s had added business and education programs. M.S. and Ph.D. programs grew at a remarkable pace and UMR became a crown jewel of American engineering and science education and research. Alumni of international stature have advanced the state of science, engineering and technology in many disciplines.
  • Preparing for the next 150 years: To prepare for the next phase, we are looking out, looking up and looking forward. S&T is transforming into a research university of international stature and an economic engine for the state and the nation. Through the Kummer Institute for Student Success, Research and Economic Development, S&T is focused on expanding outreach to students globally to highlight the importance of STEM education, raising S&T’s profile internationally, and transforming research and creative works into opportunities for economic growth. An economic impact study indicates that the Kummer Institute’s many initiatives alone will result in billions of dollars in gross state product within 25 years, as well as nearly 3,000 new jobs.

Our past and its nostalgia is fuel for our future directions, and we are paving the road as we traverse it. The creation of four centers of excellence, 500 undergraduate scholarships, 100 doctoral fellowships, 20 endowed chair and professor positions, and nearly 300,000 square feet of new facilities for education, research and student innovation will help enhance and elevate S&T. From our origins as a mining school to a renowned research university, we now envision a new world of opportunities ahead of us, and we fully intend to continue to discover, educate and achieve our ambitious goals as set by our North Star.



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Mohammad Dehghani, PhD
Chancellor | 573-341-4116

206 Parker Hall, 300 West 13th Street, Rolla, MO 65409-0910