BSU event raises $75,000 for mining engineering scholarships

Published: Aug. 30, 2023 at 5:02 PM EDT
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BLUEFIELD, W.Va. (WVVA) - A partnership between Bluefield State University and Pocahontas Royalties has raised $75,000 for scholarships in the new mining engineering program at BSU.

The money was raised Tuesday night at the second annual BSU Engineering Hall of Fame dinner.

Keith Olson, Vice President of Development at BSU, said $90,000 was raised at the first such event last year when the partnership was first announced.

That money was used to start the first steps of bringing back the mining engineering technology program to BSU, a degree that was once offered but discontinued with the decline of the coal industry.

But the needs of the industry have changed and high-paying jobs in coal mining for this specialty are now in demand.

“Last night was the second annual dinner … It was very exciting to be able to announce that, in addition to that $90,000 that was raised from Pocahontas Royalties last year, we were able to raise $75,000 in yearly scholarships for students who want to pursue this curriculum,” Olson said.

He said it is a “process” to get the program back to a bachelor’s degree level.

“We are taking small steps and the first step is to offer it as a minor, so we are putting together nine to 12 curriculum hours and we are doing that in partnership with the coal industry.”

Those classes will be offered starting in 2024.

Olson said the people who come out of BSU with the education have “real skills they can translate into opportunities.”

After this step, BSU will offer an associate’s degree in mining engineering technology and eventually a bachelor’s degree.

Olson said mining engineering technology is taught at only a few colleges this side of the Mississippi, including Virginia Tech, WVU and Kentucky.

“Not only has the coal industry stepped up with financial support, they also are offering curriculum design and adjunct professors,” he said.

Olson said the average starting salary in many of these mining jobs is close to six figures.

“We now have over $75,000 in annual scholarships to help these students get there,” he said.

Also at Tuesday night’s event, Jason Whitehead, president and CEO of Alpha Natural Resources, was inducted into the BSU Mining Engineering Hall of Fame.

Whitehead is a graduate of Princeton High School and BSU.