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Outstanding Recent Graduate Award Recipients

The Outstanding Recent Graduate Award was established at the South Dakota Mines in 1984 to honor graduates who have achieved exemplary career progress and recognition within ten years of their graduation.

Criteria for selection includes level of responsibility and entrepreneurial effort, advancement, responsibility in research and authorship or patents and other evidence of creative activity, professional or business organization involvement, balance of technical and entrepreneurial accomplishments with community service and involvement, and company or community awards or recognition. Only one person per BS academic program can be selected each year. The individuals selected for this award serve as excellent role models to showcase the importance of continued personal growth in a rapidly changing world.

Award recipients for 2020 & 2021 were awarded at the Alumni Social & Award Party during Rockers Days (M-Week) on September 24, 2021. 

Meet the 2021 Outstanding Recent Graduate Award Recipients

Alex Brech (CEng 11) earned his bachelor's degree in computer engineering in 2011 and master's degree in electrical engineering in 2013.  He has been primarily involved with developing and testing embedded software.  He has held engineering positions with Raytheon Company and Collins Aerospace (formerly Rockwell Collins).  At Raytheon, he was a member of their rotational Leadership Development Program and spent time in Tucson, AZ; Boston, MA; and Sterling, VA.  He has worked on software for various missile, radar and unmanned aerial vehicle programs.  In his current role at Collins Aerospace, he is a software developer on small military radios.

Megan Buurma (MinE 11) graduated from South Dakota Mines in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree and in 2014 with a master’s degree in Mining Engineering.  While completing her master’s degree, Megan worked for Goldcorp, an underground gold mine in Ontario, Canada.  Her work involved designing longhole drill and blast patterns, cut and fill, and development planning.  In 2014, Megan returned to the Black Hills to continue her mining career at Coeur Mining, a surface gold mine.  In her current role, she designs drill and blast patterns, schedules mine planning and is involved in blast optimization projects.  Megan is involved in professional organizations such as the International Society of Explosives Engineers, the Best in the West Blasting Conference and the Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration.  

Sean Hayes (ME 10) after graduation (and competing at FSAE California 2010), started his career at Caterpillar, Inc. as a design engineer for Motor Grader products in Decatur, IL, where he worked for 7 years. With experience in testing, manufacturing, overseas assignment (China), NPI concept to production and parts sales, Sean learned a great deal about the business. With this background came an opportunity to graduate from the Caterpillar Marketing Training Class, preparing him to closely collaborate with customers & dealers. Currently, Sean is leading a global team within the Construction Digital & Technology organization to monitor/repair telematics and produce customized dashboards/reports for key customers. On the side, Sean and his wife Michelle has also started building custom homes as general contractors under the name of Hayes & Couri Homes, LLC in Peoria, Illinois.

Nathan Huft (MetE 10) earned an M.S. degree in general engineering from Montana Tech of The University of Montana in 2012, and a Ph.D. in materials science from Montana Technological University in 2019. From 2011 to 2019, Nathan worked for SeaCast of Montana and Montana Precision Products (MPP), performing product engineering for aerospace and commercial investment castings and process engineering for air-melt and vacuum casting, vacuum heat treating, and several other manufacturing processes. Nathan joined the faculty at Montana Technological University in 2020 and is currently an assistant professor in Montana Tech's mechanical engineering department, where he leads the department’s welding engineering focus area.

Tony Kulesa (CE 12), PE, ENV SP works as a structural engineer in the Oil, Gas, & Chemical Division of Burns & McDonnell in Kansas City, Missouri. His primary work experience includes civil site work as well as structural steel and concrete design and construction for the oil, gas, and chemicals industry. Tony remains active in the American Society of Civil Engineers as part of the Kansas City Section and through various Society efforts. He lives in Overland Park with his wife and kids.

Joel Lankutis (EE 10) worked as an electrical power substation design engineer and project engineer consultant in the electric utility industry. He has been involved with the design and analysis of high voltage power systems for most of his career. Since 2011 Joel has worked at POWER Engineers as a consultant for several electric utilities across the US performing engineering and management tasks for the planning and construction of 5kV — 500kV electric power substations. He has managed a department of thirty-four engineers and designers in POWER’s Billings, Montana office. Joel has been a licensed professional engineer since 2016, and is currently licensed in the states of South Dakota, Texas, and Nevada.

Chris Lupo (EnvE 11) is currently a Water Resources Engineer at RESPEC in Rapid City, SD. His work primarily involves developing hydrologic and water quality model applications in a variety of complex ecoregions to understand how sediment, nutrients, dissolved oxygen, metals, and other toxic constituents move through a natural system. He then uses the information to help set watershed restoration goals and protection strategies. Mr. Lupo also provides expert technical support to several modeling efforts, including a Pollutant Loading Assessment (PLA) study, a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) project, and a Life of Mine Closure Plan (LMCP). 

Katrina Marini (GeolE 11) since graduating in 2011, Katrina Marini has worked as a hydrogeologist at Barr Engineering Co. Katrina has focused on numerical modeling of groundwater flow and solute transport for mining, remediation, and wellhead protection projects. She also has been involved in hydrogeologic investigations supporting mining and remediation projects in several states. Katrina currently serves on the board of the Minnesota Ground Water Association Foundation.

Ben Mollman (IE 10) has taken roles of increasing scope and responsibility across multiple companies and locations. Ben started at Ring Container as a Manufacturing Engineer in Belle Fourche, SD and was a Process Improvement Manager in Hanover, PA where he facilitated Kaizen events and managed quality systems across multiple manufacturing sites. Ben moved to Polaris Industries in Vermillion, SD in 2012 where he worked in progression as an Industrial Engineer, Lean Manager, and DC Manager, where he helped Polaris to complete the Lean transformation of its DC Organization, network, and processes. In 2018 Ben moved to Reno, NV to lead the start-up and operation of Polaris’ 475,000 sq. ft. Distribution Center built to service the western US and Canada.  Ben has been committed to community involvement throughout his career and has served as volunteer, board member and director in business and youth organizations in each of the communities in which he has lived. 

Channing C. Stellato (CHEM 10) since graduating from SDSM&T in 2010, Channing C. Stellato (Thompson) spent three years working as a GC/MS analyst in the organics department at an environmental testing facility in Omaha, NE before attending graduate school at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in Lincoln, NE. Her graduate research work focused on the design and fabrication of electrochemical peptide-based biosensor for the detection of uranium in environmental samples. Channing graduated with her Doctor of Philosophy in Chemistry in May of 2020. After graduation, she started as an adjunct faculty member at Little Priest Tribal College (LPTC) in Winnebago, NE teaching general chemistry while also working collaboratively on an NSF Instructional Capacity Excellence in Tribal Colleges (ICE-TI) grant to help expand the STEM programs offered at LPTC. Presently, Channing has been appointed as a full-time faculty member at LPTC developing the new Associate of Science in Chemistry program funded by the recently awarded NSF TCUP ICE-TI grant. 
Evan Waddell (ChE 10) has served in various roles at Dow Corning and now Dow Chemical, specializing in the development and applications of silicone chemistry in multiple markets including construction, lighting, and personal care. Most recently, he serves as a Technical Service engineer supporting customers' needs across all silicone industries. He is a steering team member of the GLAD LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Group at Dow and is involved in various community and state initiatives for LGBTQ+ rights and programming.  In addition, he has remained an active alumnus, returning annually to teach (in person or virtually) the one-credit elective CBE 476/576 Organosilicon Polymer Chemistry and Technology.

Mines Advancement Fund

The Mines Advancement Fund supports the greatest needs of our students and faculty, including scholarships, department resources, facilities updates, industry partnerships, and more. With every dollar gifted to the Mines Advancement Fund, the Center for Alumni Relations & Advancement raises an average of $9 more to support departments, scholarships, and programs. 
Consider designating your gift to the Mines Advancement Fund to maximize your influence at South Dakota Mines.