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Student representatives from the UA chapter of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration recruit new members. Barbara Filas was the first woman to serve as president of the society.

1978 Mining Alumna in the Business of Ridding Industry Barriers

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1978 Mining Alumna in the Business of Ridding Industry Barriers

Nov. 28, 2023
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At the 2023 Lacy Lecture, Barb Filas says that helping others get into jobs they love is key to a fulfilling career.

Speaking at the 18th Annual W.C. Lacy Distinguished Lecture Series on Nov. 3, third-generation miner Barbara Filas stressed the importance of choosing a career that brings joy and getting and giving help along the way.

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Barbara Filas says the UA laid the foundation for a career that has taken her to six continents.

The Homecoming lecture series is a tribute to Willard C. "Bill" Lacy, the first head of the combined Department of Mining and Geological Engineering at the University of Arizona.“Figure out what really makes you happy,” the 1978 mining engineering alumna told students in the audience during the University of Arizona College of Engineering’s Homecoming 2023 festivities.

Because there are different dynamics involved in mining jobs, from CEO to manager of environmental or tech services, “you have to decide when you progress in your career where you want to get to at the end of the day,” she said.

“For me, it was that I didn’t want to be told what to do, and I wanted to travel.”

In her 40-plus-year career, Filas, one of the first women to graduate from the university’s mining engineering program, has worked on every continent except Antarctica, traversing terrain that included the coal mines of Illinois and the boardroom of a global mining firm as president of Geovic Mining Corp.

“If you love what you do for your job, you never work a day in your life.”

Give and Take of Mentorship

Filas, a licensed professional engineer who was elected into the National Academy of Engineers in 2022, said she didn’t do it on her own.

“I always found a high-status friend who could help me.”

The UA laid the foundation, she said, and “I had all those mentors and companies who helped get me started.”

Now Filas, the first woman to serve as president of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration, is that high-status friend to others getting into the industry. Among her accomplishments is mentorship of countless young women looking to take on leadership roles in mining.

She urged the Lacy lecture audience to share what they have learned and help recruit students into the industry.

“You have to remember how you got there,” she said. “Giving back is one of the most important things you can do throughout your career.”