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UA mining engineering alumnus Jeff Tysoe stands at the bottom of an open pit mine in a hardhat and orange safety vest

UA alumnus Jeff Tysoe: “I wanted to do something with earning potential, but something that allowed me to make big decisions and take information and run with it.”

Blasting Through Barriers: Jeff Tysoe

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Blasting Through Barriers: Jeff Tysoe

May 3, 2018
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Arizona native conquers calculus, finds his calling at Freeport-McMoRan and pays it forward. Sixth and final article in series about diversity and inclusivity in mining engineering at the University of Arizona.

Jeff Tysoe, a UA alumnus and Safford, Arizona, native who earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mining engineering in 2010 and 2014, never pictured himself as an engineer, much less a miner. His father and grandfather both worked for Freeport-McMoRan, the world’s largest publicly traded copper producer and the largest employer in Safford. His father was involved in shovel and drill maintenance and his grandfather was an electrician.

What’s more, Tysoe was never especially gifted in math and science. In fact, Tysoe, now a mine engineer at Freeport-McMoRan’s Safford mine and an instructor at Eastern Arizona College in nearby Thatcher, tells his students that Calculus I was the hardest class he ever took.

“That’s kind of where I learned how to be a student, and how to study, and what it was going to take,” he said. “I had to take that class twice.”

Finding a Major Among the Miners

Tysoe was always a Wildcats fan, so attending the UA was a no-brainer. Choosing a major was a different story. He entered college as an undeclared student, taking mostly general education courses and an earth science class that piqued his interest.

Then his friends invited him to a meeting of the UA chapter of the Society of Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration. Tysoe appreciated the multidisciplinary nature of the mining engineering program, which includes aspects of mechanical, civil, chemical and environmental engineering. And that’s when he started thinking big -- really big. The rest fell into place.

“I wanted to do something with earning potential, but something that allowed me to make big decisions and take information and run with it,” he said. “In the mining world, we’re talking about millions of tons and millions of this and millions of that.”

At Home in the Program

From the department head and professors to classmates and front-office staff, the people at UA mining and geological engineering felt like family to Tysoe.

“Professors were always on campus and always available,” he said. “We took a lot of classes with the same professors. It made for a smooth transition from year to year.”

Tysoe joined SME, spent much of his free time “homeworking and office houring,” and interned at a different Freeport-McMoRan site every summer.

“I decided surface mining was where I wanted to be,” he said. “There’s just something about seeing the sun all the time that brings comfort to me.”

The recipient of a George Delos Gardner/Eugene Delos Gardner scholarship and a Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold scholarship, Tysoe graduated debt free.

Tysoe appreciated learning from the mining engineering department’s professors of practice, all of whom have experience working in the mining industry. When it came time to settle on a career path, he benefited from their knowledge and connections.

“The UA did a great job of exposing us to people from the industry, so it wasn’t a huge culture shock for us,” he said. “We weren’t coming from academia into industry.”

Back to School to Give Back

In a sense, however, Tysoe went from industry into academia.

Jeff Tysoe in hardhat and gown in front of the Old Main fountain
Two-time mining engineering alumnus Jeff Tysoe in hardhat and gown outside Old Main

After several years of volunteering at Eastern Arizona College’s annual Engineering Day in Thatcher, he was invited to be a guest lecturer. His industry perspective was a hit with students, and it wasn’t long before he was hired as an adjunct professor in the engineering department.

“He doesn’t have to invent scenarios or use case studies from a textbook,” said department head Tom Palmer. “He can bring real-world problems and scenarios into the classroom and has immediate credibility because of his day job.”

A degree in mining engineering can mean higher-paying careers for EAC students, many of whom live in Thatcher and work for the mine in adjacent Safford.

“He breaks down a lot of the stereotypes of what mining is all about,” Palmer added. “He opens his students’ eyes to a profession that is often misconceived and helps them get excited about a future in that field.”

In fact, taking Tysoe’s Introduction to Mining Engineering course inspired his student Justen Bingham to apply -- and be accepted to -- the UA’s mining engineering program for the spring 2018 semester.

“Jeff taught the class with a lot of real-world application and showed us how to do the same types of calculations that he does at the mine,” he said. “He is a great guy, an awesome teacher and a great mining engineer.”

Tysoe said it’s meaningful to have a lasting impact on his students, but he’s hoping that his father is only joking when he threatens to enroll in Tysoe’s class for a semester.

“My dad is super proud of me and my career path,” he said. “He loves the fact that I didn’t have to go through a lot of the heartache that he did when he started, due to the fact that I had an engineering degree.”