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Engineering Alum Returns to Lead School of Mining and Mineral Resources

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Engineering Alum Returns to Lead School of Mining and Mineral Resources

April 27, 2023
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Misael Cabrera is thrilled to be back at the UA and ready to collaborate on solutions for industry and the environment.

Misael Cabrera has been selected through a nationwide search as the inaugural director of the School of Mining and Mineral Resources. The school was created in 2021 and is jointly housed in the College of Engineering and the College of Science, with strong partnerships to additional colleges and centers.

Misael Cabrera head shot
Misael Cabrera

“Our role is to deliver talent and technology through research, but also to change the top-of-mind association with mining. We can create real solutions that both industry and our planet need,” said Cabrera.

Cabrera, who began the position in April, most recently served as director of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality. He graduated from the University of Arizona in 1993 with a civil engineering degree.

“Misael’s appointment is a milestone for the SMMR, and I’m excited to get the ball rolling with the inaugural director,” said David W. Hahn, the Craig M. Berge Dean for the College of Engineering. “It’s fantastic that an engineering Wildcat has the experience to take on this pivotal leadership position.”

College of Science Dean Carmala Garzione is also pleased to welcome Cabrera to the role, she said.

“Misael brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the SMMR with decades of experience in the public and private sectors. I look forward to working with Misael to broaden the research and impact of the SMMR and bring together students, professionals and communities to meet the complex challenges toward sustainable mining and mineral resource extraction.”

Linking Assets

The SMMR breaks down disciplinary silos and educates the next generation of mining and mineral resource professionals. It facilitates undergraduate, graduate and professional training in areas including not only engineering and science but also data science, business, social sciences, public health and law.

Cabrera’s initial vision ties together the many layers of mining and minerals: “To be the global destination for educational and research excellence in mining and mineral resources that will catalyze economically, socially and environmentally sustainable mineral resources for generations to come.”

Cabrera plans to engage the SMMR’s technical advisory committee and other key faculty, leadership and industry partners in further developing a vision that’s shared by these stakeholders.

The SMMR works closely with UA entities including the Department of Mining and Geological Engineering and the Department of Geosciences, the Lowell Institute for Mineral Resources, Geotechnical Center of Excellence, Mining Safety Center of Excellence, Center for Environmentally Stable Mining and the Global Mining Law Program. In addition, representatives from government agencies and nongovernmental organizations advise on curriculum.

Cabrera says SMMR is poised to solve the planet’s mining and minerals challenges. Aggressive collaboration is required to address the fact that demand for mined materials is surging while the industry faces a labor shortage and lower enrollments in mining education programs, he said. The SMMR and its many partners can deliver what few other schools can by combining assets, he said.

According to Steve Trussell, executive director of the Arizona Rock Products Association and the Arizona Mining Association, the university has made tremendous strides in the mining space.

“Misael has a proven track record in both the public and private sector. He will have no problem bringing the School of Mining and Mineral Resources to the next level,” Trussell added.

In addition to continuing and expanding industry collaboration and research, Cabrera plans to increase school enrollment by recruiting students who are traditionally underrepresented in mining. He also wants to spread the word about the school’s academic minor, available to students from any major. The minor helps students enter the field to fill a variety of positions in a growing industry.

Returning to the Launching Pad

Since Cabrera, who considers the UA the launching pad for his nearly 30-year career, returned to his alma mater, he’s been “walking around just smiling the whole time.”

“Being able to return and give back is a joy,” he said.

Cabrera was the first in his family to go to a university, and he credits the New Start Summer Program, among other support systems, with helping him graduate.

“New Start – coupled with free tutoring, financial aid, and professors that took an interest in me – all collaborated to help me succeed, and I’m very grateful for that,” he said.