Rio Tinto establishes scholarship at Montana Tech for students pursuing mining related degrees


Rio Tinto Kennecott Managing Director Nate Foster speaks with scholarship

recipients Dozick Zablocki of Kittaning, Pennsylvania, and Grant Shedd, of

Aptos, California. 

A new scholarship established by mining multinational Rio Tinto is supporting the next generation of students pursuing mining careers at Montana Technological University.

The $84,000 gift provides tuition assistance and opportunities to connect with professionals at Rio Tinto, pursue internships with the company, and visit the company’s mine sites. The first recipients of the scholarship are Dozick Zablocki of Kittaning, Pennsylvania, and Grant Shedd, of Aptos, California. The pair met with Rio Tinto Kennecott Managing Director Nate Foster (Mining Engineering, ’06) last November when Foster came to the Montana Tech campus to participate in awarding the scholarships.

“To meet the demands of the energy transition, Rio Tinto is proactively collaborating with strategic partners to address the mining industry’s labor shortage. Through investments in STEM education, we hope to bridge the mining talent gap with the next generation. As a Montana Tech alumnus, I’m proud to support this world-class mining program and find it personally fulfilling to meet with the recipients and support the beginning of their mining career,” said Foster. 

Zablocki is a mining engineering freshman who found his way to mining engineering after his father, a high school guidance counselor, encouraged him to complete job shadowing in high school.

“At first, I shadowed a forester, and it was neat, but it really wasn’t what I wanted,” Zablocki said.

After tagging along with a geologist, Zablocki started considering mining engineering as a career. There are only 14 mining engineering programs in the United States, and Zablocki’s family has visited Montana every year for nearly two decades. He decided to tour Montana Tech during an annual visit and was allowed to see the Underground Mine Education Center (UMEC). The UMEC is a hands-on, interdisciplinary educational space consisting of the former Orphan Boy and Orphan Girl Mines located immediately west of campus. It is the nation’s only on-campus underground mining facility, and is home to courses for mining engineering, geological engineering, environmental engineering, metallurgical engineering, and occupational safety and health. It also serves as a research facility.

“I went down into the mine, and I instantly fell in love,” Zablocki said. “It gives you the feel of the industry.”

Zablocki knew mining was the right fit for him.

“I don’t like being inside an office all the time,” Zablocki said. “It allows being in the office sometimes but also being outside. I also like big equipment and explosives. The work also changes. You aren’t always tackling the same problem. There are a lot of different problems, and more than one solution.”

The $9,500 scholarship he received from Rio Tinto helped seal the deal and ensure he attended Montana Tech.

“It was very relieving knowing I wouldn’t be paying as much as I thought originally,” Zablocki said. “It was cheaper to come here than it would be to go to closer schools.”

Zablocki’s first semester ended with good grades, five summer internship offers, and a really cool story where he gave Governor Greg Gianforte a cup of coffee at a football game on campus.

“I’m learning,” Zablocki said. “I feel like it’s flying by.”

Zablocki’s long-term career plans are coming into focus. He plans to work in mining for a few years, but eventually might want to branch out into mining law or into management with an MBA.

“Whatever I do, it will be focused on the mining industry,” Zablocki said.

Shedd, the additional scholarship recipient, said the award also played a big part in his journey to Montana Tech.

“The scholarship was a big deciding factor in coming to Tech,” Shedd said.

“There are no schools in California doing mining engineering, and none in Texas where I’m originally from,” Shedd said.

Shedd’s interest in mining stems from a background of enjoying building things, and also being an avid caver. When he was presented with an opportunity to engineer beneath the ground, things just clicked.

“I love being underground,” Shedd said.

The Montana Tech Foundation is grateful to work with Rio Tinto and our industry partners to establish and provide scholarships for our Montana Tech students.  For more information contact Shannon Sullivan Panisko at