Rosa Maria Rojas Espinoza, MSc
Independent Director at Arizona Metals Corporation
Currently I am independent director at Arizona Metals Corporation junior company based in Canada, and my main role is to supervise the management of the business and affairs of the company. It is a Canadian Mineral Exploration Company, engaged in advancing precious and base minerals deposits. We have two in the state of Arizona.
For me, SME has been the door that opens opportunities for my career development since I was a student in Peru back in 2004. And I had no idea about SME as a student in Peru until a professor of ours introduced me to this organization. And with the internet up and running, I was able to research SME and along with a classmate, we were able to fund the first South American and Peruvian SME student chapter in 2005.
This was a big deal for us because we were so far from the organization headquarters that we had to really get involved in the organization. So, after we founded our SME student chapter in Peru, we raised some local funds from the industry to be able to attend that SME annual meeting in Saint Louis, Missouri back in 2006.
That was such a great experience for me because it was the first time going abroad to a mining conference. And younger Rosa with a very poor English level came to the conference. And because my English was still very basic, nevertheless I was able to do some good contacts and networking. I used all my nonverbal skills to connect with people and smile and try to carry on conversations.
It was such a great experience that really took me out of my comfort zone and really was the first step for me to develop this student chapter and interact with other student chapters in the U.S. and other students, mining students from Peru. So, it was just such an enriching experience. There, I also met my future Master of Science advisor that I had no idea would be right in the future, among other opportunities.
I'm so very grateful to all the formal and informal mentors and opportunities that SME has provided to me along these 17 years of career, because when I jumped into it, I didn't know how many opportunities I would get from the organization. And it is really, you get what you put into it. So, I think that's the message I would like to give to the younger generations and to students who are thinking of joining the organization.
And what I really like, for me, is that it is a horizontal organization, not hierarchical. You could reach anyone in the organization. You have these executives and professionals who are really successful in their careers that are able to lend you a hand when you need it to coach you, a mentor to you, and show you the different career paths and opportunities you have.
For me, my journey with SME has been really a self-discovery journey. To realize and acknowledge what I was capable of doing. If I was courageous enough and put the work into it, I was given the opportunity to pursue different roles in the organization. It has been a great platform to develop my teamwork and my leadership skills with every situation we have faced.
I also had no idea about the sense of community at SME and as an immigrant, as a foreign student. That was really an encouragement I felt, to come to the U.S. because I had this network in SME that I built through all the years, and I knew I was not alone. I had no family in the US at that time and the sense of community and belonging at SME really reassured me and uplifted me so many times. It made me feel that I belong even when I didn't feel that way in other places. So, I would say that carried me on throughout the time and for me, as I mentioned, it was a self-discovery journey.
After the student chapter, and once I graduated from the Master of Science at U of A, I joined the Young Leader Committee back in 2014. I was class of 2014, still working on my English as a second language that I had no idea, again of the opportunities that I would have to be part of the leadership of the organization.
When I joined, I just wanted to learn from other ambitious and outstanding professionals, and I ended up being part of the Executive Committee of Young Leaders and had the opportunity to support other young members in the organization.
After that, I was invited and appointed by SME executive director to be one of the organizers of diversity of the minerals, metals, and materials professionals. The DMMM3, in 2018, representing the SME. And that was really an eye opener for me. It was an event organized by TMS and SME to really talk openly about race and about ethnicities and about challenges that we have as minority groups. So, because of this conference, I started research on assessing the effectiveness of diversity initiatives and policies in the U.S. mining industry along with Fatemeh Molaei, a PhD student at the time. With the help of the SME Board of Directors, we did a live survey to really assess the sentiment and the perception of mining professionals on how diversity and inclusion policies have really improved the work environment and retention and advancement of minority professionals.
The results were really surprising in the sense that not many of them were aware of these policies in their companies and most of them didn’t know about it as there's no published data on the topic. So, this research was really a reference and a baseline for future research that there were no publications, at least for this demographic in the industry in the US.
After that, Women in Mining Arizona came along, and it's just been a great, great opportunity to contribute to diversity, equity and inclusion portion as well. Besides, on the technical aspects of mining engineering.