Kaitlyn Greg, Tatianna Evanisko and Hanna Byxbee may shrug it off, but they are pioneers in West Virginia University’s long-standing partnership with the China University of Mining Technology.
The three will be the first women from WVU to participate in a two-week mining studies and cultural exchange program, joining students from more than 10 international universities at CUMT’s Nanhu campus in Xuhou in June. Students will research science, engineering and safety practices related to green energy and participate in classes about the humanities and social sciences relevant to Chinese history, policies and economy.
Evanisko, from Shepherdstown, graduated in May from the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design with a bachelor’s degree in environmental and natural resource economics. She said she experienced being in the minority in mostly-male classrooms.
“Being a woman in a male-dominated field is actually more compelling than discouraging,” Evanisko said. “There have been classes at the University where I am one of the only women, if not the only one, and it didn’t bother me at all. The demographic aspects of my discipline are quite fun. I’m often collaborating with people who are different from me. I think it helps me grow more than anything.”
Byxbee, a junior from Ranson studying civil engineering in the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, said she is looking forward to being part of the program and to exploring both the culture and innovation in China.
“At WVU there has been nothing but acceptance for me in STEM,” she said. “There has been a fair mix in most of my classes between women and men, and there’s been no difference in our treatment, to me, at least.”
Gregg, a senior civil engineering major from St. Albans, said she hopes to use the engineering skills she learns to improve her home state.
The CUMT program includes field trips where students will enjoy Chinese culture and practice their Mandarin language skills. Previous WVU students visited the Great Wall, the city of Shanghai, the Huangshan mountains and experienced the life of a university student in a Chinese city.
WVU has been participating in CUMT’s summer program since 2015. It’s ranked as the best mining university in China.
“We’ve had a long relationship with CUMT in mining engineering and natural resources and we are pleased to send three outstanding women this year,” said Richard Bajura, director of the U.S.-China Energy Center of the WVU Energy Institute.
Tuition and living expenses are sponsored by CUMT with additional contributions for travel and personal expenses from WVU’s Energy Institute, Statler College, Davis College, and the Office of Global Affairs.