Jillian Newell, BASc '20, Mining Engineering

Jillian Newell
"Hearing stories from people who have been a part of mine rescue for decades truly makes you appreciate the importance of being prepared."

Jillian Newell is graduating from the UBC’s Mining Engineering program. Originally from Vancouver Island, she moved to Vancouver in 2015 to complete her degree. Throughout the time at UBC, she's been very involved with mine rescue at both the student and professional levels. Jillian became the UBC Mine Rescue team’s first president in 2017 and created Canada’s first ever all-female student team, winning first place at the international student competition in 2019. In February 2020, Jillian and her team created and hosted Canada’s first ever student mine rescue competition at the Vancouver campus, bringing student teams from across North America to compete. She is also an active member of the Diamonds in the Rough Emergency Rescue Organization which looks to promote women in mining through participating in competitions. Jillian recently was a panelist at the 2020 PDAC Conference sand spoke of diversity and inclusion within the mining industry. Outside of mine rescue, Jillian completed four different work terms ranging from drill and blast in the NWT to mine automation for Newmont’s North American sites. Outside of her professional life, Jillian enjoys hiking, kayaking and mountain biking.  

Why did you choose to go into your field of study at UBC? 

I started my degree at the Vancouver Island University in the engineering transfer program, during which our class had a guest speaker from the UBC Mining Engineering student body. This student spoke to the different areas of study, the student teams and events and the impacts that technology is currently having within the industry. It didn’t take long after that visit for me to quickly change my original plan of majoring in geological engineering to mining.

What has made your time at UBC memorable? 

The people I have met and the projects I've been a part of have made my time at UBC truly memorable. The friends that I have made over the years made the grind of engineering enjoyable. The late nights studying never seemed that late spending it with a group of people that kept me laughing. Some of the projects that I've been a part of will always be memorable. Creating and hosting Canada's first student mine rescue competition was a project that none of us who organized it will soon forget. I'm sure that project aged us all quite a few years, but it was well worth it to see so many students from across North America show a passion for and dedication to mine rescue.

What has been your most valuable non-academic experience studying at UBC? 

Being a part of the UBC Mine Rescue team has been so valuable. When I joined in 2015, I didn't realize that I was entering into what would essentially define my time at UBC. This team was so great to be a part of, especially being a competitive person. The training courses that we took part of were unreal. These included high angle rope rescue, firefighting and first aid. The competitions were always a great time and you never could guess what kind of scenario they might have for you. Though ultimately, it was the people I met that impacted me most. Hearing stories from people who have been a part of mine rescue for decades truly makes you appreciate the importance of being prepared and how easily things can go wrong.

Tell us about your experience in your program. What have you learned that is most valuable?     

I have had a great experience throughout my time at UBC. The opportunities that are available to students are endless, which make the program so much more than just a standard engineering degree. Taking part in conferences, co-ops, student teams and executive committees has made my degree well-rounded and made the time pass so quickly. 

A valuable lesson I learned is that you get what you put in. Any student can attend classes but being an active contributor opens new doors. Though it requires time and energy, the added work does pay off and the experiences are well worth it. 

How are you applying the skills you learned through your studies at UBC? 

Having to juggle large course loads, extracurricular activities and maintaining a level of fitness drilled into me the importance of prioritizing and scheduling. It’s not easy getting a degree, and it’s not made easier when you want a life outside of the degree. Learning to set priorities and scheduling was so crucial, and I continue to apply these skills to my daily life and beyond as I move forward from UBC. 

What advice would you give a student entering your degree program? 

Be open to every opportunity, and don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone. Though studies are important to getting a degree, being a part of extracurricular activities plays a large role in professional development and makes the time spent during the degree more worthwhile. Challenge yourself to join a student team, attend a conference or some other means that gets you involved. You never know what opportunities will come from it, and they’ll be better than if you did nothing at all.

How do you feel your degree has benefitted you compared to a different field of study? 

As my original plan was to attend UBC in the geological engineering department, I’m so grateful that I did change into mining. Most of my degree has been centered around mine rescue, so it’s crazy to think that I would’ve had nothing to do with it in the original plan. The amazing people I’ve met, the experiences I’ve gained and the great work terms have all been because of the mining program and its unique opportunities.

Where do you find your inspiration? 

I find inspiration from my family and friends. It’s truly amazing what a great support network can do during challenging times, and I am grateful to have had that during my degree. I’m also fortunate to have so many role models that have helped me shape who I am today. From the women in Diamonds in the Rough to my many family members, friends and coworkers, there have been so many people that have inspired me to keep pushing and reach higher throughout my degree.

What are your immediate and/or long-term plans for the future? 

I’m looking forward to moving into my new position at Newmont, which has been a great company to work for over the last year and has also greatly supported the student mine rescue competition. I’ll be moving to the head office in Denver, Colorado, so I’m looking forward to the change of scenery.

What are your future plans to make a difference in our world?    

I’m excited to continue working alongside the amazing women in Diamonds in the Rough to promote diversity in the workforce and empower the many great women of the industry. I also look forward to continuing with the Canadian International Student Mine Rescue competition organization as we look to host the second event in 2022, ensuring the continued growth of student involvement in mining safety.

View more 2020 Student Stars at apsc.ubc.ca/students/stars/2020.