You won’t find many Mines alumni who have articles published in the Wall Street Journal. Seasoned writers and veteran journalists from around the country clamor for bylines in newspapers of this caliber. Faith Bottum (CEE 21) is an exception to this rule. Her first Wall Street Journal piece, covering the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally during the Trump presidency, appeared when she was in her third year at Mines. Bottum continued to write for the WSJ and other major publications throughout her college career.
Her hard work helped her land the highly prestigious 2021 Joseph Rago Memorial Fellowship for Excellence in Journalism at the Wall Street Journal from The Fund for American Studies; the fellowship cemented her career aspirations.
“I wanted to find a way to combine my love of engineering and math with my love of writing,” says Bottum. It turns out STEM disciplines have many parallels with journalism. “Mines set me up very well for the career I am embarking on. I learned to sit down for hours and hours and work on an engineering problem, and I think the way you go about solving problems is valuable as a journalist.”
It’s arguable that having engineers in the highest echelons of American journalism is valuable for the engineering profession. “There is a perspective we have as engineers that the general public is not aware of. I think there is a space for me to represent an engineering point of view,” Bottum says. “I come to a topic with an understanding of how things are built, and this helps me understand all the layers of problems.”
Her engineering expertise is not the only thing Bottum brings to the newsroom. Her rural upbringing also provides a unique worldview to any team. “I am from South Dakota, and I think I can give a voice to a lot of people out here. There are many who feel unrepresented in rural America and I’m proud to bring something different to the table,” she says.
Bottum is also a woman in engineering, and her prospective is valuable to industry. “I was very proud of being a female engineer at Mines. The professors were patient with me, helping me with the process while pushing me and reacting well when I said I was going into writing. You have this core background and knowledge in engineering you can take with you and do anything.”
Modern hiring managers are sourcing employees from the vast diversity of today’s global marketplace. They are seeking employees who thrive in teams of individuals from various backgrounds and identities. In an article written for Symposium Magazine titled “Bridging the Gap: Women in Engineering,” Bottum quotes women engineering students at Mines.
“It’s kind of fun to be a voice – being able to write that piece was so important and so necessary in my mind. It’s one of the pieces I am most proud of,” says Bottum.
Bottum argues that, to meet industry demand for more women in engineering, we need to change our approach at the grade-school level.
“If you want women to be engineers, you inspire them at a young age. The way we teach the young sets up the next generation. We need to show them the value of engineering,” she says.
To show the value of engineering, Bottum eloquently uses an example that may be familiar to many Mines alumni: the Keystone Wye on Highway 16 near Mount Rushmore National Memorial.
“Taking someone in elementary school and making them interested in something like the Keystone Wye, that should be a focus for getting more women in engineering.”
The level of influence Bottum holds has potential to help inform and even sway national public opinion and policy. Her success is thanks to her own talent and hard work to which she credits Mines. “I received nothing but support from the school, even though I was not going into an engineering job,” she says. Bottum cites professors in her department who went above and beyond in helping her succeed, as well as President Jim Rankin, who wrote her a letter of recommendation. “There is something really special about going to a small school. Professors and administrators will give you the one-on-one attention to help build the grounding you need to thrive in any profession.”
Bottum is indeed thriving. She continues to publish articles for the Wall Street Journal, and, maybe most impressive, her first book hits the press in late May 2022.
This book is a translation of The Ancient City from French to English. The 1864 text, by Numa Denis Fustel De Coulanges, delves into the roots of classical civilization, exploring how cities came to exist. Bottum translated this work while she was still a student.
“I think my teachers hated me for it. I would go to class and spend the rest of the day translating,” she says with a smile. Born in Brazil, Bottum speaks Portuguese and Spanish. “French is actually my worst language,” she says. Her grasp of the language was good enough for St. Augustine Press to publish her work.
“Faith is among many alumni we are proud to call Hardrockers,” says President Rankin. “She exemplifies the tenacity, grit, hard work, and intelligence that it takes to succeed at Mines and to excel in the world. We’re all excited for her future.”
Following her fellowship, Bottum will stay at the Wall Street Journal full-time as a new assistant editorial features editor. “I'm really thankful for the stories and the people that have gotten me to where I am now,” she says.