November 2009

Keeping spirits high

CIM Distinguished Service Medal winner builds up enthusiasm

By R. Pillo

CIM Past President Jim Gowans presents the CIM Distinguished Service Medal to Samantha Espley.

One of our industry’s most prestigious awards, the CIM Distinguished Service Medal, was awarded this year to Samantha Espley for her tireless dedication to CIM and her strong efforts in promoting the industry through Science North and Women in Science and Engineering (WISE).

Achieving success through support

WISE Sudbury, a volunteer-based organization, encourages young women to consider careers in science and engineering and provides a support network for women in these fields. Created in 1998, WISE brought together 10 pioneering female professionals from various technical disciplines. Initially, they simply compared notes on one another’s experiences. “This was a perfect opportunity to bounce different ideas off people dealing with the same issues,” recalls Espley.

WISE has now grown to include more than 100 women. “With such a diverse group, we get to see many different sides of a particular topic,” says Espley. “The more you know, the better you will be at making decisions.”

WISE meetings cover topics from networking in a male-dominated industry to fine-tuning the juggling act between family and career. Espley, a mother of four, is especially gifted at the latter. She encourages all young women to enter such groups. “My family has always been there to encourage me throughout my career, but having this kind of additional support would have been worthwhile,” she says.

Building success through teamwork

WISE has also been instrumental in educating young girls on science and engineering. Their highly successful annual Science and Engineering Olympics draws over 120 female students from grades 4 to 7 from the Sudbury region. “They keep coming back each year until they get too old; then they volunteer,” says Espley.

Espley attributes WISE’s success to a simple formula. Besides science and engineering, WISE events also teach young girls leadership and teamwork — vital skills needed in both fields.

Seeking to tap into WISE’s success, Science North approached Espley to become part of its team. She now chairs its science committee and is part of its board of trustees. “It’s a huge part of the Sudbury community — an icon,” says Espley. “I feel it’s very important and helps keep Sudbury sustainable.”

It’s all in the family

Mining was a frequent subject at the dinner table when Espley was growing up. Her father, George Espley, held management positions in mining and finance, while her uncle, Les Dunks, was a mining engineer for Falconbridge in Sudbury. “My uncle would talk of the mines so passionately that I got hooked as a teenager and flowed right into it,” Espley reminisces.

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in geological engineering from the University of Toronto, Espley went to work for Falconbridge Ltd. before moving on to Inco Ltd., where her work led to a part-time master’s degree in mining engineering from Laurentian University. While completing her master’s, she worked full time and had two children. “I used my maternity leave to write my thesis,” recalls Espley. “It was tiring. I watched my husband carry on with life with my children, while I waved from the window.” It was a sacrifice she does not regret having made. As a manager of mining technical services at Vale Inco in Copper Cliff, Espley leads the team that is providing engineering services for the mining operations and helping to build business strategies for the future.

Reaching success by reaching out

Well-known within the CIM community, Espley’s father encouraged her to follow in his footsteps. “He was a role model for me, ever since I was a young child. Right off the bat, he told me to get involved with CIM, and so I did.” She has been a member of the Sudbury Branch Executive Committee for several years and served as chair in 2007. She is now looking forward to collaborating with her colleagues on the technical committee of MEMO 2010.

Espley was elated to receive the CIM Distinguished Service Medal. “I was on cloud nine to be celebrated that way. I could not believe that I was the one who was receiving the award. I just wanted to give back to an industry that helped me with so many of my achievements. I am passionate about the mining industry. When you are doing something you love, you just want to put everything you have into it.”

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