’05 BS Geology/Earth Science
College of Sciences Alumna of the Year
It happens in every industry — arts and entertainment, food and beverage, medicine, law enforcement, academia, athletics. Name the vocation and you’ll find children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren following the same career path of family members who came before.
Given that reality, it’s hardly shocking that Tricia Evans chose to follow in the footsteps of her grandfather and father — that is, until you learn where those footsteps led.
“Both my grandfather and father worked as underground miners,” Evans says.
The job fascinated Evans from a young age. However, that fascination didn’t exactly, well, fascinate her elders. After all, even in an era when gender boundaries have been eliminated in a vast array of industries, underground mining still isn’t widely considered fertile ground for women's careers.
“Both my father and grandfather were concerned about me going into such a tough and dirty profession, but working underground was in my blood and I knew I wanted it,” Evans says. “It took a bit of convincing, but my mom raised her daughters to be strong, independent women who don’t back down from challenges.”
So after graduating high school, Evans left her rural hometown of Pahrump (about an hour’s drive from Las Vegas), enrolled at UNLV as a geology major, earned her degree, and plunged into her mining career. And what a successful career it has been! Today, as the head of mineral resource management for Nevada Gold Mines, Evans manages a team of about 200 employees, most of whom are men.
Despite living and working in the northeastern Nevada town of Elko, which is roughly 400 miles north of Las Vegas, Evans maintains an active connection with her alma mater. She works closely with UNLV student interns and graduate assistants at Nevada Gold Mines; has supported several campus events, including speaking with department of geoscience students during the GeoSymposium 2021 Career Panel; and has been a member of the College of Sciences’ dean’s advisory board since 2021.
Additionally, Evans has played a key role in helping to forge new partnerships between Nevada Gold Mines and UNLV, which has led to the creation of multiple scholarships.
“It is important to me that students realize the opportunities that they have coming out of university,” Evans says. “UNLV is in the backyard of one of the largest gold mining regions in the world, and I have the opportunity to educate students about that. The more I can get involved at UNLV, the more I can attract students into mining — regardless of their gender.”
Beyond the fact it was the “family business,” what spurred your interest in geology and mining?
Growing up, I always loved science, and during my junior year in high school, my favorite teacher, Mrs. Rhonda Paxton, taught a semester of geology/astronomy. In that class I realized that geology is the perfect mix of all the sciences — plus, there was only a moderate amount of math and lots of hiking in the mountains. Mrs. Paxton gave me a lot of insight into what a career in geology could look like. It was a bit of a romanticized version of what a geologist does — study rocks, solve the earth’s mysteries.
I really found my footing, though, during my first internship working for Bechtel Nevada at the Nevada Test Site. It was the same place were my grandfather and father were working, which added to the excitement. I finally had the opportunity to show them I had what it took.
My very first day underground, I heard a voice echoing down the drift say, “That’s Rex’s daughter!” Maybe it was to alert everyone to be on their best behavior, or maybe it was more a curiosity of a young woman working underground. But that didn’t matter to me. I was in love with it. The smell, the energy, seeing rocks that have never been seen by a human before — I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be.
What sort of challenges have you had to encounter/overcome as a woman working in a predominantly male-oriented industry?
The challenges were more subtle, but obvious at the start of my career. For example, I would get to the mine site and the only high-visibility shirts would be in men’s sizes. Or the smallest muck boots available were a men’s size 7 (women’s size 9).
These obstacles aside, I never got the sense that the mining industry was intentionally leaving women out; it was just that women weren’t even considered. That attitude is changing. Today, there are many strong, powerful women in mining, and I have been fortunate to work with them. What we need to really change this industry is a few more women with a Rebel spirit who will stick up for each other and pave the way.
One of UNLV’s core missions is to help students cultivate a sense of self-determination. Describe a moment when you had to rely on self-determination to successfully achieve a goal.
There wasn’t a crystal-clear path for me to become a mineral resource manager because, at the time I started my career, that role didn’t exist here. A mineral resource manager owns the orebody and is responsible for maximizing value through orebody knowledge. This responsibility required more skills than I had going into it. It didn’t happen quickly, but with a million little decisions that I had to make myself, I finally got here.
How did your experiences as a Rebel — both in an out of the classroom — help you “make it happen” in your career?
Being a Rebel means resisting convention, fighting for what you believe in. There have been many times in my career where the path I wanted to take was not laid out for me. That Rebel spirit helped me push through and convinced me to take the risks I needed to take to get to the place I wanted to be.