After completing my freshman year at University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign, I decided to move home and attend community college to save some money. While completing my Associates Degree I was introduced to the Environmental Health Program by my older sister, an ISU student. After many weekend visits and campus tours, I decided that ISU was the place for me. I had always loved the outdoors and dreamed of being an environmental advocate, so I decided to enroll in the Environmental Health (EH) Program.
I quickly learned that the EH Program was not a program just for "tree-huggers" but in fact covers a wide range of environmental topics. Whether you want to follow the path of environmental protection, public health, or occupational health, the EH Program covers it all. Being the only EH Program in Illinois recognized by the Association of Environmental Health Academic Programs and having full accreditation by the National Environmental Health Science Protection Accreditation Council, it really shines above many other EH Programs across the country.
During my two years in the program I stumbled across so many great opportunities. For instance, I had the chance to work in the Bioenergy Lab doing research on methane gas production from cow manure mixed with various types of organic material. I also got to serve as an officer for the Student Environmental Health Association (SEHA). As a part of SEHA I was able to help organize many great events, such as guest speakers, documentary viewings, homecoming activities, and field trips. There were also many opportunities to attend various environmental health conferences, which was a great way to network with professionals in the field.
One of the best advantages about ISU's EH Program is that it is small. There was always an opportunity to get one-on-one guidance from any professor in the program. I knew where every professor's office was and visited each of them on many occasions, whether it was to get clarification or help on an assignment, or just to stop in to say hello. By the time graduation came around I felt like I had gained a second family in the EH faculty. Years later I still keep in touch with some professors!
The wealth of knowledge I gained from the EH Program has helped me to excel after school. I completed my internship as a US Public Health Service JRCOSTEP in Reno, Nevada, serving the Native American Tribes in the area. During those 3 months I learned a lot about applying what I learned in the classroom in the real world. My internship helped prepare me for entering the sometimes daunting workforce.
The professionals in the EH field I met during my internship helped guide me to the position I am in today. I accepted a job as an Environmental Health Specialist for the Bristol Bay Area Health Corporation in Dillingham, Alaska where I have the opportunity to help protect and promote environmental and public health in the Alaska Native Villages in southwest Alaska. My favorite part of my job is seeing that I actually can make a difference by improving the health and surroundings of those that I serve. And I owe it all to ISU's outstanding Environmental Health Program, and even more amazing faculty!
I began my college career at Illinois Central College (ICC), majoring in Business Administration and playing on the Women's Soccer Team. After completing my first two years at ICC, I realized that Business Administration was not for me. When I met with my advisor at Illinois State, I described my interests and was pointed in the direction of the Environmental Health major. I was enthusiastic about the major, but hesitant about the Chemistry and Environmental classes, as I was unfamiliar with the material. I quickly came to realize that I would have no problem with these courses with the infinite support of my EH classmates and professors.
As a transfer student, I didn't have a big group of friends to lean on at first. After a week or so of classes, I began to get to know my classmates and professors. Since the EH major was relatively small, it created an environment to help all students succeed. Occupational Health and Industrial Hygiene were two courses that hit home for me, as my dad has been a sheet metal worker for over 40 years. It was after these courses in particular, that I realized that I could make a difference.
Additionally, there were many opportunities to get involved outside of class with members of the EH major, professors, and professionals. Groups I became involved with include the Student Environmental Health Association (SEHA), American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), and the EH Relay for Life team.
In order to make the most of the EH major and to set oneself up for success, it is crucial to get involved, establish relationships, and learn as much as you can.
Upon graduation, I completed an internship at Caterpillar Inc. as an Environmental, Health & Safety EHS) Intern in East Peoria, IL. During my time as an intern, I interviewed for the EHS Leadership & Technical Development Program (EHS LTDP) at Caterpillar Inc., a one year management rotation program. A few months later, I began as an EHS LTDP. My two rotations were with Global EHS in Peoria, IL and with the EHS Team at the Motor Grader facility in North Little Rock, Arkansas. I have since graduated from the program and plan to stay in Arkansas working with the EHS team.
It's been over two years since I've graduated, and I have remained friends with a number of EH classmates and professors. The knowledge, friendships, mentorships, and experience I gained during my time in the Environmental Health program are what I will treasure for many, many years.
I began my college career as many do: with no real idea of what I wanted to study. I was still trying to decide until halfway through my freshmen year, when a representative from the Environmental Health program came to speak during one of my General Education classes. He described the program to us and the courses that were offered, but what caught my eye were the types of jobs available in this field. There seemed to be far more opportunities than I expected, and several career paths to choose from within the program. I became an EH major the next semester and never looked back.
One of my favorite things about the Environmental Health program was the people involved. I cannot say enough about the faculty; they were incredible friendly and helpful. I always felt free to stop by their office to talk about classwork, or anything else for that matter. The smaller classes also foster a great environment where you are free to ask questions and discuss ideas in class.
The courses offered were terrific, and structured in such a way that help students to enter the workforce. While the earlier courses helped to develop a general understanding of each topic, the senior-level classes were much more detailed and taught how to apply these concepts in real-world scenarios. It was these courses that helped me the most after I graduated.
The Environmental Health program at ISU provided me with a great foundation on which to build my career. Since graduating I have been working as an environmental consultant for the company I interned for as a student. I have been lucky enough to work on a wide range of projects, from air pollution prevention and soil/groundwater remediation to ongoing compliance determination for large companies across several industries. I'm not sure what the future holds, but I hope to stay in the consulting field.
"I began as an Early Childhood Education major at Illinois State University. During my sophomore year I realized I did not want to stay in that major. I began taking General Education courses in different majors. I took the Environmental Health in the 21st Century course and found it very interesting. It gave a broad overview of the field.
"I researched the classes I would be taking in the major on the Web site and also discussed the program with the academic advisor. I thought the required science courses would be difficult. I didn't do a lot of research on the professions available with this major. So I started the program not knowing what to expect."
"The science courses were hard for me. However, I found the major courses very interesting and challenging but not overly difficult if you work hard. I know all of my professors very well. I have learned that there are limitless opportunities in the environmental health field. I became involved with the Student Environmental Health Association (SEHA) very soon after starting the major. I served on a committee for a year and then became an officer this past year. I have found the experience to be rewarding.
"We work on special projects that will benefit students and the community. One of the research projects I have had the fortune of working on was a result of having a guest speaker from the Energy Management Office at Illinois State. His presentation focused on energy conservation ideas students on campus could do. We started a committee and worked on the top idea that focused on ways to conserve energy on campus by turning off computers when not in use. We researched 'sleep mode' functions with various computers and other ways students and faculty could save energy used by computers.
"Our research was accepted and presented at Illinois State's Undergraduate Research Symposium. We also won an award for our project from the National Environmental Health Association which will publish our work and allow us to present at their national conference in Reno, Nevada."
"My experience in the Environmental Health program has allowed me to pursue work with the Peace Corps in epidemiology and pollution prevention. I hope to eventually get a Masters degree focusing on epidemiology.
"I have found that Illinois State University is what you make of it. There is a lot of opportunity socially and academically. But if you don't take advantage of those opportunities, things won't happen for you. If you take advantage of these things, you will enjoy your years here!"
"I first came to Illinois State University as a Computer Science major. By my sophomore year, I realized I did not enjoy computer programming as much I thought I would. I began looking at other majors at Illinois State because I really wanted to stay here.
"After looking at web sites for various majors, I discovered the Environmental Health major. Initially I thought it was a major that was more in the conservation area. I enjoy the outdoors, hunting and fishing and thought that this was the right thing for me. Once I started the major, I realized that it was different than my expectations. It was a major that was much more than conservation.
"The profession is about helping people stay healthy in their everyday environment. It is problem solving and more practical than I expected which I found to be very interesting."
"The faculty are great! The program is small and that makes it very personal. This allows the faculty to know you much better than in a very large program. I like the specific coursework that is offered. One of the things I really enjoyed was a real life Indoor Air Quality problem we worked on in our Air Quality class. A pre-school in the community was experiencing some problems and contacted our professor to see if we could help them. It was a class project where we were able to work on a real life problem and apply all the things we learned in the classroom. It taught me some very good technical things as well as good team building skills."
"I like the Quad setting. Classes are all close to the Quad and you can enjoy a nice environment between classes. My career goals are still open. My internship has opened opportunities in other career areas that I had not thought about. It is an exciting time for me!"