We study the impact of our surroundings, both natural and built, on health.
The field of environmental and occupational health covers everything from the air we breathe and the water we drink to the injuries and mental health challenges we may face at work. We strive to improve health by promoting practices and policies that reduce harmful exposures and protect vulnerable populations. From improving worker health and safety, to promoting healthy housing, to creating new tools to monitor air and water quality, we work to make our homes, our workplaces, and our communities healthier places for all.
A graduate degree in environmental & occupational health prepares you to think critically about complex challenges and to design solutions that improve public health. When you leave one of our programs, you’ll be ready to address emerging environmental and workplace issues in a way that builds on science while prioritizing real people. Our graduates work in environmental health and safety, emergency management, environmental epidemiology, and workplace safety and health in private, nonprofit, and government organizations.
Recognizing the need to give workers a voice, the Human Side of Work project aims to use the power of storytelling to establish a growing collection of relatable and heartfelt stories and images of generations, documenting natural work environments and providing a glimpse into the human side of work.
“As researchers and practitioners, we often forget to ask, how does the worker experience shape how we think about improving health? We focus on problems and solutions,” says Lili Tenney, director of outreach and programs and assistant professor at the Center for Health, Work & Environment (CHWE). “It’s our goal to have this project help humanize work and showcase all the beauty that exists.”
As a global pandemic has shrunk our social and physical environments, we need to establish, re-establish, and strengthen connections with perspectives and experiences outside of our own. Stories forge connections between people, ideas, and cultures. Stories can unite disparate threads into a fabric of common values—community, family, health, fulfillment. The project uses digital media to transport folks into the working lives of their neighbor: a tattoo artist, barista, librarian, ski patroller, peach farmer, heavy equipment operator. Everyone has a story.
To launch the project, our Center connected with businesses across a range of industries to invite individual workers to share their story. After interviewing and photographing 20 stories, we built a website and Instagram feed to reach a broad audience.
“When I was photographing and talking to people, there was an instant connection. They are excited to share what work means to them and how their work experience shapes their life,” said Amanda Kujawa, Human Side of Work project lead and communications senior professional. “Each of us have feelings about our work—feelings that are personal, but universal. We want to provide a window into other minds and lives, weaving together a diverse tapestry that is our nation’s workforce.”
“I'm the crazy lady that we open a park and cut the ribbon, I'm just sobbing on the side. The same thing when we opened up our wastewater treatment plant—I'm like, ‘Oh my God, this is amazing.’ It's like, Trish, it's wastewater. This is raw sewage. But I'm like, ‘It's fascinating!’ I just love the work that we get to do.” — Trish Stiles, Town Administrator at Town of Bennett, Colorado
“COVID has been difficult. Having to see people on zoom and not being able to hug them. It's hard. It's really hard, especially within our Latino community, because that's how we are—we hug, we dance, we laugh, we eat together.” —Yasmin González, CEO at InsurB, Commerce City, Colorado
“This job gives me a really unique opportunity to meet so many different people from so many different backgrounds. Some people who climb here have been climbing for 50 years. Some people are starting today. I hope when people come in here, they feel like this is a safe, helpful, and happy place for them to do something that they love.” — Sarah, Front Desk Assistant at Earth Treks Englewood, Colorado
Over the next year, the project will focus on showcasing the stories through Instagram and a website featuring short quotes and profile photographs of individuals, with a focus on the Latinx community. A gallery and discussion of the project will be presented at the 3rd International Symposium for Total Worker Health®.
Help us grow the community of stories. What makes your work meaningful? How do you integrate work, life, and family? Submit a photo and tell us your story. We want to share it.
Written by Amanda Kujawa, marketing and design manager for the Center for Health, Work & Environment at the Colorado School of Public Health.
Human Side of Work was funded through a cooperative agreement (2 U19OH011227-06-00) with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health as part of one of ten national Centers of Excellence for Total Worker Health.