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.
After my undergraduate program, I took on an internship working for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in a research lab focusing on occupational issues related to the air traffic control occupation. While most of my work was related to training and performance, I had the opportunity to help develop a stress management program for all new air traffic control personnel. During that time, I learned so much about the health effects of work-related stress, and I started to become interested in other ways work may influence individual mental and physical health.
I also had the chance to learn about a lot of fascinating research being done in the aviation industry related to occupational health and safety. For example – I learned how pilot work schedules are rotated to maximize sleep hygiene and improve both the performance and well-being of pilots. Overall, I learned how intertwined work and health are during my experience with the FAA, and everyone deserves to be healthy!
While applying to graduate schools, I realized 1) there are very few occupational health psychology (OHP) programs in the U.S., and 2) there are very few programs that offer the degree of resources to students that the MAP ERC does. I also learned during my interviews that both CSU and the MAP ERC were extremely promotive of interdisciplinary research and practice. This was something that I considered to be extremely meaningful, and still do, so the program just seemed like the best fit.
To date, I consider my thesis project to be the most meaningful project I’ve worked on. For the project, I worked with participants managing chronic health conditions in the workplace and collected daily responses from them as they were teleworking during the COVID-19 pandemic. My project aimed to identify the reasons why telework may be an affective accommodation practice for workers with disability or vulnerable health. I’ve been able to share the results from this project with various practitioners and policy contributors. Having a chronic health condition of my own, being able to work with participants from my own community and contribute to important and practical research was extremely meaningful to me.
I collected a large amount of qualitative data with this project and I really appreciate how vulnerable and honest participants in my study were willing to be in their responses. Many of them were grateful for an outlet to talk about a large part of their daily life (i.e., having a chronic health condition), but were rarely asked about it. During this project I learned how important it is to engage in dialogue with participants supporting your research if possible. Specifically, if you ask people about what is important to them and their needs, they will tell you. I think more research needs to start this way, asking our participants what they believe to be important instead of making assumptions with our research questions.
Since my training has been so interdisciplinary, I feel confident that I will be able to enter the workforce and work with a variety of occupational health and safety professionals with enough content knowledge to bridge different perspectives to meet a shared goal around worker health!
What happens to individuals at work impacts how they experience life outside of work. I hope my training and career will help to improve the quality of employee workplace experiences so they can also have healthy and fulfilling lives outside of the workplace.
I’ll be applying for jobs related to OHP this coming spring. I hope to work for an organization who values worker health and well-being as much as the great people I’ve had a chance to work with during my time with the MAP ERC!