Alumni Spotlight: Janalee McKnightJun 7, 2023
"I take great pride in knowing that my work directly
and indirectly contributes to healthier and safer
workers who can be the best version of themselves
both inside and outside of work."
- Janalee McKnight
To continue highlighting graduated trainees, we interviewed Janalee McKnight, a MAP ERC alumna working as the Senior Manager, Global Health and Safety Training Programs at VF Corporation.
How did you find yourself in the field of OSH?
I originally learned about the importance of occupational safety and health while taking an organizational psychology course in my undergraduate studies. A graduate student guest lectured on their research associated with the impact of safety leadership within the construction industry. I was so interested in the lecture, that I spoke to her after and became more involved as a student in some of the research! I loved the research and impact that it was having on the construction industry.
What attracted you to the MAP ERC program?
It’s interdisciplinary! Having exposure to varied specialties in the field is invaluable as a professional.
What lessons did you learn by working with classmates outside of your program field in the MAP ERC?
I learned the importance of considering other safety perspectives among subject matter experts, while practically applying knowledge to solutions. While in the MAP ERC, I was in the ergonomics program and truly appreciated the insight my peers from other disciplines provided because it gave me an opportunity to think outside of my “ergo-centric” approach.
What is your current role and how does it apply to your training or field of study in OSH?
I am currently the Senior Manager, Global Health and Safety Training Programs at VF Corporation (subsidiaries include The North Face, Vans, Dickies, Timberland, etc.). My role is responsible for leading corporate H&S training program strategies and implementation. Additionally, I oversee global H&S data and analytics where I aggregate facility-, operation-, and region-level data to determine initiatives based on leading indicators.
I am also spearheading an innovative program drawn from my graduate thesis (and MAP ERC Pilot Program grant recipient!) on wearable technology to reduce manual material handling injuries!
Were there major differences between what you thought your job would be as a student compared to your current role/responsibilities?
Yes! I originally aspired to be an academic but quickly learned (as I spent more time in the field) that I much preferred practical application. There is very impactful value in OSH research, but I’ve found my passion is practical application to influence change.
How has your training impacted the way you approach OSH?
I am incredibly thankful that my experience in the MAP ERC program fostered many opportunities to collaborate with peers and company stakeholders in the project opportunities provided. Working on “real” problems in “real” organizations was by far the most impactful component in fostering my foundational practical skill set.
How has your current position impacted the larger body of workers, families, and communities?
My current position provides meaningful work because I have a global impact. Health and safety programs that I develop and implement affect manufacturing workers in Asia and South America, distribution center and retail workers in North America, Europe, and Middle East. I take great pride in knowing that my work directly and indirectly contributes to healthier and safer workers who can be the best version of themselves both inside and outside of work.
What advice would you give future OSH trainees?
- Gain as much field experience as you can. Seek opportunities to accompany faculty mentors and consultants on site visits to become more proficient in assessing risk among different industries. Demonstrating that you can practically apply knowledge of risk assessment in varying situations is essential when applying to jobs.
- Obtain your Graduate Safety Professional (GSP) immediately following graduation! This makes becoming a Certified Safety Professional (CSP) much easier because you can forgo the ASP exam.