WCU’s environmental health program opens student chapter of ASSE


Western Carolina University’s environmental health program recently chartered a student section of the American Society of Safety Engineers, an international organization of more than 32,000 safety, health and environmental professionals.
Representatives and safety professionals from Region IV (the Southeast) and the Piedmont section of ASSE were in attendance to grant the charter. During the ceremony, the Piedmont section donated $2,000 in start-up funds for students to attend conferences, complete health and safety research, and bring technical speakers to WCU. The section also provided three $1,000 scholarships to WCU ASSE student members based on academic achievement, service and need. The scholarships will be awarded in late March.
“The affiliation between ASSE and WCU is extremely important to the professional development of our students,” said Tracy Zontek, assistant professor of environmental health at WCU. “The Piedmont section and Region IV have worked tirelessly to integrate WCU students into professional conferences, internships and employment after graduation.”
Student members of the new chapter agree. “Environmental health students pride themselves on being heavily involved in analyzing any potentially harmful environmental factors and studying ways to mitigate or eliminate them,” said section vice president Chris Caler, a junior who is double majoring in environmental health and environmental science. “A part of environmental health is worker safety, and ASSE is one of the best organizations for not only keeping our nation’s workers safe, but lobbying Congress to keep pace with emerging technologies and their possible dangers. By having a chapter here, the environmental health program is strengthened, and in turn, students are more prepared upon graduation.”          
ASSE has supported WCU student research and funded 12 students to participate in professional conferences, research competitions and the National Safety Leadership Conference, said Zontek.
Last year, the ASSE’s annual Piedmont Professional Development Conference offered sessions for students about job and internship searches, resumes, cover letters and interviewing techniques. This year, the conference will provide an opportunity for students to give resumes directly to employers, and to interview for internships and permanent employment.
“I cannot overstate the incredible opportunities this affiliation has created for our students, especially as we implement the Quality Enhancement Plan in our program,” said Zontek. The QEP is a universitywide effort to improve the quality of undergraduate education by helping students link academic and co-curricular activities.
Representatives of ASSE say the new student chapter at WCU will help meet those goals.
“Western Carolina University is a wonderful university educating thousands of students from around the United States and the world for careers in all industries. Hence, the environmental health program is needed to educate all students about being safe at work, and the program provides the education needed for the students to work in any industry worldwide,” said Diane Hurns, public relations manager of ASSE.
“We celebrate the partnership and look forward to helping it grow in the future, especially as ASSE celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2011.”