Oakland University’s Environmental Health and Safety program helped Chase and Jessica Salazar transform their shared passion for helping others into successful careers as EHS professionals.
“The program arms you with the knowledge, contacts, and critical thinking skills to enter the workforce and make a difference immediately,” said Jessica Salazar, who graduated with a degree in Occupational Safety and Health — now EHS — in Winter 2017. “The education piece of the program is well-rounded, so it can be applied to a variety of industries. They have classes that focus on construction, manufacturing, health care, and environmental protection which can be used no matter which industry you end up in.”
Jessica Salazar graduated from OU in 2017 with a degree in Occupational Safety and Health. She is now employed as the safety officer at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, where she is responsible for ensuring the safety of all employees and regulatory compliance with MIOSHA and The Joint Commission as it relates to the Environment of Care.
Her husband, Chase, also pursued a degree in Occupational Health and Safety at OU. He is now the director of Environmental Health and Safety at LECOM Inc., a utility contractor for DTE, which primarily services distribution infrastructure across Southeast Michigan. Chase provides employee training, creates policies, performs site inspections, and manages the overall safety program.
“OU’s EHS program helped prepare us for our current roles by giving us confidence in ourselves,” Chase Salazar said.
The couple met while attending the University of South Dakota, where Chase was a football player and Jessica played soccer.
“We met in the athletic training center and bonded over our love of sports, family, and dogs,” Jessica Salazar said.
Following Jessica’s freshman year and Chase’s sophomore year, the couple decided that they wanted to leave the University of South Dakota and attend Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan.
“I was originally pursuing a pre-med degree and Chase had plans to become a physical therapist,” Jessica Salazar said. “Dr. Richard Olawoyin (assistant professor of Environmental Health and Safety at OU) originally piqued our interest in the EHS program after a class we had registered for was canceled. When looking for a replacement class, I stumbled upon Dr. Olawoyin’s EHS Standards class.
“At the time, I hadn’t heard of the major, so I scheduled a meeting with Dr. Olawoyin to understand more about the class and the program,” she said. “Following our meeting, it was clear that the EHS program had all of the elements we were looking for in our careers — the ability to help people, a fast-paced environment, and an opportunity to build something special. We felt that the EHS program gave us a unique opportunity to make a positive impact early on in our careers.” The Salazars were married in 2018 at Crystal Mountain Resort in Thompsonville, Michigan and have a 10-month-old son, Niko, as well as two dogs, Malia and Mateo.
“Niko is the center of our lives and a big part of why we do what we do,” Jessica Salazar said.
Chase said the couple still looks back fondly on their time at OU.
“Our experiences at OU with the EHS program were always very positive,” he said. “It is a tight-knit community that supports one another, whether you’re a student or alumni. The professors offered advice and personal stories that showed their passion for the industry and propelled you to better yourself as a student and member of the community.
“Additionally, the EHS program encouraged us to use the office of Career Services throughout our time at OU and beyond,” Chase added. “Career Services was instrumental in helping us get internships, as well as transitioning to our post graduate safety positions. Career fairs, resume reviews, and mock interviews are some of the services that they offer that have helped us be successful in our professional lives.”
For more information about OU’s Environmental Health and Safety program, visit www.oakland.edu/shs/public-and-environmental-wellness/environmental-health-and-safety-undergraduate.