Name change brings department deserved recognition, respect

Dr. Karen Plucinski - Biology and Environmental Health Department Head

Dr. Karen Plucinski – Biology and Environmental Health Department Head

Very recently, the administration of Missouri Southern State University approved a proposal from the department of biology to change our name. We are now the department of biology and environmental health. This proposal was unanimously supported by all of the biology faculty. Mike Fletcher, director of environmental health, authored the proposal, which was submitted for review. He also provided much of the background information about the MSSU Environmental Health program that allowed me to write this article.

I believe this is a very positive development for the environmental health program for the following reasons. Our department offers Bachelor of Science degrees in both biology and environmental health, but until now, this was not reflected in the department name.

Many current environmental health majors initially started their college education as biology majors, but once they learned of the environmental health degree and the myriad of professional opportunities for environmental health professionals, deviated from their original career track. This name change will make prospective students and the general public aware about the availability of the environmental health curriculum.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with discipline of environmental health, it is the science of preventing physical, chemical or biological hazards from adversely affecting human health or the ecological balances that sustain our environment.

Career opportunities include professional positions with public health departments, environmental protection agencies, environmental consultants, and corporate health and safety divisions.

Students take a core curriculum of biology and environmental health coursework, with supporting mathematics, physical science and computer classes.

Specialized courses such as environmental protection, epidemiology, food sanitation, toxicology and others, provide specialized training for this career. Not only is our environmental health program the only one of its kind in the state of Missouri, it represents one of only 28 accredited environmental health degrees in the nation.

All environmental health majors also participate in internships, many of which are paid, that give students hands-on experience in the field. International opportunities are also available. Mike Kennedy, another environmental health faculty member, is teaching international environmental health (EH 352) for the second year in a row in Costa Rica during intersession. Students meet for one hour during spring semester to learn about international environmental health issues, travel to Costa Rica and visit coffee and banana plantations, a pig rearing facility to study water quality issues and the rain forest-all in ten days! The Environmental Health Club gives our students an opportunity to become involved in community service projects related to environmental health.

As a population, our environmental health majors make up a substantial proportion of the biology department. In January 2005, there were 34 enrolled environmental health majors. Our department has averaged between eight and nine graduates of the environmental health program since 1998. Our graduates that have actively pursued careers in environmental health have been 100 percent successful in finding jobs, many with excellent starting salaries.

How do you know if a career in environmental health is for you? If you enjoy science and do well in your science courses, would like to protect the human environment and like meeting and working with people, this field may be just for you! Come talk to the faculty in the department of biology and environmental health, and we would be happy to talk to you.