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CNHP to Add Occupational and Environmental Safety and Health Program


JONESBORO – To support the demand for occupational safety and environmental health professionals by a diverse range of industries, the College of Nursing and Health Professions (CNHP) at Arkansas State University is introducing a new baccalaureate (B.S.) program in occupational and environmental safety and health (OESH).  

“I am very excited that this degree has met with all of the necessary local and state approvals,” stated Dr. Susan Hanrahan, CNHP dean. “We have allowed some flexibility in this degree for practicing providers as well as students new to the field. Our conversations with industry in the development of the degree illustrates our continued work in ‘needs based’ education.  I want to thank all that were involved in this curriculum development process.”

This new program will provide a comprehensive and quality education to students wishing to become occupational safety or environmental health practitioners in industries such as manufacturing, utilities, construction, chemical plants, hospitals, and the fields of oil and gas.  Graduates of the program will have the necessary background to develop and lead occupational and environmental safety and health programs and aid organizations in maintaining compliance with applicable environmental, health, and industry safety regulations.  

Some of the career paths open with this major are occupational safety specialists, industrial hygienists, water quality specialists, food quality inspectors, and public health specialists.

The degree program is for students who have an interest in understanding how the workplace and environment can impact community health.  Other interested students will include those that want be in a field that is a blend of chemistry, biology, and public health and safety.  

“The comprehensive curriculum combined with hands-on training will help to ensure our graduates are ready to face the challenges of keeping workers safe and healthy in ever-changing work environments,” said OESH program director, Dr. Julie King.  

Coursework in environmental health topics will prepare program graduates to help employers maintain compliance with local, state, and federal environmental regulations.  

Regional industrial, utility, and hospital employers were consulted in the development of the new OESH program and will be able to benefit by having graduates that understand occupational safety and environmental health regulatory requirements.  Employees already working in the fields of occupational health and safety and environmental health will be able to take classes in preparation for advanced careers and implement best practices in their current safety and health roles.  

Additionally, most occupational safety and environmental health specialist certifications require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree to be eligible for certification. 

This new platform may also be of interest to nurses who have an interest in becoming occupational health nurses or those in the field that are seeking credentialing. The program is in-person at the A-State campus while a few of the non-laboratory courses may be offered online. 

Traditional students will be admitted to the program after completion of the required general education and prerequisite courses, usually at the start of their junior year.  The curriculum will encompass basic areas of study including chemistry, biology, and statistics followed by 58 hours of specialized coursework in occupational safety and environmental health topics.  Other students who are seeking courses of special interest may contact King directly. 

Eighteen new courses were developed for this degree program and include fundamental courses in occupational health and safety and environmental health.  Some of the advanced courses include toxicology, epidemiology, and environmental risk management.  Students will also have the opportunity to gain relevant experience in partnership with community private or public sector industry in an internship during the fall semester of their senior year.  Upon completion of the degree program, students will be eligible to become certified in their respective fields of safety or environmental health.

New laboratory space in the Donald W. Reynolds Center for Health Sciences will also be dedicated for hands-on experiences as well as independent faculty and student research.

Students interested in the program should contact their adviser or King (juking@AState.edu), early in their college career to ensure prerequisite coursework has been completed before being admitted to upper-level coursework.  Those in practice may contact Dr. King for advising. 

The program will be seeking accreditation from the National Environmental Health Science and Protection Accreditation Association (EHAC).

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