Oscar Mayer, Madison, Wisconsin
The summer before my first year of college I went to work at Oscar Mayer, the 3rd generation in my family to do so, and I returned every summer until I graduated. I worked in the maintenance department, where I drove a forklift, laid brick, broke up concrete, and caulked leaking ceilings. I was learning first hand why the OSHAct came into existence in 1970. The equipment and machinery that I was surrounded by day-in and day-out literally could kill me.
After three years of doing odd maintenance jobs I started working with the veteran mechanics to document standard operating procedures to be used to train new mechanics. I was still undecided about my future and dabbled in several different majors. However, it would soon be made very clear for me.
On the Sunday before Christmas in 2001, I had been asked to document a maintenance procedure, however, I was out of town for the holidays, so I declined. Thankfully, I did, otherwise, it could have been one more life lost. That afternoon, when the mechanics began to perform their work, they opened up a vessel and released 50 gallons of ammonia, killing one of the mechanics instantly and severely injuring and blinding the other. And changing my life forever - from that day forward, I dedicated the rest of my education and career to safety.
After the accident I transferred to a different university to study Occupational Safety and Health and I graduated with a BS in 2005. From 2005-2019 I worked as a health and safety professional in various industries: manufacturing, biotech, agriculture and academia. But it didn't matter the industry, I began to see a pattern in the approach I took to improve systems, processes, and procedures. Ultimately, everything I did was about making something better and empowering others to do the same.
In 2019, I seized the opportunity to take my approach and make a broader impact on UF core operations as the first assistant director for continuous improvement within the CFO division. From that point forward, I have seen myself as a champion for process improvement and meaningful decision-making conversations.