CELS Alumnus Providing Students with a Competitive Edge in the Environmental Business Sector
University of Rhode Island (URI) students are gaining valuable hands-on experience in hazardous waste site work and emergency response to hazardous materials spills with the help of Adjunct Assistant Professor Corey Briggs. By teaching the skills needed to safely investigate, contain, and handle hazardous materials and wastes, Briggs is giving students a competitive edge in today’s job market.
Briggs, a 1980 URI alumnus, studied zoology as an undergraduate at URI. Back then, he was the rebel in his family who attended URI over UMass, the family alma mater.
“When I came to school in 1976, I had an interest in eventually doing something with marine science and pollution,” said Briggs. “In the 70s there were some really, really bad oil spills in the region. These events along with my marine science interests helped me begin planning what I wanted to do.”
After graduating, Briggs went on to receive his Master’s of Science of Public Health in Environmental Health Science at the University of South Carolina. With this degree and two internships under his belt, he took his first job right after graduate school with a major utility company. His successful 33+ year career has focused on occupational health, industrial hygiene, workplace safety, training, and hazmat/hazwaste site investigations and emergency response.
Today, Briggs leads the Industrial Hygiene/Safety Practice for the New England region of Ramboll-Environ, an international environmental, engineering, and health sciences consultancy. There he and his colleagues assist both private and public sector clients to address their workplace health, safety, and environmental issues.
“It’s kind of funny how it all came back to URI,” said Briggs. “I took biology, microbiology, chemistry, physics, some marine affairs, and even civil engineering classes when I was in Kingston. Then I was able to merge it with my Masters to make an interesting career. Now I’m back and sharing what I have learned over 33 years with the hope that I can inspire students to seek employment in the fields of environmental science, occupational health, industrials safety or one of the related fields.”
In appreciation of his undergraduate education and to assist current students interested in the fields of environmental science, occupational health, and industrial safety, Briggs developed and now teaches two College of the Environment and Life Sciences (CELS) courses – GEO 590: Environmental Hazards and Response (EHR) and GEO 591: EHR Refresher. These courses, which are team taught by Briggs and his professional peers from the New England region, has now been offered every spring semester since 2013 with much success. Along with their 3 credits, each student who successfully passes the course earns an Occupational Safety and Healthy Administration (OSHA) required 40-hour Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) certificate and a series of Federal Emergency Management Agency Incident Command training certificates.
For the students who fulfil the course requirements, having the OSHA HAZWOPER and other certifications is a huge plus for potential employers. According to Briggs, “it allows a company to avoid the considerable cost, time, and inconvenience of having to provide this fundamental training course to new employees on company time.”
“So far, it’s been very rewarding for me, CELS, URI, and the environmental health and safety (EHS) community, both in New England and elsewhere” said Briggs. “It’s been a way for me to pass on my expertise and knowledge and that of my co-instructors to young people who will be the EHS professionals of tomorrow.”