U.S. military veteran and CELS alum takes academic career to the frontline

IMG_1532Master Sergeant Richard L. Moore came to the University of Rhode Island on a mission: to take his career to the next level of excellence. Despite his deployment to the Middle East and countless hours spent working towards his graduate degree from a tent thousands of miles from home, Moore stayed the course.

He was enrolled in a master’s in Environmental Science Management (MESM) program in the College of the Environment and Life Sciences (CELS) when duty called. A member of the U.S. Air Force for the past 17 years, Moore was forced to take a leave of absence from URI when his squadron was deployed to Kuwait.

When he wasn’t managing essential power generation equipment for frontline communication sites, Moore was researching and writing his major graduate paper in a bare-bones, “no-frills” tent in a remote desert. “I used my time in isolation as a chance to do something productive that would keep me on track to finish my degree,” explains Moore. “Most of my friends in my squadron know me as being a nerd, so they expected nothing less from me.”

Unlike many graduate students, Moore came to CELS with nearly a decade of professional experience as an environmental scientist. After receiving his bachelor’s in environmental science from St. Joseph’s College in 2002, he worked for both local and regional consulting firms performing assessments and remediation of petroleum and hazardous waste sites across New England.

“I was eight or nine years into my career, and I felt like I was hitting a wall; I wanted to grow,” Moore says of his desire to pursue graduate studies and advance his career.

He was first attracted to the flexibility of the graduate degree program at CELS, which allowed Moore to take classes around his full-time work schedule as an environmental, health and safety specialist at Johnson & Wales University (JWU) in Providence.

The MESM program enabled Moore to create his own environmental special project for credit through which he worked as a consultant for the U.S. Coast Guard Civilian Environmental Office in Cape Cod. As part of his graduate degree work, Moore used his previous experience in the Air Force to develop a chemical “pharmacy” program to control and inventory the quality and safety of all chemicals used on the military base.

Moore currently oversees all aspects of JWU’s environmental protection, occupational health, safety, indoor air and ergonomics programs for campuses in five states. “I’ve done a lot of work to bring our department into the future,” Moore says speaking of his work to redevelop the hazardous materials waste disposal and air reporting programs at the University.

“I’m interested in really helping people understand why it’s important to protect the environment and why it’s important to protect your health and safety.”

Walking across the stage in May 2017 to receive his master’s degree was among Moore’s most rewarding moments. He is grateful for all of the support he received from CELS faculty and staff who kept pushing him forward and helped him achieve his goal, all while continuing to serve his country.