Public and Environmental Wellness

Mentoring the Next Generation of EHS Professionals

Students gain valuable guidance and support from industry experts

Women and man looking at equipment

Stephen Perrott, corporate EHS manager at Stellantis, and Jessica Jannaman, SHS '08, '14, executive director of EHS and quality at Global Automotive Systems, mentor EHS student Karly St. Aubin on the importance of workplace safety, industrial hygiene, and risk assessment. Photo credit: Robert Hall.

Woman showing another woman industrial hygiene equipment

Jessica Jannaman, SHS '08, '14, executive director of EHS and quality at Global Automotive Systems, explains a robot's instrument panel to EHS student Karly St. Aubin. Photo credit: Robert Hall.

Man mentoring woman on environmental health and safety practices

EHS student Karly St. Aubin listens attentively as Stephen Perrott, corporate EHS manager at Stellantis, shares his knowledge and expertise on hazard recognition in the workplace. Photo credit: Robert Hall.

icon of a calendarMarch 25, 2021

icon of a pencilBy Nina Googasian

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Karly St. Aubin will receive her Bachelor of Science in Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) in April 2021. She has excelled in the classroom and beyond during her time as an OU student. St. Aubin currently serves as president of the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) OU student section, and as an undergraduate student representative on the School of Health Sciences EHS Industry Advisory Board.

Comprehensive coursework, research endeavors, and experiential learning opportunities have equipped St. Aubin with both the technical and people skills she needs to become a successful EHS professional. An important aspect of St. Aubin’s career readiness can be attributed to the outstanding support she has received from mentors along the way.

Dr. Tara Diesbourg, assistant professor of environmental health and safety and faculty advisor to the OU ASSP student section, oversees the EHS mentoring program, which began as an initiative introduced by the student organization during the 2019-2020 academic year. “At the time, it was only open to members of our student org and was administrated entirely by Ciara Bazinski, SHS '20, who served as vice-president,” says Diesbourg. Following positive feedback from mentors and mentees alike, Diesbourg decided to make the experience an intrinsic part of the EHS program, opening the opportunity up to all EHS students.

Last summer, in the hopes of recruiting additional mentors, Diesbourg emailed EHS alumni and supporters. “The response was overwhelming. We now have 98 mentors in the program,” Diesbourg explains. “All 119 EHS undergrads have been paired with a working safety professional.”

The Power of Mentorship

Jessica Jannaman, SHS '08, '14, executive director of EHS and quality at Global Automotive Systems, and Stephen Perrott, corporate EHS manager at Stellantis, are two industry leaders volunteering their time and expertise. In addition to mentoring, they also serve on the EHS Industry Advisory Board, which is chaired by Jannaman.

Both Jannaman and Perrott believe a good mentoring program includes the opportunity for students to conduct benchmarking and relationship building early in their career. “It's critical for professionals in our field to openly share best practices,” they say. “After all, we are committed to a common goal – protecting people, property, and the environment.”

“Job shadowing and site visits are a great way for upcoming professionals to see real world, health and environmental science applications in place, and give students the opportunity to discuss how they can apply their learned skill sets in their career,” Jannaman says.

Perrott agrees that the experience is a valuable one for students. “Young professionals entering the field get a holistic overview of how different industries implement sound and sustainable health, safety, and environmental programs.”

“Most importantly,” Perrott adds, “mentoring allows students to explore different career paths and industries so they can make more informed, calculated decisions on their future in the profession.”

Meaningful Connections

For St. Aubin, establishing a professional network as a student has been very impactful. “My mentors are incredibly supportive and engaging. They have taught me how to work collaboratively, communicate effectively, and find creative solutions to challenging problems," St. Aubin explains.

“Mr. Perrott has shared so much of his knowledge and expertise with me about the different aspects of hazard recognition with engine testing - and about the softer skills, too,” says St. Aubin. “His advice and encouragement have been priceless.”

She has also gained valuable insight from Jannaman who serves as a part-time instructor in the Department of Public and Environmental Wellness. “Professor Jannaman and I have discussed things like how to be successful as a young professional and how to be effective women leaders in the automotive industry,” St. Aubin recalls.  

Jannaman and Perrott are confident their mentee is ready to drive change as an emerging leader in the field. St. Aubin has already landed her first career position and serves as an EHS analyst at Tenneco, a global automotive company that engineers and manufactures components for nearly every major automotive brand to make vehicles cleaner and safer.

Fostering Student Success

While EHS faculty do a fantastic job of teaching students the technical skills needed to be excellent safety professionals, Diesbourg believes the mentoring program helps students with the professional side of the equation. “I think this initiative is an excellent complement to our academic program and is another way we foster long-term success for our students,” she explains. Diesbourg’s goal is to match each student with a different mentor every year so that they can learn from multiple individuals with varied backgrounds and experiences.

For more information on the EHS program, visit

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