Alumni Chapter Provides 14th Year of Mentoring to Students

Several hundred students and alumni mentors sitting at tables talking.

More than 150 students attended the 2013 EOH Speed Mentoring event, meeting with a few of the 25 alumni mentors who offered the insider know-hows on finding and earning jobs in the field. The event allowed students to sit in groups to ask questions of the mentor at the table and provided them the opportunity to learn about future careers in EOH. Photo by Lee Choo.

Life-changing opportunities were granted to California State University, Northridge students by the Environmental and Occupational Health (EOH) Alumni Chapter at the 14th annual Speed Mentoring Event when they were linked with professionals in fields related to the degree.

Much like walking into a room for speed dating, students gathered at tables with a mentor for a 10-minute round, chatted about the potential work force in EOH, were interviewed by the mentor and were even offered a few applications by alumni with internship and job positions open in their companies.

Bob Finklestein at podium addressing the crowd.

Bob Finkelstein ’78 kicked off the 2013 EOH Speed Mentoring event with words of wisdom for the participants. Photo by Lee Choo.

“There’s so much enthusiasm in the students here,” said Bob Finkelstein M.S. ’78 (Environmental and Occupational Health), the EOH Alumni Chapter president and one of the key coordinators of the event. “It’s so great to see them walk out tonight with new knowledge — learning how to get a better job and what’s available to them — and newly established networks that can lead to so many opportunities in the fields of EOH.”

The Speed Mentoring Event took place on Nov. 14 in the University Student Union’s Northridge Room. More than 150 students attended the event, and about 25 alumni returned as mentors. The department has graduated students who have gone on to be top-level executives, investigators and consultants at such organizations as Kaiser Permanente, Los Angeles World Airports, CalOSHA and the Department of Public Health. While some, like Finkelstein, have acted as mentors for years, others were first-timers who simply wanted to give back, having “been there” not too long ago.

“This is a good use of a Thursday,” said Nick Loebs ’04 (Industrial Hygiene), M.S. ’06 (Environmental and Occupational Health), who is now employed as an environmental health safety manager for AMGEN. “It’s a special thing to have a mentor. If I were in [the students’] shoes, I would use this because it lets students know there are jobs out there.”

As a mentor, Loebs’ key advice was to get experience and “go on as many interviews as you can.” He wanted students to take away a sense of preparedness as they begin to enter the working world of EOH.

The evening was coordinated by the alumni chapter in conjunction with the Environmental and Occupational Health Student Association.

According to Finkelstein, the event has grown a lot since his early days as a mentor, when there were as few as seven mentors and 20 students. For Thomas Hatfield, EOH department chair, it has grown beyond the wildest dreams of those coordinating similar events at the state and national levels.

“I’ve gone to these at these at the national level, and ours is larger,” Hatfield told the gathered students awaiting their chance to meet their mentors. “We’re bigger than those hosted at the state level, too. I don’t know of a better Speed Mentoring Event in the area of EOH.”

So, why CSUN?

“CSUN is home to the largest EOH program in the nation,” Hatfield said. “Being in Los Angeles, there are a lot of great opportunities as can be seen in the number of our alumni who continue to persevere in their lines of work in the area.”

As the night proceeded, students and mentors went through several rotations to meet new people, explore new fields and potential job candidates. Finkelstein noted that the ending reception was new to this year’s program, providing the participants a more relaxed setting in which they could talk. He said he expected it to be a great platform for extended mentoring.

After the event, students were encouraged to keep in touch with those mentors from which they wish to learn more. Having been provided a list of their emails and positions along with a handful of brochures from EOH-related companies, job prospects were abound.

“I came to the event wanting to broaden my knowledge about the field,” said Rowena Montilla, a second bachelor’s candidate who recently began her EOH program. “I figured meeting new people would give me better job opportunities in the future if I got to know them now.”

On top of all of the bonding and talking, the alumni had one last gift to bestow upon the students.

“Each year, the EOH Alumni Chapter donates money in honor of our past president Ralph Jones to help you, the students, go through a great program,” Finkelstein told the room. “This year, we are proud to present Dr. Hatfield with $2,500 to be used for student benefit.”

Fienstein said he was happy with the way the evening turned out.

“This is really a chance for mentors to reconnect and for students to see what’s really going on in the working world,” he said.

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