Sarah Fyre Berry
Major at CSB/SJU: Biology
Year of Graduation: 1998
Current Job Title/Description of Position: Environmental Health Specialist, Waseca County
As the Environmental Health Specialist in the Public Health Department, my primary work is with contractors and homeowners as they properly site and construct new water wells, seal existing wells, and construct new sewage treatment systems for rural properties. Additionally, I license and inspect restaurants, hotels, campgrounds and swimming pools to be sure they are sanitary. My job duties also sometimes include Meth lab clean-up, public nuisance assessment, and "public health preparedness" planning.
What path did you follow to arrive at your current job?
I thought I'd become a dentist until my senior year of college. Then life circumstances changed. The pre-dent coursework was very helpful in my current position, though!
What advice/suggestions would you have for students who might be interested in your career?
Attend a Minnesota Environmental Health conference (www.mehaonline.org). They have great student rates. Study a broad range of the sciences such as physics, plant biology, ecology, and chemistry. I use it all! My job requires me to be a Registered Sanitarian/Environmental Health Specialist (requirements about courses and exam found at: http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/eh/san/. My work can vary considerably, so it is good that I am a "jack of all trades"!
What skills are important in your field?
Curiosity, a respect for the scientific process, and good interpersonal skills are important. This position is one in which you are an educator, regulator and enforcer.
What are the most challenging/satisfying parts of your job?
The variety is the most challenging and the most rewarding. I enjoy wearing a lot of hats, but switching them out frequently can be difficult. It can also be difficult to go from educator to enforcer within 15 minutes with the same individual. It sure is nice to work outside on a beautiful day, though!
What activities/experiences were helpful at CSB/SJU (and elsewhere) in preparation for this career?
Activities such as speaking in front of groups and doing class presentations, reading scientific journals and interpreting the results of experiments, as well as taking a political science class helped provide a framework for how my job fits into the government's role in keeping our environment safe and the public healthy.