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With Environmental Health and Safety degree, alumnus fulfills dream of helping people

Fri Aug 6, 2021 at 12:26 PM

Dez Gallien wanted to use his life to help people. After high school, he decided to go to college to become a nurse. To help cover the cost of nursing clinicals, Gallien took a job with Shell Oil working on an oil rig, where he happened to get into a safety role. Through his work in safety, Gallien realized he could help workers be safe at work and get home to their families. He changed course with his career goals and decided to pursue a career in environmental health and safety. As he climbed the corporate ladder, he began looking for an American Board of Engineering and Technology (ABET) accredited bachelor degree program that he could complete online. Oakland University’s School of Health Sciences's online Environmental Health and Safety program fit the bill. 

Even though he had plenty of experience and an associate degree, Gallien needed a bachelor’s degree to advance his career. As a young parent with a demanding, full-time career, Gallien also needed the program to be 100 percent online. Oakland University was the only ABET accredited Environmental Health and Safety program offered completely online, so the Louisiana-based Gallien applied and enrolled. 

Gallien said it took him about six years to complete his program, but he took it slow, sometimes enrolling in only one class per semester. 

“I had to take it slower, but working full-time in the profession, I could easily take concepts I learn in class and apply them in real-time.” said Gallien. While it was time consuming to earn a degree while working and raising a family, he said he was motivated knowing that the degree would help him advance in the future. 

“As long as you keep moving forward, don’t worry about how fast you get through the program,” said Gallien. “I just focused on taking my time. It was about quality over quantity each semester. With two kids and a full time job and traveling for work, that’s what I had to do. I’d tell others to stick with it. Don’t be ashamed to do one or two classes per semester. You know your life and you can only take what you can do.”

With limited face-time with his professors and classmates, Gallien said he went out of his way to make sure the professors knew him, his goals and his challenges. 

“I always try to connect with the professor and say, ‘I’m Dez Gallien, I’m taking this class. This is what I do. This is what I’m interested in learning.’ I would always reach out and let them know I’m a working professional with two kids,” said Gallien. He said he stayed proactive, on top of all of his work and if he made a mistake or needed help, he reached out to his professors. “Every professor that I dealt with was awesome and very kind.”

In addition to teaching him new ideas, Gallien said he had plenty of professional conversations outside of the classroom with his professors as well. 

Gallien said most of his classes were synchronous and very interactive. He said the professors were available to help in classes where he struggled and they were also open to feedback and conversation about their classes. He also found ways to connect with his fellow students. 

“I truly feel like online is harder than traditional classes, simply because you aren’t face-to-face with other students. Group studying and working with someone as a team is harder in an online setting. There are a lot of students who are working professionals like myself. I would definitely encourage students, whether they use TeamSpeak or Discord or Google Meet, to try to reach out to someone in class and try to make a connection and get some team or group work going,” said Gallien. 

Gallien said it was another move by a professor that has impacted his education and career greatly. 

“Dr. (Tara) Diesbourg automatically enrolled us in a mentorship program. I didn’t even really know about it until the day we were supposed to meet. I didn’t ask for it. I didn’t even want it,” said Gallien. However, he said he was connected with Lara Ward, who is a health and safety manager at LegoLand in Florida. “It turned into a really good thing. I’ve even been able to meet her dad, who is a business owner in Florida and has been in the business longer than I have, who was able to give me a business leader perspective on this. Lara and I still talk on a monthly basis.”

Gallien said being in environmental health and safety is about constantly learning new things to address emerging risks in the workplace. He said automation with self-driven vehicles and robots and even health impacts such as COVID-19. 

“When it comes to safety, I’m a generalist. I focus on occupational safety, health and environmental management. There are also specialists in things in process safety, road transportation, industrial hygiene and other areas,” said Gallien. To stay up on all of the topics and advance his career in the future, Gallien said he will eventually complete his master’s degree, but for now, he is celebrating this accomplishment and spending more time with his family. 

For more information on Oakland University’s online programs, visit our Online Learning web page. For more information on OU’s School of Health Sciences programs, including the online Environmental Health and Safety program, visit the SHS website.