LT Shelby Foerg

Graduation Year (from EHAC accredited program): 2014

My career success story

During my last year of undergrad at CMU, I participated in a JrCOSTEP internship in the summer of 2014. As a JrCOSTEP you are assigned as a Junior US Public Health Officer (USPHS) to a federal agency for 90 days, typically in remote or underserved areas. I was placed with the Indian Health Service in Ashland, WI to work on environmental health duties with the native American tribes in both Michigan and Wisconsin. Early into this experience, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career as a USPHS Officer after I graduated.

Three months after graduating I was busy applying to all sorts of jobs from both the private and public service sectors. An opportunity to start a career with the Indian Health Service arose in Bemidji, MN working with the same program that I had interned for during the summer of 2014. Not only would be able to become a federal employee and work for an agency I was already familiar with, but I would then have the opportunity to convert to a USPHS Officer after completing the onboarding process.

My experience as a CMU EH student, and participating as a JrCOSTEP in Summer 2014 gave me the edge that I needed to become a USPHS Officer within 2 years of graduating. Also, I was able to earn my Registered Environmental Health Specialist credential within a year and a half of graduation. I just received my first promotion to Lieutenant on January 1, 2019. Being a USPHS officer is rewarding, competitive and overall the biggest accomplishment I have achieved since graduating from CMU in 2014. 

Why I went into the field

Prior to becoming an EH student at CMU I had never heard of environmental health and safety. I was a transfer student in my sophomore year from a small private college where I began as a pre-nursing student. After shadowing nurses and Physicians I quickly realized that nursing was not the career I wanted to pursue, so I changed my major at CMU to health professions. I set my sights on becoming a Physical Therapist, but the idea of being in school for several years deterred me from following this path as well.

During the summer of Sophomore year, I had decided that I was going to change my major again. I knew this time I had to select something that I truly enjoyed and knew I could make a career of it. The environmental health and safety degree popped off the page at me when I was reviewing potential majors. Clearly, based on my previous two majors, I wanted to work in the health field in some capacity, and I knew that I was strong in math & science. The coursework for the environmental health field drew me in right away: soil science, hydrogeology, organic chemistry, community health etc. These classes sounded right up my alley.

In addition, I did some research on my own to see what someone with an EH degree could do. I quickly realized that not only was the range of jobs/careers expansive, but also that EH professionals are in high demand, and will continue to be for the unforeseeable future. You could say that I got my cake and ate it too with both my interests and career lining up together in a field where it is difficult to be unsuccessful.