This spring, the faculty of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health got a happy surprise from one of their graduating baccalaureate students who is also an Army National Guard Staff Sergeant, John Beer. He nominated them for the Patriot Award from the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR). His nomination was accepted by the organization, and the faculty each received an award certificate in a small ceremony in April.
Beer's life path is often interrupted by calls to serve--or rather, that is his life path. At any moment, Beer is 12 hours away from deployment. He wanted to find a way to recognize the fact that the faculty were all so diligent about working with him to see him through his degree, even with interruptions which could last as long as a year.
The award is usually given to employers and direct supervisors, not academic faculty, but in the case of CSUN EOH, the organization saw reason in awarding the entire faculty. ESGR Representative and volunteer Reginald Fields said at the event, "You have provided support beyond measure. Thank you. This education gives John the will and the tools of critical thinking that will help him make the right decisions," adding that the kind of empathy and support the EOH faculty have shown helps make people like John Beer heroes.
Throughout his degree program, Beer was mobilized several times, but he remained diligent about maintaining continuity with his studies, and his professors worked with him to ensure good communication so there would be no “cracks” for any of his efforts to fall through.
Early in the pandemic, Beer helped with border security, and helped mobilize troops to provide COVID aid. At another mobilization, he was deployed to Kuwait for a year as a Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Staff Sergeant, working on an airfield that repaired Blackhawks and Chinooks. He was the unit's subject matter expert for anything CBRN related.
"Dr. Kennedy's got my back," Beer said about Department Chair Nola Kennedy. He was away from his studies for five weeks last semester and said he was grateful that the EOH faculty worked with him to maintain continuity toward his degree.
In further recognition of the EOH faculty, Mario Gutierrez of the CSUN Student Veteran Organization presented the faculty with Challenge Coins as a memento of recognition for their caring. The organization provides leadership development, academic support and advocacy, and greater connection to the campus community for student veterans.
After graduating with his Bachelor's in Environmental and Occupational Health this May, Beer plans to use his degree to work in environmental science or public health. He said his time in the Army National Guard has continued to inspire him to help people and develop professionally.
He plans to continue with his masters in EOH here at CSUN because he wants to continue give back and help others by providing a clean and safe environment.
Jean O'Sullivan/HHD News