Future Leader in EHS: Jason Townsell

Passion for EHS? Check. Stellar grades and experience? Check. Big plans for the future? Check! The first Future Leaders in EHS winner Jason Townsell wowed the judging panel with his accomplishments, ambition and dedication to occupational health and safety.

Talk to Jason Townsell for just a few minutes and you'll be convinced: This man is passionate about safety, teaching others and his future in the EHS field.

“EHS has proven to be one of the most important emerging fields of this decade,” Townsell wrote in his application. “With more and more people being drawn to the field, appropriate education is a must.”

The Future Leaders in EHS program, launched by PureSafety and EHS Today in 2010, was created to support and encourage EHS students as they respond to the challenges of the 21st century workplace and lead the way in keeping tomorrow's workers safe, healthy and on the job.

The judges selected Townsell, 30, based on his work and life experience; community outreach efforts; academic performance; his interest in teaching and mentoring EHS students; and his overall dedication to the EHS field. Townsell will receive a $5,000 scholarship, access to PureSafety's safety and health software and information solutions and will serve on the EHS Today editorial advisory board for 2 years.

It's a testament to Townsell's ambition that in addition to the scholarship money, which will help fund the remaining of his undergraduate education, he seems just as excited about becoming active in the EHS Today editorial advisory board and gaining additional professional development.

MAKING TIME FOR SAFETY

Townsell currently is a senior at Columbia Southern University, where he will earn a bachelor's of science in occupational health and safety in Spring 2011. He intends to earn a second bachelor's degree in fire science administration from Waldorf College in Fall 2011 before going on to pursue a master's degree.

In addition to his coursework, Townsell works full time as an assistant safety manager/trainer for LA World Airports (LAWA) Airport Development Group. He works at LAX on the Bradley West Project, a $1.545-billion development to create a new terminal as part of the LAX Master Plan.

To top it off, Townsell is married with three children and pastors full time at the church he and his wife, Brandy, founded in 2004. In fact, Townsell credits Brandy with helping him reach his goals by making sure daily life runs smoothly for him and their three children: Taya, 7; Brandon, 4; and Joshua, 2.

“It takes a high amount of focus and dedication,” said Townsell of his hectic schedule. “To be frank with you, I really enjoy it.”

TRAINING, TEACHING, MENTORING

While success in the classroom always has come naturally to Townsell, he set out to work and start a family in the years after high school instead of completing a degree. But he never stopped learning — he became a certified construction safety and health technician, construction risk insurance specialist, safety auditor, safety inspection technician and more. He has been an OSHA outreach trainer since 2004 and is authorized to instruct confined space safety and trenching and excavation courses.

Townsell realized, however, that he would need a degree in order to fully make his mark on the EHS world.

“Any certification I'm able to have without a college degree, I have right now. I've done everything I can do,” he explained. “But I realized if I never get a college degree, all this is for naught.”

Townsell's goals include obtaining an executive management position in the safety field and teaching EHS at the college level. When he looks to his future in EHS, he's most excited to make an impact on others.

“I significantly enjoy the whole process of teaching and growing and mentoring,” he said. “That's a major passion of mine … I've really enjoyed what I've learned over the last couple of years. Being able to give that to others really excites me.”

Pursuing higher education along with his family and work responsibilities has been a long path that sometimes resulted in lost sleep, stress and sacrifice. But it's all worth it to Townsell, who is making his way toward a very bright future in the EHS world. And now, he can enter that world as the first Future Leader in EHS — complete with his face on the cover of this magazine.

“I have a totally new respect for education,” Townsell said. “I can use this to tell my kids, look: There are no excuses. You will go to school. Here's what I did … and here's a magazine cover to prove it.”

In addition to awarding Townsell the top prize, the scholarship panel also recognized two runners up from the impressive pool of Future Leaders applicants.

Beauregard Middaugh

Beau Middaugh, a doctoral student pursuing a Ph.D. in occupational and environmental health at Purdue University, impressed the judges with his demonstrated leadership, academic performance and focus on field research.

“I believe EHS is a vital field of study because it is an applied science, where theoretical health, psychology and engineering knowledge are applied to real-world situations to prevent future injury or illness.”

Tran Huynh

As a student pursuing a Ph.D. in industrial hygiene from the University of Minnesota, Tran Huynh exhibits a strong dedication to the field of industrial hygiene and the challenge of protecting workers from health and safety risks.

“With the ever increasing public awareness of environmental and corporate social responsibility, businesses now face greater pressure into doing the ‘right’ thing more than ever before … It is no coincidence that companies with good and sustainable EHS practices happen to consistently outperform their competitors.”

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