Family Tragedy Led Him to Environmental Safety Degree, 'UF Family' Guided Him Through
Aaron Cheney’09 gained a passion for workplace safety at a very early age, even before he knew it was something he could do as a career. When he was very young his grandfather, a hard-working factory electrician, was electrocuted on the job. “I was the one who answered the door at my grandma’s house to two police officers, who were there to deliver the news. I was too young to understand what was really going on, but I knew that I didn’t want any other families to have to go through the loss of a loved one due to a workplace accident,” Cheney said.
While his dedication to workplace safety started at an early age, he indicates that the experiences and connections he gained through University of Findlay’s Environmental, Safety and Occupational Health Management Program (ESOH) more than prepared him for entering the workforce. Now a Project Quality Engineer at Whirlpool Corporation here in Findlay, he uses his degree on a daily basis. His responsibilities include monitoring quality of parts for all stamping, fabrications and paint processes, driving continuous improvement of quality within the department and providing defect-free parts to all assembly lines. “It’s a daunting task to come right out of college and into the workplace. Without being as prepared as I was, my first couple of years at Whirlpool would have been a struggle,” he said.
Preparation and support at University of Findlay came in many forms for Cheney. He transferred to UF from a local public four-year institution during his freshman year because he felt like “a small fish in a big pond” at his previous college. It was evident to him that UF would be different. He was assigned an advisor who would end up staying with him for his remaining time at UF and soon knew all of the other students and faculty within the ESOH program, which made class work, studying and free time more enjoyable. In fact, he notes that one of his most memorable moments at Findlay was the relationships he made with fellow students and professors. “The program/university does a great job creating a family-type atmosphere that is conducive to learning,” said Cheney. His advisor was, Tim Murphy, Ph.D., who not only teaches in the program, but currently serves as chair of the program as well. Having an experienced advisor within the field meant a lot to Cheney. He gives Dr. Murphy credit for keeping him on track throughout the years and serving as a mentor he could bounce ideas off of and reach out to for help. In fact, Cheney said Dr. Murphy was even there at graduation to help him look at his next steps.
Now a professional at Whirlpool, he works among many other successful UF ESOH graduates. One of the individuals who interviewed him right out of college graduated from UF with his same degree and was actually the same person he had interviewed two years prior for a paper for his Industrial Hygiene course. “It is clear that Whirlpool understands how prepared UF graduates are, as well as how great the ESOH program is,” said Cheney. Since his recent promotion within Whirlpool, the company has actually hired two additional UF graduates. Whirlpool continues to give Cheney plenty of opportunity to grow and expand his skill set. He recently became a Certified Black Belt in Six Sigma philosophies and principles, which is instrumental in driving improvement in a 50-year-old factory.
Click here to learn more about UF’s Environmental, Safety and Occupational Health Management Program.