This is the first in a summer series of alumni spotlights focusing on graduates of Orrville High School in Orrville, Ohio who went on to major in what was formerly known as the Environmental, Safety and Occupational Health program, and is now known as Environment, Health, Safety and Sustainability at University of Findlay. All of the articles in this series were written by Randy Van Dyne, who directed University of Findlay’s All Hazards Training Center, and was also an instructor, before retiring in 2019.
Upon graduation from Orrville High School, Addie (Botkin) Burden ‘05 wasn’t sure where she wanted to go to school or what she wanted to major in. While talking to a friend, she found that he was going on a visit day to University of Findlay and he encouraged her to join him and other OHS students to learn about the Environmental, Safety and Occupational Health program (now Environment, Health, Safety and Sustainability). During the visit, Burden was impressed with the hands-on, real world educational opportunities provided by the All Hazards Training Center as well as the quality of the trainers and the professors at UF. Excited about the opportunity, she enrolled at Findlay as an ESOH major.
While at Findlay, she worked for the Training Center as a work-study student, primarily acting as a technician for various OSHA Safety Training courses. She was also an intern for the Ohio EPA Northwest District Groundwater Office, where she worked on using Geographic Information Systems to site wells for pollution studies, and participated in training sessions to educate children in the Northwest Ohio area about drinking water safety.
After graduation, Burden got a job with U.S. Ecology, a leading provider of environmental services to private and public entities across the United States that specializes in offering treatment, disposal, and recycling of hazardous, non-hazardous and radioactive waste, and she has remained there for what has been a 15-year career. As the current approval coordinator in Bellville, Michigan, her job responsibilities have consisted of assisting customers all over the country with complex regulatory questions, including health and safety for special waste stream handling; conducting audits and training on hazardous waste analysis plans and permits; creating training programs and presentations for entry level and advanced environmental regulatory issues; and assisting customers with waste characterization, sampling, and approval of complex waste streams.
Burden said she credits the professors and trainers, along with the training she received as a UF student at the All Hazards Training Center for providing her the ability to apply what she learned about environmental law and regulations in the classroom to industrial, real world applications. Learning to have an inquisitive nature and employ solid communication skills at all levels of the industry also rate high on her list.
Her best memories from her career all revolve around making a difference to the people she has worked with. “Customers that say ‘Thank you so much for teaching me,’ are why I love what I do,” she said.
Burden’s advice to students about potential careers in Environmental, Safety and Health is to “check out every topic you can in the environmental field. People always thought it was strange when I got excited to check out a waste water treatment plant, but it was awesome to see, and it interested me,” she explained. “Find something you love, that makes you ask questions, and then do it. Don’t worry what other people think is weird or odd. I’m still learning, asking questions and moving forward. Never stop learning.”