Monica Ortiz, who is from Texas, joined Colorado State University as a transfer student in 2019 because she wasn’t feeling passionate about her studies. Ortiz said she also received no “proper” advice on college and finding a career path.
She has always had an interest in environmental issues and after doing some research on the Internet, she was attracted to the CSU for her programs. Ortiz moved to Fort Collins and connected with Erin Reichert, Bachelor and Internship coordinator in the Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences at the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
Ortiz said she quickly decided the program was for her.
“It was like a game made in heaven,” she said.
Ortiz took a few courses, including chemistry and biology, at Front Range Community College before enrolling at CSU. During her studies she worked full-time at Whole Foods and assisted on a research project on air quality, together with Assistant Professor Joshua Schaeffer.
Despite her busy schedule, Ortiz was an active contributor to the Environmental Health Student Association and completed several internships, including a stint at Boulder County Hazardous Materials Management. She is currently finishing a temporary position at the consulting firm Hellman & Associates, where she oversees industrial hygiene monitoring at the Suncor Refinery in Commerce City.
“Basically, this means that workers put air pumps on to monitor their exposure to various things in the work environment,” she said. “This is my first time doing environmental consulting and it’s pretty new to me. Despite the lack of professional experience, I really enjoy it. It’s like everything I’ve learned in the past two years has been mixed up in one work shift. “
Reichert said that Ortiz was always prepared and brought creative ideas to the meetings of the student union of environmental public health.
“They were always more fun because of their quick-witted side comments and infectious enthusiasm,” she said. “Monica has managed to arrange full-time work as a self-sufficient student while taking between 13 and 19 rigorous academic credits each semester, completing two internships and serving as the head of the student union in our department.”
Ortiz said that while it sounds clichéd, she would advise other students to “trust the process.”
“For a while I compared my trip to other people’s trips,” she said. “I wish I was in that ‘other’ part of life. But you should trust the process because you learn a lot about yourself and the things you are passionate about. “
As graduation approaches, Ortiz is holding interviews, including a possible position as an environmental consultant in Boston.
“During my time here at the CSU, the community was always there to support me from all sides,” she says. “I had support from my advisor Erin and support from the faculty. Without this sense of community, I would not have achieved success and my degree. “