Monica Ortiz, who hails from Texas, arrived at Colorado State University as a transfer student in 2019 because she did not feel passionate about her studies. Ortiz said that she also did not receive “proper” advice about college and figuring out a career path.
She always had an interest in environmental issues and, after conducting some research online, was drawn to CSU for its programs. Ortiz moved to Fort Collins and connected with Erin Reichert, undergraduate and internship coordinator for the Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
Ortiz said she quickly decided that program was meant for her.
“It was like a match made in heaven,” she said.
Ortiz took a few courses, including chemistry and biology, at Front Range Community College before enrolling at CSU. She worked full-time at Whole Foods while a student and assisted with an air quality research project, working with Assistant Professor Joshua Schaeffer.
Despite her busy schedule, Ortiz has been an active officer in the Environmental Health Student Association and completed several internships, including a stint with Boulder County Hazardous Materials Management. She is currently finishing up a temporary job with the consulting firm Hellman & Associates, where she oversees industrial hygiene monitoring at Suncor Refinery in Commerce City.
“Basically, what that entails is putting air pumps on workers to monitor their exposures to different things in the work environment,” she said. “This is my first time doing environmental consulting and it’s pretty new to me. Despite my lack of work experience, I’m really enjoying it. It’s like everything that I learned in the last two years mashed into one work shift.”
Reichert said that Ortiz was always prepared and brought creative ideas to Environmental Public Health Student Association meetings.
“They were always more fun due to her quick-witted side comments and infectious enthusiasm,” she said. “Monica managed to balance working full-time as a self-supporting student while taking between 13 and 19 credits of rigorous coursework each semester, completing two internships and contributing to our department as a student association leader.”
Ortiz said while it sounds cliché, she would advise other students to “trust the process.”
“For a while, I was comparing my journey to other people’s journeys,” she said. “I wished I was in that ‘other’ part of life. But you should trust the process because you learn a lot about yourself and things you’re passionate about along the way.”
As graduation approaches, Ortiz is interviewing for jobs, including a possible environmental consulting position in Boston.
“During my time here at CSU, the community was always there to support me from all angles,” she said. “I had support from my advisor, Erin, and support from faculty. There’s no way I would have succeeded and graduated if it wasn’t for that sense of community.”