Millersville University alumna Nancy Adams ’73 had an enriching and successful career in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Recently, she created the N. C. Adams ’73 and W. G. Adams Fellowship for students majoring and minoring in Occupational Safety and Environmental Health. In doing so, she helped to forge a partnership between the OSEH program and the Lombardo College of Business to create a one-of-a-kind education program in Pennsylvania.
Adams was one of the first women to work in OSHA after Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. At that time, they were hiring inspection staff with a science background. Thanks to her time at Millersville studying biology and with the encouragement of her brother, Adams began her OSHA career in Albany, New York. “OSHA provided me with an absolutely wonderful career. There was no other job like it,” Adams said. “I traveled and worked throughout the U.S. on special assignments and task forces. I was part of a ‘younger,’ nationwide set of folks who were at the forefront of OSHA’s use of information technology and the internet.”
As one of the first women to work for OSHA, Adams found the field to be both exciting and challenging. “Because OSHA is a law enforcement agency, I had the law behind me when walking into mostly male-dominated workplaces,” Adams said. “I found that even as a young woman, if I engaged people in conversation and asked a lot of questions about what they were doing, they appreciated why I was there and took me seriously. However, in the early 1970s, finding protective gear that actually fit me was a whole different story.”
After 33 years serving in roles from compliance officer to director of management systems and operations, Adams ended her career in Washington, D.C. — though she never stopped investing in up-and-coming OSEH professionals. Adams serves on the University’s OSEH advisory board, which provides guidance and counsel for the OSEH program and its students.
A partnership between OSEH and the Lombardo College of Business allows students majoring in OSEH or in management to pursue a specialization in the other program.
“This opportunity is designed to foster the natural collaboration between the areas of business and occupational safety and health,” explained Dr. Jack Ogutu, the OSEH program coordinator.
In addition, Adams created the N. C. Adams ’73 and W. G. Adams Endowed Professorship. Ogutu will serve a three-year term as the inaugural Adams Endowed Professor beginning July 1. He will oversee enhancing scholarship activities, fostering faculty-student research, organizing on-campus and off-campus co-curricular events, and establishing internship opportunities for students in the program.
That collaboration between business and occupational safety is exactly why Adams created the fellowship and professorship.
“To create this type of partnership is unique to Millersville,” Adams said. “I have a very long-held belief that until safety and health professionals and corporate management gain a real understanding of both sides, workplace safety and health will continue to be looked at as a non-value-added contribution to a company’s bottom line.”
“The goal of this fellowship is to provide an educational opportunity to advance effective means for both OSEH professionals and company managers to better communicate what each can bring to the table to achieve a safer work environment and quality goods and services,” she explained.
Her advice to current MU students is this: “Never turn down an opportunity to learn something new. Even if at the time you think it is beneath or beyond your abilities … or even if you see no connection to how the experience might benefit you in the future, eventually it will.”
– Originally published in the Millersville Review, June 16, 2022.