Melissa Dooley is the Director of Environmental Health and Safety at Arkansas State University. With an enrollment of over 14,000 students, A-State is the second-largest institution of higher education in Arkansas. In a recent Q&A, Melissa talked about her move away from “dizzying spreadsheets” and EH&S’ student-safety-first mentality.
How long have you been in the position and how did you end up in campus safety?
I have been with Arkansas State University since January 2021. A-State is my alma mater so when an EHS position came open, I was eager to apply. Before that, I worked as an EHS manager in manufacturing. It is different, but the concepts and standards are the same.
What’s the most challenging part of your role?
The most challenging part is the campus size and communication. A-State has grown pretty rapidly in the past 20 years, but not all operations have managed to catch up. When I first came here, everything was still done on paper and kept in Excel sheets. That was a lot of binders and dizzying spreadsheets. On top of that, most departments were used to just doing things their own way. And COVID certainly didn’t help matters either.
What’s the most rewarding part of your role?
Hands down I work with the most amazing group of professionals. Everyone on our team has a true passion for what we do and truly wants the best for the University. Not that it matters, but 5/6 of us are alumni or almost alumni. A-State really is a great place to work.
Why is campus safety so important?
Campus safety not only creates a comfortable environment for our students but also for our faculty and staff. We would all be out of a job if no one wanted to attend our university, because it was considered dangerous. In my manufacturing days, we would say, “Safety first, Quality second, then Production.” I would argue the same could apply to higher education. Without safety and quality, there would be no students.
How has CampusOptics helped you to improve safety at A-State?
CampusOptics has allowed our department to get away from pen, paper, and spreadsheets. Now we can manage everything in one spot. All inspections, Safety Data Sheets, drills, safety assets, laboratory assets, issues, permits, etc., are now one click away. I am also now able to identify trouble areas with a lot more ease. We can track and document all of our inspections and drills. This really comes in handy when an outside agency needs documentation, like USDA. They were impressed with the professional appearance of the inspection reports, asset logs, and maps created by CampusOptics. Our local fire chief is also impressed with being able to access our chemical inventories and the location of certain assets and drills. Campus Optics not only improved our operations, but it also improved our professional appearance.