Q&A with MPH ’09 alum Grady Maxwell

Regional Safety and Health Manager for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)


MPH ’09 alum Grady Maxwell (pictured above) samples a naturally occurring asbestos site in Washington for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

MPH ’09 alum Grady Maxwell earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Alcorn State University in Lorman, Mississippi. After studying Environment, Safety and Health (now called Environmental and Occupational Health) in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences, Grady graduated from the MPH program in June 2009. He currently serves as a regional safety and health manager for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

What inspired your career path?

“Having grown up in an agricultural section of Mississippi, I remembered seeing crop dusters (planes) spraying cotton fields while we played outside during school recess and signs posted warning against eating certain species/quantities of fish at popular fishing holes. As I got older and started to learn more about how the environment impacts human health, my curiosity toward public health grew.”

Why did you choose to attend Oregon State?

“Funny thing, I actually came to Oregon State for a master’s degree in microbiology, but due to a ‘not-so-supportive conversation,’ I was fortunate to fulfill my original plan of earning an MPH.

I chose Oregon State for a change in scenery and the opportunity to challenge my interpersonal and academic abilities. Having grown up in the rural south, where it’s still segregated, Oregon State provided me the chance to experience being outside of my traditional comfort zone, to which I’m extremely appreciative. In addition, I gained valuable knowledge that paved the way for a successful career in public health.”

MPH '09 alum Grady Maxwell shows off his Beaver pride at work.

MPH ’09 alum Grady Maxwell shows off his Beaver pride at work at the EPA.

Briefly describe your experience in the MPH program.

“My experience in the MPH program was exceptional; the professors challenged students to maximize their potential. Attending OSU provided an opportunity to challenge myself personally and academically. My best years in academia were at Oregon State.”

You recently received a promotion. What is your current title, and what do you do in this position?

“I work for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as the Regional Safety and Health Manager. In this position, I provide technical expertise within Region 10 (Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Alaska) to protect employees’ occupational safety and health and collaborate with other agencies in times of environmental disasters.”

You mentioned you had a great experience with several PHHS professors. Briefly describe who they are and your experience working with them. How did they contribute to your success?

“There are three professors – Anna Harding, Shelley Su and Anthony Veltri – whom I remain in contact with. Each played a key role in my success at Oregon State. Dr. Su was a straightforward professor emphasizing that only hard work will get you through her Toxicology and Risk Communication seminars. Dr. Veltri was the second professor I met in the PHHS and his enthusiasm toward public health is matched only by his passion for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Though each of the three contributed to my success, none more than my academic advisor, Dr. Harding. She was extremely supportive of me from my first visit to Oregon State, and words cannot express how thankful I am for having her as my advisor. She’s a great role model and epitomizes what a professor should be.”

Grady Maxwell (wearing the blue suit) trains with EPA's Region 10 on-scene coordinators.

Grady Maxwell (wearing the blue suit) trains with EPA’s Region 10 on-scene coordinators.

What do you like most about your job?

“Being able to investigate hazards and provide solutions that improve the health of others. Plus, working in an area that aligned with my academic background.”

Why is this job important to the public’s health?

“I’m part of an agency that strives to improve human health through preserving the Earth’s land, air and water from contamination. This is achieved by researching environmental impacts to establish regulations that protect present and future generations.”

What advice would you give current students or young alumni?

“I would like to share a quote from Steve Jobs.”

‘Your time is limited; don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living the result of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinion drown your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition; they somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.’”

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

“Go Beavs!!!”