Smiling Brittoni Thornhill poses in front of a red background patterned in TSTC. She wears a black graduation cap and gown.

(BRECKENRIDGE, Texas) – Brittoni Thornhill always had a love of science.

After touring Texas State Technical College’s Breckenridge campus while she was attending a vocational school, Thornhill knew that she had found her career. Eventually she earned two Associate of Applied Science degrees at TSTC — the first in Environmental Health and Safety in 2020, and the second in Occupational Safety and Environmental Compliance (OSEC) in 2021.

During the TSTC tour, Thornhill had visited instructor Teresa Purcell’s OSEC lab. She had an immediate reaction to what she saw.

“I immediately fell in love,” she said. “Growing up, my favorite subject was always science, and I felt a sense of belonging in that career field. An environmental degree was the perfect degree for me, so I registered a week after (the tour).”

Thornhill talked about her time at TSTC and how it led her to accept a position as the environmental health and safety specialist with UTEX Industries in Conroe.

What was the best part of your learning experience at TSTC?

The best part was the hands-on lab portion of my classes. We got to perform to the best of our ability and open our minds to more critical thinking. We learned how to collect samples, seal samples properly, operate monitors of many kinds, fit ourselves to our personal protective equipment, and we even drove to Possum Kingdom for geology days to study geographical landmarks.

How did the TSTC experience prepare you for a career?

TSTC’s motto is “Shaping You to Get Hired,” and they do just that. There are so many resources to go to. They have people that will look at your resume and help you improve it. I remember attending an assembly that talked about and demonstrated good resumes, cover letters and references. There is the opportunity to do mock interviews, so you know what questions and answers your future employer will be looking for. And the best part is, TSTC will send out resumes and put in a good word so that you can get into a job that will start your career.

Why should someone look into a career in OSEC?

Before 1910, there were no laws or regulations in place to protect workers, whether they were men or women. Companies and businesses were not held accountable for accidents or deaths in the workplace. Families suffered, and the number of accidents was too high and frequent. Now there are many laws, regulations and standards that employers have to enforce to keep themselves and their employees safe. In order to do that, companies need specialists in environmental and/or occupational (safety) to make sure protocols are being followed. We need more safety compliance majors to keep men and women safe, so they can go home to their families with all their fingers and toes and — most importantly — their lives.

What advice would you give someone looking into a safety career?

Come in with an open mind. There were things I learned that changed the way I perceived certain situations and the aspect of life.

What were you able to learn at TSTC that you carried over to your career?

I learned how to observe and identify. And that goes beyond the safety world. That alone is the key importance in the profession.

How did Teresa Purcell prepare you for a career?

She encouraged me day in and day out. I don’t think there was anything that she couldn’t answer. Most of all, when you fell short, she helped you pick up your slack. Success was easier because of her. She gets personally involved with each individual so she knows how to help you meet your needs to succeed.

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