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Working for safety

Scholarship supports public health student’s focus on injury prevention

Quintin Williams is an expert on work. At 20-something, Williams has held more jobs than he can remember. But there’s one job he’ll never forget: the industrial battery factory in Chicago where he suffered serious burns in an explosion of molten lead.

Now, with support from a William Randolph Hearst Foundation scholarship, Williams is pursuing a doctoral degree in occupational injury prevention in the School of Public Health (SPH) that will make him an expert on safe working conditions.

“My youth has been work, work, work, and pay the bills,” says Williams, who holds a B.S. in mechanical and industrial engineering. The first in his family to attend college, Williams has been on his own since he was a teenager in Chicago, sometimes working as many as four jobs to pay for school and make ends meet.

“I worked two jobs, four jobs, whatever it took,” says Williams. “I had a full-time job during the day, a part-time job in the evening, and two janitorial accounts on the weekend.”

Thanks to the Hearst scholarship, which covers his tuition, living expenses, and health insurance, Williams can finally concentrate on his studies without the distractions of a job.

“The scholarship takes a huge burden off; I can focus entirely on school,” says Williams, who aspires to work for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and teach at a university.

Williams is one of two SPH students currently receiving a Hearst scholarship from a $200,000 endowed fund established by the foundation in 2002. The scholarship supports students from underrepresented populations who plan to do public health work in the United States.

By 2008, the fund will provide larger scholarships for three SPH students every year, thanks to another $200,000 gift from the foundation in December.

“I couldn’t be more gratified that the Hearst Foundation has made this commitment to our school and our students,” says SPH Dean John R. Finnegan Jr., Ph.D. “With this support, we can help launch the careers of students like Quintin who have tremendous potential to improve public health in our country.”

Though happily unemployed, Williams is still hard at work. In addition to taking classes, he’s developing his Ph.D. proposal—a study of farm-related injuries to children. As an intern for the past two summers, he created an emergency response plan for the deaf and hard of hearing, and worked on a study assessing the adequacy of safeguards in Minnesota machine shops.

For a break, he volunteers with a fellow graduate student as a mentor to 14 students from St. Paul’s Johnson High School.

“We have to come up with the subject matter that will help them develop their career focus,” explains Williams. “It’s a wonderful feeling to see these young minds maturing. A lot of people helped me along the way, and I want to give back.”

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