Meet Greg: Male College Cheerleader Turned Environmental Health Inspector

Bart here to introduce Greg, who cheered in high school and college and is now pursuing a career in environmental health. We don’t get to talk to a lot of male cheerleaders in our ongoing quest to meet new Science Cheerleaders, but you’ll find similar themes in Greg’s pursuit of cheering and science. So without further ado, let’s hear what Greg has to say!

Why science?
I have always remembered loving science from when I was even in kindergarten I would love to ask questions about the animals and nature. I even became a junior naturalist at a state park here in Ohio while on a family vacation. However, it was probably in 4th grade with my teacher Mrs. Fout that I first realized how much I loved science and that someday that I wanted to have a science-related career. She helped tutor me in math, but what I really loved was the way she taught science. I just remember being so engaged in the conversation and wanting to learn as much as possible. I would have to say that my father helped create my love for science as well; he went to school for engineering and would always answer my questions to the best of his ability. He would also try to help me do my science experiments and put up with other crazy ideas I had when it came to trying to either invent something or fix something and make it better. To this day he and I have many science-related conversations.

You have a degree in physical geography. What is that, anyway? What was it about the subject interested you?
Physical geography is a unique degree in that it is a combination of environmental science and human geography. When you combine those two disciplines, you can create a new perspective on how humans and their processes affect the environment. I became interested in this degree when I was an environmental science major and one of the physical geography professors was teaching a class. She was discussing a number of different environmental problems that were studied using a geographic approach, and at the end of her class I talked to her about the degree and switched to it. Also the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) very much intrigued my techie side.

Favorite and/or least favorite courses you took to prepare for your degree? Why?
My favorite courses were probably just environmental geography 101-102-103 because they formed the foundation of knowledge I needed for the last two years of my degree. Without those courses, I would have missed key ideas that help me pass later classes that were not lecture-based. I also really enjoyed urban geography, as I have always liked the thought of having a city perfectly designed to offer its residents everything they need for a high quality of life while keeping their environmental impact as low as possible. As for least favorite, I will be honest: it was probably macroeconomics. I have never been great at economics, and this class just pushed a lot of information on you in a short period of time. My roommate, who also was a male cheerleader on the team, was an accounting major. He tried to help me understand better, but some of the ideas just didn’t really make much sense in my head.

What are you doing now?
I am currently an environmental health inspector at a local health department. After graduating and working a couple years in GIS, I decided I could not have a typical day job, so I applied for and was granted my sanitarian-in-training license, which is needed to become a health inspector or sanitarian. In order to get this license you need a certain amount of credit hours in science and math, so my degree definitely helped with that. Now that I am working, I use the knowledge from my degree on a daily basis. Whether it is figuring out where some sort of discharge is coming from to mapping public health nuisance complaints, it all relates back to my degree in one way or another.

Best part of your day job?
I would have to say there are two great parts of my day job. The first is that from day to day my schedule is always changing and I never encounter the same thing from one day to the next. One day I may be doing a lead risk assessment and the next day I might be helping inspect water quality at a swimming pool. Second, I get to help people’s quality of health, even if it just because I simply was able to offer them advice on how to handle a mold problem or another health nuisance. I also do food inspections as a sanitarian-in-training, which helps me prevent food-borne illnesses from being spread.

Who did you cheer for? Why did you try out to be a cheerleader?
I was initially asked to try cheerleading while in high school at St. Edward. I was actually coming back from a dentist appointment and roaming the halls when a teacher who knew me well called me in to talk to him and the cheer coach who was also in his classroom. The coach asked me to come to practice that night and just give it a shot, because my teacher had said I had the personality for it. I then went on to cheer for my last 2 ½ years of high school. I then went on to cheer at the University of Cincinnati for my entire college career, which offered me many more opportunities I didn’t even think could have been possible before I started cheering. Although it was very time-consuming, tiring, and stressful at times, I made many great friends and got to experience so many great things.

What sorts of stereotypes about male cheerleaders, if any, did you encounter while you were in school? Did you find they helped or hindered your studies or professional experiences?
I think I was fortunate at my high school, I went to an all-male school and all the guys were very supportive. The team actually consisted of girls from the local private all-girls school, so most of the guys thought I was a genius for doing it. Sure, I had to put up with rough words coming from other schools, but the guys at my school backed me and those few bad apples never ruined my experience. I do think, however, that it actually helped me in my studies and professionally. It gave me opportunities to use the resources college athletes have, such as study areas and tutors. Professionally it helped in my interview process because it was a way for the interviewer to open a conversation with me and eventually led them to see how it had helped me with my public speaking, and ability to converse with people. It also showed that I am not afraid to step out of a comfort zone and take a risk.

Best cheerleading experience?
There is a lot to choose from, but I would have to say placing 8th in 2009 at the UCA College Cheerleading National Championships. It may not sound like a great place but when you are competing against Alabama, Kentucky, UCF, LSU, and other teams of that caliber, 8th place is pretty respectable. I was a senior that year and really wanted to go out with the best finish we could, and 8th place was the best finish we had there in my four years of cheering.

Best science/engineering-related experience?
While in school I took a class all about the science of soil. Although this may sound extremely boring, our professor made it very interesting. Little do people know how the many different compositions affect so many things in their daily lives! The experience that made it so great was a trip to Red River Gorge in Kentucky. We went there to look at the look at the local soils, and it was just a great trip with a great view. I would also have to say that receiving my degree was also a great experience.

If you could rewind the clock and change your degree, would you? If so, to what and why? If not, why not?
I do not have any regrets with my degree. I do wish I took more planning classes, however. I think that our thoughts on transportation and how we currently live need to be tweaked to be more sustainable and we need to learn to use our resources thoughtfully and carefully.

Do you have any advice for youngsters who might feel torn between following one dream another?
I would say that you can tackle both at the same time without leaving one unfulfilled. I cheered with a couple guys and girls that were on my team while pursuing either an engineering or science degree. Sure, it was difficult finding the balance between the two, but we all managed to do it. You are a student athlete when you cheer. You should never go to school for any other reason than to learn; cheerleading is just secondary and should be used as a release from studies.

Along these lines, what advice would you give your 12-year-old self?
I would tell myself that when someone comes and asks you to try cheerleading to give it a shot and if I find it fun and challenging then you should give it a chance. I would also say to myself to be sure to study hard and when new opportunities come along take advantage of them because you never know what new things you could learn.

What’s one thing people might find especially surprising about you?
Many people don’t know that I used to work as a barista for a short time at a local coffee shop while in high school. I even went to a “coffee school” to learn how to properly taste and make coffee and other espresso drinks. I also enjoy cooking, and if I wasn’t so interested in science, I probably would have gone to school for culinary arts.

What are your plans for the future?
For the near future I want to obtain my sanitarian license, and continue to further my career in the environmental health field. I am also thinking about furthering my education in the environmental health, planning, or sustainability fields.

Why do you want to be a Science Cheerleader?
I think that it is important for science and the scientific method to be in the forefront of the general public so people can be as informed as possible, and what better way to do this than with cheerleaders? Cheerleaders are the ones standing in front of thousands of people at games spreading a positive message, so why not make that positive message a science-related one? The two combine to make science even more fun than it already is.


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