Dynamic Health and Safety Duo Teaches in SDSU’s Human Resource Management Program

Tim and Blanca Brown

Tim and Blanca Brown

When it comes to health and safety management on the job, the husband and wife team of Tim and Blanca Brown have a combined 65 years of experience. The duo teaches Health and Safety Management in San Diego State University’s Professional Certificate in Human Resource Management, one of nine electives in the 25-unit program. Students can pursue the certificate or choose only the courses they need.

With Tim as the lead on safety, and Blanca as the lead on health, the Browns address the fundamental components of a comprehensive health and safety program that protects employees as well as employers. Topics include Cal-OSHA requirements, risk management and loss prevention, workers’ compensation claims, employee assistance plans, preventative health issues, and ADA compliance.  

“Human resources professionals need such a wide range of knowledge and skills to be effective,” said Tim. “This program allows us to impart a body of information that often gets less emphasis than it should. It’s very satisfying to be able to pass along this skill set to our students earlier in their HR careers.”

The Browns answered a few questions about their careers and their course, which begins Sept. 4 and is open for registration.

Please give us a brief history of your education and career.
Blanca: I completed a four-year university nursing program in Mexico and I’ve been licensed in California as a registered nurse for 28 years. I worked as an occupational health nurse for the past 21 years in San Diego. I have worked for the government and for civilian employers, developing and managing employee health and occupational safety programs. Over the years, many of the health and safety programs that I have implemented have been adopted as ‘best practice’ for my employers.

Tim: I attained an Associate of Science degree in geography before joining the Navy in 1970. I attended Navy Optician School, then later attended Advanced Hospital Corps/Independent Duty School in a parallel program with The George Washington University BS program in Health Sciences. I achieved California RN licensure in 1984, served three tours of duty with the Fleet Marine Force, and served on several destroyers and a cruiser on independent duty during 21 years of service in the Navy. I worked for five years at Alvarado Hospital as director of risk/quality management, then 14 years as safety manager at San Diego Gas & Electric. I presently work as the occupational health unit manager at Naval Base San Diego. Over the many varied assignments and positions, I always had either a direct or support role in personnel management or human resources.

How did you come to be instructors with SDSU’s Human Resources program?
Blanca: Program instructor Dari DeSousa was my HR director when I was hired at the San Diego Marriott Marquis. Over the years she saw my work program development, and my successful training of not only management but all the different groups of our employees. She introduced me to SDSU’s program and recommended me for the opening.

Tim: I had extensive experience with training and supervising new managers in the safety and health management fields, and when Blanca started teaching at the college level, I naturally got pulled in to add to Dari’s plan for Blanca! Our tag-team approach to the curriculum seemed to be an easy fit for the Extended Studies program.

What are some key takeaways from your course, Health and Safety Management?
Blanca: I’m grateful that SDSU integrated this subject into the HR Management program. Teaching students how the government manages the occupational safety regulations and how that applies to their day-to-day world in HR is critical for the development of HR professionals.

Tim: I think we prepare our attendees to be more confident in dealing with state and federal regulations. HR professionals very often must be a ‘Jack of all trades’ in a short-staffed HR department. Our course content gives a great amount of expertise within the employee health and safety field.

Do you have a favorite case study you share with students that illustrates the importance of health and safety with regard to HR?
Blanca: Tim and I use all our life experiences with HR and the world of health and safety to describe real cases to the students.

Tim: My go-to case study is my own experience in interaction with OSHA inspectors on behalf of my employer. Most HR professionals go into a cold sweat under these events. I try to give our students a perspective that allows confidence when facing government inspections or investigations. Sooner or later a government inspector will darken the doorway of any HR professional!

How do you see the HR profession changing?
Blanca: HR professionals are becoming more and more influential with employers. Employers rely on the knowledge and expertise of HR professionals in all aspects of the laws that protect employees but also in the laws that protect the employers.

Tim: As Blanca stated, the HR professional increasingly gets tapped to handle the tough cases for line and staff personnel. The earlier one gains critical knowledge and skills, the more control one has over the direction of a day, a job, or a career.

Is there anything you want potential students to know about taking your course?
Blanca: Health and Safety Management is not a slow-paced subject. It’s a dynamic interaction that includes class presentations, students’ research, group discussions, and teamwork to reinforce the newly acquired body of information. Students are always receiving not only the regulations on any given subject, but real-life experiences that will keep them wanting to know more.

Tim: Be ready to ask questions, analyze scenarios, and offer personal experiences to discuss with classmates. Gaining knowledge in the HR field is equal portions of instructor presentations, the work life differences of the students, and hearing how others handled the myriad of challenges that are part of the HR career.

What do you enjoy most about teaching?
Blanca: I enjoy the reaction of my students when they ‘get it.’ When students express their understanding of health and safety in the workplace, I know they will make a difference.

Tim: I relish those “ah ha” moments too when new knowledge is matched up with work scenarios. Giving others the ability to move their careers ahead is the best reward for me.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
Blanca: For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a nurse. Being an occupational health nurse is not too far from that; we are natural born teachers.

Tim: I wanted to be a meteorologist, and was well on the way in that major until the Selective Service System had other plans for me!

What would students be surprised to learn about you?
Blanca: That my husband and I have five children and six grandchildren.

Tim: I am in the middle of my third career.

Anything you’d like to add?
Tim and Blanca: Whatever you choose to do in your life, make sure you work at something that you are passionate about. It makes getting up each morning feel like a continuing adventure.