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Co-op Program Continues to Pay off for NIEHS

By Eddy Ball
August 2007

Vanessa Knight
Budget Analyst Vanessa Knight now works full time at the job she did part time during her senior year at NCCU. (Photo by Eddy Ball)

Kimberly Peterson, Mitsue Parrish, Charletta Fowler and Kathryn Woods
Knight is just starting her career at NIEHS, but she has four strong role models in this "unusual group of AOs." Pictured from left are Kimberly Peterson, Mitsue Parrish, Charletta Fowler and Kathryn Woods. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

When Vanessa Knight began work as a budget analyst at NIEHS in May, she became a member of a select cadre of NIEHS employees who have transitioned into full-time employment through NIEHS administrative co-op programs at local colleges and universities. Knight's new circle of peers includes what Office of Director (OD) and Office of Management (OM) Lead Administrative Officer (AO) Charletta Fowler recently described as "a unique group of AOs" - some of the leading administrators in their respective divisions.

In addition to Fowler this group of AOs includes Administrative Officers Mitsue Parrish, Kimberly Peterson and Kathryn Woods. Like Knight, who was a budget intern, each of these four administrators is a graduate of co-op programs and worked part-time in administrative positions while attending college. Each also accepted full-time employment at the Institute upon graduation. Fowler is the senior member of the group with 20 years of full-time experience, followed by Parrish and Peterson with 18 years each and Woods with 13 years of service.

With the exception of Woods, an alumna of St. Augustine's College in Raleigh, the AOs are all graduates of North Carolina Central University (NCCU) in Durham, where Knight received her bachelor's degree in May. Knight moved from student employee during her senior year to full-time budget analyst through the current NIEHS Administrative Co-op Program.

The NIEHS Administrative Co-op Program provides administrative and management training opportunities that target students recommended by local educational institutions. As part of its strong commitment to workforce planning, the NIEHS Administrative Co-op Program strives to give training and experience to future college graduates to prepare them with the necessary skills and background to be highly competitive for a career in the Federal government.

These administrators are now pursuing careers at the Institute and justifying many times over the organization's investment in nurturing their administrative talents. They are also encouraging their younger colleagues to follow their lead and Knight's, by striving for excellence and taking advantage of what NIEHS has to offer.

"My student co-op position was a great investment on my behalf and the Institute's," Fowler commented. "I am very proud of my career, my staff, Vanessa and NIEHS leadership for supporting this program, and I would like to see others have that experience because I'm all for developing the Institute's future." Fowler has put her sentiments into action by serving on the NIEHS Co-op Program Committee to ensure that in the years to come more young students like Knight also enjoy the opportunities she has.

Administration - Supporting Science at NIEHS

As lead administrative officer for the Office of Director and Office of Management, Charletta Fowler provides senior leadership, direction, planning and management of the administrative activities and supervises the administrative officers, each of whom is assigned specific areas of responsibility:

  • Kathryn Woods was instrumental in setting up the NIEHS Document System and continues to serve as one of the three points of contact for updating the system. In addition, she provides administrative support for the Office of Communications and Public Liaison, Office of Science Policy, Library and Information Services, Computer Technology Branch, Administrative Services and Analysis Branch, and Facilities Engineering Branch.
  • Mitsue Parrish, who developed the Institute's Traveler's Reference Guide and Travel Pages, is widely regarded as one of the travel experts at NIEHS. In addition to providing the last word in travel recommendations, she also supports activities in the NIEHS journal Environmental Health Perspectives, Acquisitions Management Branch, Health and Safety Branch, Human Resources and Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity Management.
  • Kimberly Peterson works with some of the ranking executive officers of the Institute from her office in B-Module in the Rall Building. She provides administrative support to the Immediate Office of the Director, Office of the Deputy Director, Associate Director for Management, Financial Management Branch, Office of Translational Research and Office of Risk Assessment.

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