Bill Palmer serves Wright State University as an environmental compliance specialist, managing various programs including hazardous waste/infectious waste, water quality testing, storm water management, spill prevention control and countermeasures, underground storage tanks, and air quality/emissions programs. Palmer is also an employee who excels at taking on tasks that are not in his traditional job description.
In 2012, the Office of Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) was contacted by Disability Services regarding an internship for a students who had Asperger’s syndrome. The student was working on his second master’s degree in ergonomics and human factors engineering, but needed guidance with appropriate social skills to become successful in the workplace. Without hesitation, Palmer volunteered to be his supervisor.
During the internship, Palmer showed great leadership mentoring and serving as a role model. His constant enthusiasm and positive approach helped the student deal with the frustration of not being able to land full-time employment and fear of becoming a “career” student. At the end of his yearlong internship, the student showed a greater ability to work independently, and presented three studies that EHS believes can be used to make improvements at Wright State.
Most importantly, Palmer worked with the student to teach professional etiquette, a critical hurdle for someone who has Asperger’s. Palmer’s leadership with this internship was an example of fulfilling the university’s mission of transforming the lives of students through innovative, high-quality programs. Working in this manner with Disability Services was also an example of Palmer’s commitment to diversity. Palmer knew there would be challenges, but he seized the opportunity to help someone who was having trouble getting a chance to participate in an internship that was so critical to his professional development.