In her native Manila, Carmel Gacho worked as a Supervising Science Research Specialist and also as the Environmental Committee Chair at a national government research institute in the Philippines. Her team conducted R&D activities on environmental management—with a focus on hazardous materials and wastes—and managed the institute’s environmental compliance.
She also developed and implemented an environmental management program to address the adverse impacts of the research institute’s operation, including ensuring employee safety; managing the hazardous chemicals and waste storage sites; and conducting audits to comply with hazardous waste, noise, air, soil and water-quality standards.
Enrolling in the Sustainable Management advanced program helped me land my first job in California.
After eight years there, Carmel moved to the United States in 2017 to join her husband, whose company had transferred him from Manila to San Jose, Calif. This relocation made the established professional contemplate what felt like starting all over, unsure if her considerable work experience and education would be fully transferable to the U.S. labor market.
Though she already held a bachelor’s in chemical engineering, and advanced degrees in chemistry and environmental science, she felt that continuing education would help bridge any gaps in her skill set. “Thinking forward, I knew how important it is to keep yourself competitive at all times, so I decided to be a student once again,” says Carmel.
Education Was Key to Starting Over in a New Country
Describing her search criteria, Carmel says, “I wanted professional continuing education from a well-known academic institution that would enhance my skills and knowledge in advanced topics in environmental management.”
The Advanced Program in Sustainable Management met her needs: It covered the foundational topics in sustainability, carbon management, environmental business strategy, project implementation, environmental law and policy, compliance management systems and climate change risk-mitigation strategies. “It’s an in-demand skill set for professionals who want to have a career in environment, health and safety,” Carmel continues.
The decision to enroll in our program paid off very quickly for her.
The coursework not only helped Carmel land her first job in California—as an environmental health and safety specialist at Advantech Corporation, a semiconductor company in the San Francisco Bay Area—but also helped her become certified as a Hazardous Materials Manager by the Institute of Hazardous Materials Management (IHMM).
“After taking my class in Environmental Law, I gained enough confidence to sit for the Certified Hazardous Materials Manager (CHMM) examination, which requires knowledge of different environmental laws,” reports Carmel. She passed the exam in May 2019.
Immediately Relevant Coursework
Certified as a Hazardous Materials Manager and Safety Professional, and registered as an Environmental Professional, Carmel currently works as an Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) Supervisor at Advantech Corporation. And she’s one of our most recent UC Berkeley Extension scholarship winners. The funds will help support her pursuit of the Advanced Program in Sustainable Management.
“Enrolling in the Sustainable Management advanced program helped me land my first job in California,” affirms Carmel. “My knowledge and confidence in answering questions related to California environmental law made a big difference during the job interview. Investing in the program increased my level of expertise, and that made me a standout among other job-seekers.”
After taking my class in Environmental Law, I gained enough confidence to sit for the Certified Hazardous Materials Manager (CHMM) examination.
In this role, Carmel must stay up to date with all the environmental regulations at both the state and federal levels. She is also tasked to secure the ISO 14001 (Environmental Management Systems) and ISO 45001 (Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems). Her job requires her to establish, manage and improve the company’s EHS program and comply with all relevant statutes and regulations.
So far, she has found the program’s coursework helpful and appropriate for her needs. “The courses I’ve taken were all very relevant to what I’m doing right now,” says Carmel.
“All the core courses offered under this program were fully utilized when we started creating and implementing our 5-year environmental program and regulatory compliance in connection with my company’s goal to be ISO 14001-certified,” Carmel reports.
With the help of what she learned in class, her company received its ISO 14001 and 45001 certifications in November 2019. The coursework also helped her learn how to secure regulatory permits that improved the company’s environmental compliance with storm-water pollution, solid waste, universal waste, electronic waste and chemical-management regulations.
“Some of the environmental laws, basic sustainability initiatives and business strategies I learned were already being put to use,” she continues. “In particular, for our 5-year environmental plan, our goal to reduce our impact includes initiatives on waste management, energy efficiency and water conservation. With the active engagement of our top management, line management and employees, the waste-management program is off to a good start. Hopefully, we can attain our environmental target of reducing our carbon footprint by monitoring our sustainability initiatives and identifying ways of becoming more efficient over time.”
Going into more depth, Carmel singles out Environmental Law and California Environmental Protection and Leadership as particularly enjoyable courses.
“These courses enhanced my skills in coming up with feasible strategies and techniques for implementing and managing environmental protection measures and regulatory compliance issues. Moreover, my understanding and appreciation of the federal and state environmental laws significantly improved. This gave me an advantage in knowing what regulations apply to our company, particularly because California happens to be a state with stringent regulations.
“The information I gained from the lectures helped me to secure applicable environmental permits for our company, including the annual compliance requirements,” she continues. “Likewise, specialized courses on Carbon Management and Business Strategy and Greening Your Supply Chain: Life Cycle Assessment Tools were notably useful, considering that both courses tackle high-level sustainability concepts.
“I was able to use business models in creating and strategizing our 5-year environmental projects. Additionally, these courses allowed me to benchmark real-world examples and case studies, in particular the environmentally preferable purchasing against our own company practices.”
While the coursework has been eminently practical, she’s also made “a lot of fond memories” with classmates and instructors alike and has found the format—with weekly group discussions and presentations—in sync with her preferred learning style.
Our instructors are true mentors.
“My classmates are culturally diverse students and come from different professional backgrounds,” she says. “The beauty of having such diversity lies in the fact that you get to hear ideas from various perspectives, and that makes the classroom more engaging.”
“Our instructors are true mentors,” continues Carmel. “My experience with my instructors—David Brotherton, Gary Lucks, Barbara Toole O’Neal and Roberto Piccioni—far exceeded my expectations. These seasoned faculty members and sustainability leaders are very accommodating and eager to share new skills with their students. They make it a point to always give us positive and corrective feedback. Many of us are still in touch with one another through social networking.”
What Would She Tell a Prospective Student?
“I highly recommend enrolling if you want to build a specific skill set or just update your job skills related to environmental management and sustainability,” she answers. “Investing in the program can provide new opportunities and can set you ahead of others seeking a career in an environmental field. Moreover, the program will also help a professional prepare for relevant licensure or certification.”
Looking ahead, Carmel hopes to someday share the knowledge, skills set and experience she gained in the U.S. Perhaps in five to 10 years, “I might go back to Manila and start my own consultancy firm,” she says. “In particular, I would advocate and strengthen projects and programs that are related to sustainable development by benchmarking successful and effective real-world examples and case studies.”
With the support of the scholarship, and the positive experiences she’s had in the classroom, Carmel is highly motivated to complete the program.
“Leading sustainable programs and projects for my company will be a constant challenge, but I know that by completing this Advanced Program in Sustainable Management, I will acquire and be able to provide the technical knowledge and transformative leadership to achieve the objectives of our environmental program.
“It is very timely that I was awarded the Spring 2020 scholarship. It made me realize how UC Berkeley Extension appreciates its students’ determination and academic achievement. Now, I am very motivated to finish the advanced program and ultimately pursue a flourishing career in sustainable management, which I believe will make my life more meaningful, rewarding and have greater purpose.”