September 2014

As chief elected officer of the Society, ASSE's president promotes the advancement of the Society and the safety profession, and represents ASSE before members, other relevant professional societies and various governmental agencies. Professional Safety shares his latest thoughts on the Society, the profession and its practice.

Read past messages in the President's Message Archive.

President's Message - November 2007

As we look to the future, ASSE and each of us as members and SH&E professionals must find ways to pay it forward—for our profession and for the students of today, our future leaders.

2007-2008 ASSE President Michael W. Thompson, CSP

The SH&E Profession: Pay it Forward

In several of my messages to you, I have talked about our Society’s strategic goals. This month, I’d like to discuss a subject dear to me. It’s one that relates to at least two of ASSE’s strategic goals and has a knock-on effect to the other six. Goal 8 states, “Establish and maintain a structured program to recruit, retain and nurture student members.” A related goal that affects our students and the future of our profession is Goal 3, which states, “Promote SH&E issues, the SH&E profession and its positive effects.” These forward-looking goals are crucial to our profession’s future. Urged on by our membership and carried forward by our four councils, ASSE is making these goals a reality in many ways.

You may be wondering, “What does this have to do with me, my job and my profession?” so let me set the stage for my further comments. You may recall a movie released in 2000—Pay It Forward. In this movie, starring Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt and Haley Joel Osment, the characters learn the value of helping others by performing anonymous good deeds. The only condition is that they have to “pay it forward” by directing similar actions to three other people.

Imagine the exponential effect—the number of people who potentially could be touched by these unselfish acts. As we look to the future, ASSE and each of us as members and SH&E professionals must find ways to pay it forward—for our profession and for the students of today, our future leaders.

ASSE has more than 50 student sections, and their success depends on many factors. Our Society councils are doing their part. This month, for example, the Council on Member and Region Affairs, along with sponsors Liberty Mutual, Washington Group International and the ASSE Foundation, will host some of the nation’s brightest students at our Future Safety Leaders Conference in Nashville, TN. These students will have a chance to interact, network and share with seasoned professionals, all with the goal of guiding their transition from students to practitioners to professionals and, eventually, to Society leaders.

The Council of Practices Standards, through its extensive network of practice specialties—and the Academics Practice Specialty in particular—champions student involvement and advancement in many ways. These groups publish student papers, serve as mentors and career coaches, and actively seek meaningful involvement and contact with students, often before they reach college, by reaching out to high schools to provide resources and guidance.
ASSE also has focused media and public relations efforts on teaching students about the SH&E profession. We recently sent copies of the ASSE Foundation/BCSP publication Career Guide to the Safety Profession to hundreds of high-school counselors around the country. We urged them to share the book and information on the profession with students and parents, and encouraged them to contact their local ASSE chapters for more information.

To reach students even earlier than high school, ASSE has developed the Safety Suitcase, an interactive tool that members can take to classrooms, schools, science fairs and other organizations to educate 9 to 11 year olds about safety—both at work and as a profession. You can learn more about this resource at

But paying it forward takes more than literature, presentations and words. That’s where the ASSE Foundation comes in. For 2008, the Foundation will be offering nearly $106,000 in scholarships and grants to students pursuing degrees in SH&E and to ASSE members and safety professionals seeking to advance their professional standing. Among the many new awards this year are two scholarships to help students attend ASSE’s Safety 2008 conference in Las Vegas, NV. You can find more about the awards, applications (which are due Dec. 1, 2007) and FAQs at, where you also can learn more about supporting the Foundation.

This is a call to action for each of us. The above activities barely scratch the surface of what we can do, what we must do. We can touch the future through these and similar efforts. Pay it forward and consider the possibilities!

Michael W. Thompson, CSP