Each year, the ASSP Foundation recognizes individuals for their outstanding achievement, commitment and support of the organization. For 2020-2021, two individuals were honored with the ASSP Foundation's Distinguished Service Award: Justin Bielss, GSP, and Donald S. Burke, Ph.D.
“I was surprised when I heard that I was being awarded the ASSP Foundation Distinguished Service Award,” says Bielss, a member of our Central Texas Chapter and Military Practice Specialty. “It is truly an honor to be awarded such a distinguished [recognition] and be amongst some amazing safety professionals who have been awarded this in the past.”
Bielss was recognized for his volunteer service and leadership of the ASSP Foundation Next Generation Board, the goal of which is to increase awareness of the organization’s purpose, encourage participation in its programs, and cultivate intergenerational connections within the ASSP Foundation community and in support of its mission. Bielss has served as chair and vice chair in the group and has spent time connecting with student sections as part of the group.
“Volunteering and participating in student outreach and the Next Generation Board means I get to give back to the same [group] that supported me,” Bielss says. “Having been a recipient of a scholarship in the past, I know firsthand how impactful the ASSP Foundation can be on a safety professional, and being able to give back is tremendously rewarding, especially when you meet the students and safety professionals who have been recipients of scholarships and grants.”
Burke is a professional member of our Alabama Chapter as well as a member of our Construction, Engineering and Management practice specialties and Emerging Professionals in OSH Common Interest Group. He has served on the Next Generation Board from 2013 to 2016 and continued his service on the ASSP Foundation Board of Trustees, serving from 2017 to 2020. Burke says that volunteering for the ASSP Foundation and at the chapter level has been a rewarding experience.
“My first volunteer position within ASSP was as the founding president of the UAB Student Section of the ASSP Alabama Chapter,” he says. “I had attended several of the Alabama Chapter meetings and saw the opportunity to have students join this incredible network of safety professionals, educators and leaders. As I was nearing graduation, I saw the call for volunteers for the ASSP Foundation Next Generation Board.” Burke says he knew right away that he wanted to apply, as it could be a great opportunity to serve at the national level. “The ASSP Foundation has such a significant impact on students, and I wanted to play at least a small role in its mission to support the future of the profession,” Burke says. “Within each volunteer role, I have grown personally and professionally, and I approach each position as a challenge and as a way to support and give back to the safety profession.”
Volunteer service is important to both award recipients. A key reason is the professional opportunities presented by serving on a group such as the Next Generation Board.
“[By volunteering], you will meet people who will become lifelong colleagues and friends you will lean on and learn from throughout your career,” says Burke. “The safety profession consists of such a diverse group of people and backgrounds, and by sharing your perspective, knowledge and unique experiences, you will make a difference.”
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