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Throughout her 10-year professional career in environmental health and safety, the last four at Eastern Kentucky University, where she previously earned two degrees, Dekia Gaither has applied her knowledge while honing her leadership skills.            

Recently named director of environmental health and safety at her alma mater, Gaither is now excited about the “opportunity to lead a team that fosters a positive safety culture by providing the tools to empower our campus community to make day-to-day decisions.”

Gaither earned a bachelor’s degree in geography from EKU in 2009, minoring in environmental health science. Three years later, she added a master’s of public health degree, with a concentration in environmental health science. While a graduate student, she interned as an environmental health and safety technician with the EKU Department of Environmental Health and Safety.       

After stints with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection, Gaither returned to Eastern in 2016 to serve as environmental health and safety specialist with the Division of Public Safety. In May 2019, she was named environmental health and chemical safety manager with the division.

“We are excited for Dekia to be at the helm of the Department of Environmental Health and Safety,” said Bryan Makinen, executive director of public safety and risk management at EKU. “Her leadership and skill set will prove to be of extraordinary value in partnering with campus stakeholders to continually advance our safety culture on campus.”

Gaither said her graduate internship “set me directly on this path. The management style, work and learning environment, and the emphasis on teamwork had a profound impact on me.           

“From specialist to manager and now director, there have been many challenges and opportunities along the way, but I wouldn’t change my experiences,” Gaither continued. “Those experiences and opportunities led me to be the person and leader I am today. Many thanks to those who believed in and supported me along the way.”          

Before earning her two degrees from Eastern, Gaither obtained an associate degree in environmental science technology from Bluegrass Community and Technical College.           

EKU’s Department of Environmental, Health and Safety is committed to providing training services to protect both the University community and the campus environment. Its mission is to sustain and enhance a safe and healthy EKU community by mitigating the risk of injury through the availability of proper procedures and training and reducing the institution’s impact on the environment by maintaining strict regulatory compliance.