If you ask occupational safety and health senior Brie Birkenbuel how many scholarships she’s won since she arrived at Montana Tech, she smiles and expresses gratitude for the incredible opportunity to receive scholarship money to continue her education.
She has to pull out her laptop and review her resume to find the most recent total. Birkenbuel has earned approximately $40,000 from 21 different scholarships, including the $5,000 Women in Safety Scholarship awarded by the National Safety Council in New Orleans in October. To receive that scholarship, Birkenbuel flew to the Big Easy, where she was able to network with professionals in the field.
“It was fun,” Birkenbuel said. “The National Safety Council gave us the opportunity to attend the conference and scholarship recipients were able to join special division events. It was a really good networking opportunity where we learned about special groups that provide support for our industry. My previous experiences had a lot of male influences, but this time, it was focused on networking with other strong women in our industry.”
For Birkenbuel, applying for scholarships is all about maximizing her training as a safety professional.
“I make the time to apply, I treat applying for scholarships like a job,” Birkenbuel said. “I really value my education, so I want to spend as much time in and outside of the classroom learning.”
Dr. Julie Hart is head of Montana Tech’s Department of Safety, Health and Industrial Hygiene.
“Brie Birkenbuel truly exemplifies the ideal Occupational Safety and Health student,” Hart said. “She has been fully engaged in the campus and in the profession since day one. Brie’s efforts have been deservedly recognized by numerous professional societies as evidenced by her multiple scholarship awards. We are thrilled to see her recognized nationally through the National Safety Council’s Diversity in Safety Scholarship this year. Thanks to students like Brie, our program has a national impact on the development of future leaders in Occupational Safety and Health.”
Birkenbuel’s resume boasts a 4.0 GPA and extracurricular activities that include being president of Montana Tech’s student chapter of the American Society of Safety Professionals, participation in the Honors Program, service as Prospector, and as a member of Associated Students of Montana Tech. She also volunteers in the community and works as a safety trainer.
“Being involved and having a passion for what you are going to school for is super helpful,” Birkenbuel said of the application process.
In addition to landing scholarships, Birkenbuel is also saving on her education by maximizing credits she earned as a dual enrollment student. She’s on track to graduate a year early. She plans to earn her M.S. in Industrial Hygiene from Montana Tech through the University’s 4+1 program, where students begin master’s courses as an undergraduate senior, in order to shorten the time needed to complete a master’s degree from two years to one.
Earning the scholarships and graduating early requires careful coordination with the department.
“I work with the advisors all the time. They are great,” Birkenbuel said. “The department sends out a lot of scholarship opportunities to our students. Almost every scholarship I’ve applied for has been sent out to our OSH students, except a few I found on my own.”
Birkenbuel’s advice to students is to understand that practice makes you perfect.
“You just need to apply and even if you don’t get it, you have a basis for the next scholarship to improve upon,” Birkenbuel said. “I’ve definitely gotten better at writing for scholarships over the past few years.”
Family members read her essays to make sure they are on-point. She also recommends Grammarly to ensure sentence structure is correct.
Birkenbuel says she still has a few more scholarships to apply for this year. Her advice for other students working to fund their education is simple.
“Don’t be afraid to try putting yourself out there by applying for scholarships,” she said.
To learn more about earning scholarships, click here.