School of Public Health graduate looks to continue breaking molds in environmental health and safety
Growing up in South Carolina but moving to Texas “as quickly as she could,” Aja Ladson ’06, MPH ’09, attended high school in Houston. When the time came to choose where to attend college, Ladson chose Texas A&M because it made her feel at home.
“My experience at Texas A&M and being an Aggie was always memorable,” Ladson said. “I fell in love with Texas A&M while in high school. The Aggie experience is one that is really unique in nature and that just felt like the right choice for me and what I wanted to accomplish in life.”
A first-generation college student, Ladson said her decision created a trickle-down effect in her family.
“Family members who are coming up behind me now see that this is possible,” Ladson said. “Even my mother completed her degree after I completed mine because she felt empowered to do so.”
Two degrees from Texas A&M—an undergraduate degree in environmental science and a master’s of public health in environmental health and safety—kick-started Ladson’s journey through multiple industries and into a global career.
“I’ve had a progressive career post-grad and I think that my foundation from Texas A&M helped me understand what was needed of me,” Ladson said. “Industry really made me though, and it gave me that boots-on-the-ground experience. This experience helped me to translate my academic life into a successful model towards transforming organizations, which is what I’ve done.”
After graduating, Ladson climbed the ranks, holding multiple quality, health, safety and environment (QHS&E) positions, before arriving at her current role as the senior vice president of QHS&E Compliance at Global Workplace Solutions within CBRE. Overseeing the safety of the local environment and 50,000 employees, Ladson’s responsibilities extend beyond being an executive leader.
“I am responsible for making sure thousands of employees are safe and able to go home to their families each day,” Ladson said. “This means putting compliance requirements and control measures in place to keep them safe. It is my goal to ensure that our employees have the chance to continue doing their jobs and eventually make it to retirement.”
This passion for keeping people safe, Ladson said, started before she even knew what the word “safety” meant.
At two years old, Ladson’s father was involved in a work-related accident that would change his life and his family’s lives forever.
“Personally living through what an accident can do to a loved one, I am more committed than ever to understanding the ramifications of these incidents and never losing sight of the fact that there are people behind all of the data,” Ladson said. “For me, this career is a passion for the safety of individuals, the world around us, and the families that can be impacted by this work on a day-to-day basis.”
Another passion Ladson has is promoting equality and advocating for more women in boardrooms across the country. Ladson said she hopes diversity and inclusion gaps begin to close as women like her continue to climb the ladder in their careers.
“There are not many women in the field of environmental health and safety, so it’s an honor to be one of the few women who represent the industry in a completely different way,” Ladson said. “We’re leading the way and transforming the industry, but we’re also in leadership positions now. Twenty or 30 years ago, you wouldn’t have seen a woman of color or just a woman in general in these roles.”
And, despite her many accomplishments, Ladson’s aspirations are still as big as ever.
“I never thought that I would be where I am. But even now, there is so much more for me to accomplish and I’m definitely not done climbing in my career.”
Breaking the typical molds set by society and her industry, Ladson hopes to add her name to the list of only two Black women who are CEO’s of a Fortune 500 company.
“My ultimate goal is to be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company,” Ladson said. “People like to pigeonhole subject matter experts and make them think that all they can achieve is within a particular box. I’m here to think outside of that box, push the envelope and be an advocate in a different and higher-level platform.”
– Brady Stone