When Trista Shomo began studying Occupational Safety and Health at Southeastern Oklahoma State University, she never imagined where her major might take her. For the last four and a half years that particular place has been the Oklahoma State Capitol, where Shomo works as Manhattan Construction Group’s safety manager on the Oklahoma Capitol Restoration Project.
A first-generation college student from Broken Bow, attending Southeastern in Durant was an easy decision for Shomo. The campus is close to home, and her older sister was already a student. She is also a member of the Choctaw Nation, which provided tuition assistance and made it easier and more affordable to continue her education. Shomo notes, “A lot of students who attend smaller universities are the first in their family to go to college - and we are especially grateful for the opportunity.”
A natural leader, especially on the Southeastern basketball team, Shomo initially thought she’d become a coach or an educator. However, she began taking occupational safety and health classes because they were one of Southeastern’s specialty programs she had heard a lot about. There, the opportunity for higher earning potential quickly became clear.
“There is a strong correlation between a career in safety and coaching a team,” Shomo says. “At the capitol, I get to teach and ensure the safety of the job site and the 250 people working on my team. Each day I’m looking out for everyone’s well-being and making sure expectations are clearly communicated.”
Shomo has worked for Manhattan Construction Group for 5 years. In addition to leading the safety of the Oklahoma Capitol
Restoration Project, she is on the DEI Committee
for diversity and inclusion and works to help recruit people of all backgrounds for the company.
In a traditionally male-dominated field, she occasionally connects with people who aren’t prepared to see a woman in management. In fact, she is one of only a few women in management roles at the state capitol project. Shomo’s approach to gain the trust of those skeptical of her abilities because of her gender is to listen and hear their perspective.
“It’s important to me to get to know my teams as people, to hear about their kids and families,” Shomo says. “Working together successfully is about building relationships and trusting each other to get a job done. Eventually my team realizes I genuinely care about the safety and success of them and our project.”
Though she now calls the Oklahoma City area her home, Shomo still has roots in Southeastern Oklahoma, and she returns to Durant often to speak to Southeastern’s women’s basketball team and offer her perspective.
“Southeastern and the basketball team taught me many lessons that set me up for success, and it’s a privilege to share those with younger women,” Shomo says. “I tell them that what they’re learning now are lessons they’ll carry for years to come – how to be a cohesive team, why it’s important to consider your words and actions carefully – true life skills that will serve them well now and in their future.”