The American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP), an organization that represents 40,000 members across the globe, has named Leigh Ann Blunt ASSP’s 2020 William E. Tarrants Outstanding Safety Educator.

Blunt, who has served the University of Central Missouri since 1999, is a safety sciences professor and chair of the School of Geoscience, Physics and Safety. She is nationally known in the occupational safety and health field, and has been a member of ASSP for 14 years.

ASSP annually honors an occupational safety and health professional who demonstrates outstanding achievement in safety education. These top instructors help students reach their full potential and become results-producing safety professionals. The Outstanding Safety Educator Award is named after Dr. William E. Tarrants, a pioneer in safety education who was an ASSP Fellow and president (1977-78).

While working at UCM, Blunt has recruited occupational safety students for two decades by meeting with prospective students and their families, attending career fairs and presenting at regional and national conferences. She has been active in seeking out opportunities for students to gain real-life experience to better prepare them for work in the safety sciences. Blunt has not only helped many safety sciences students find internships and opportunities through co-ops, but has also assisted them in finding employment.

“Dr. Blunt’s priorities always include focusing on creating a learning environment that provides students with the best knowledge and support for achieving their career goals,” said Bruce K. Lyon, P.E., CSP, SMS, ARM, CHMM, advisory board chair to UCM’s Safety Sciences program. “Without question, she is a role model for educators and our future safety professionals. I’m continually amazed by her leadership, enthusiasm, wisdom and innovation.”

Throughout her tenure, Blunt has been a strong leader in building the UCM safety program. Her work contributed to an increase in declared majors from 125 students to 425. Along the way, she has secured funding for UCM to offer an online master’s degree program in occupational safety management; led efforts to change the master’s degree curriculum to reduce the hours for students with work experience and certifications; and worked with faculty to expand ABET accreditation to include bachelor’s and master’s degrees in occupational safety.

Blunt developed a groundbreaking online degree completion program this school year that creates a regionally accredited pathway to the occupational safety and health field for working professionals. Students enrolled in this program can earn a bachelor’s degree in environmental, safety and risk management if they have completed their associate degree – either in arts, science or applied science. This highly flexible program eliminates a barrier that kept students from completing their bachelor’s degree. With high interest in this new program, first-year enrollment reached 20 students, which was projected for two years.

“UCM prides itself on the quality of its faculty and staff, and among the best is Dr. Blunt,” said Roger J. Best, Ph.D., UCM president. “I have had the privilege of working with her on various committees and task forces and have remained impressed by her insightful and pragmatic suggestions, initiatives and solutions."

In commenting about the award, Blunt noted, “The support of the university leadership team has significantly impacted the success of both the safety programs and the safety faculty at UCM. The leadership of President Best coupled with the expertise and commitment of Dean (Alice) Greife, the safety faculty, and our advisory boards, facilitated our ability to obtain ABET accreditation, provide our students with eligibility for the Graduate Safety Practitioner (GSP) designation upon graduation, and develop quality online programming."

She added, “Dr. Georgi Popov won this award in 2017 and continues to be a source of inspiration to me and many others. The 21 years I have worked at UCM have had a tremendous positive impact on me, and this prestigious award would not be possible without the support I received from the university and my colleagues. I am truly honored."

In addition to her work with UCM students, Blunt has helped advance ASSP and its membership in many ways. This includes time on the Society’s Educational Standards Committee, a two-year term as administrator of the Academics Practice Specialty, and an eight-year commitment as faculty advisor to ASSP’s UCM Student Section.