By Jeff Murphy, April 29, 2020
WARRENSBURG, MO – 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
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
“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
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.
For more than 100 years, the American Society of Safety Professionals has been at the forefront of helping occupational safety and health professionals protect people and property. The nonprofit society is based in the Chicago suburb of Park Ridge. Its global membership of nearly 40,000 professionals covers all industries, developing safety and health management plans that prevent injuries, illnesses and deaths. ASSP advances its members and the safety profession through education, advocacy, standards and a professional community. Its flagship publication, Professional Safety, is a longtime leader in the field. Visit www.assp.org and follow us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.