As Chair of the School of Geoscience, Physics, and Safety, and a Professor of Safety Sciences at the University of Central Missouri for 21 years, Leigh Ann Blunt knows the importance of safety in the workplace and professional certification. A career in safety, however, was not what she had planned for herself at an early age.
Blunt began her career as an English teacher and track coach in Missouri, but realized it was not the long-term vision she had for herself. “I loved coaching, but I realized that this was not where I wanted to be in 20 years,” said Blunt. As she wondered what else she could do with her career, she saw a newspaper ad for an interactive television (ITV) course, a type of remote learning, from the University of Central Missouri. She recalled a conversation she had with her husband about a friend who tried to convince him to get a safety degree. So, she made a decision. “By the time my husband returned [from an Elk hunting trip] I had bought a fish and signed up for a master’s degree,” said Blunt. “The fish soon died, but the degree had a much better ending!”
She was able to pursue her degree thanks to UCM’s ITV distance learning program. Blunt recalled taking a final exam while she was in the hospital waiting to deliver her twin daughters. “Distance learning has evolved substantially since then, but at the time UCM’s Safety Sciences Department was one of the first to look outside the box to deliver quality education in new ways.” After that, she quit her job and her now larger family moved to Warrensburg, MO. “It was one of the best decisions we ever made.”
Now as a college educator, Blunt pushes her staff and students to pursue professional certification, especially the Certified Safety Professional (CSP). “Along with the sense of accomplishment that comes with earning the CSP, there is also an increased level of credibility,” said Blunt. “Of course, that credibility has to be backed up by actions, but it is a clear and convincing way to demonstrate my personal level of commitment to the discipline.”
Additionally, UCM has long supported ABET accreditation for their undergraduate and graduate safety and industrial hygiene programs, students’ designation, and faculties’ certification.
BCSP assists Qualified Academic Programs (QAPs) like those at UCM, which grant graduates the Graduate Safety Practitioner (GSP) designation, in achieving and maintaining ABET accreditation. She notes the value this provides students, explaining “Students are increasingly aware of the need to differentiate themselves and earn a competitive advantage as they enter their careers.” This leads her to the GSP. “The GSP is an excellent way to do that by expediting their path to the CSP, and students continue to be overwhelmingly excited about this opportunity.” In addition to the GSP, students who attend universities with QAPs that are ABET accredited are eligible to apply for $5,000 scholarships through the BCSP Foundation.
At UCM, Blunt now requires all her staff to either hold certification or have the qualifications to attain certification as well. “Promoting certification as important loses its message if the faculty teaching them don’t follow their own advice,” said Blunt. Her staff is currently comprised of 11 faculty, nine of whom hold the CSP. “We pride ourselves on our faculty and their accomplishments, which translates into excellence in the classroom.” This pride in her position and faculty has paid off as she was recognized as this year’s recipient of the American Society of Safety Professional’s (ASSP) Outstanding Safety Educator of the Year Award.
For those of you graduating this spring, Blunt recommends to continually seek out opportunities to learn and grow professionally, including earning certification. “Attend conferences, go to local chapter meetings for ASSP, engage with colleagues and build up a solid network,” said Blunt. It can’t all be about work though, as Blunt also recommends making time for family, hobbies, and things you enjoy which will keep you focused while you are on the job—a bit of advice we can all use now in these difficult times.