In March, Dr. Botswana Blackburn, Health Sciences Program Director, received the highest honor bestowed to faculty members by the University of Missouri: the William T. Kemper Fellowship for Teaching Excellence. Dr. Blackburn has been an MU professor for the past eight years, but her time at Mizzou dates all the way back to 1989, when she first visited campus as a high-school sophomore as part of the Missouri Scholar Academy.
By the end of her three-week stint in the academy, Dr. Blackburn felt like she was a part of something bigger than herself. When her senior year came, she knew Mizzou was where she was meant to be. Blackburn earned her bachelor’s degrees in journalism and political science and a master’s in health education and policy promotion from Mizzou, and her doctorate in education she earned from the University of Missouri – Kansas City.
In her eight years as professor, Blackburn has mentored and advised countless students, maintaining an open-door policy, and allowing her students to express their opinions without fear of judgement.
Miranda Schloman, a former Health Sciences student of Blackburn’s as well as her Graduate Teaching Assistant, said: “By sharing her personal successes and learning opportunities in her public health career, my interests were piqued. Dr. Blackburn opened her office to me without hesitation. After several discussions, I decided to pursue a Master’s in Public Health with inconceivable support from Dr. Blackburn.”
“This is one of the best classes I have taken in my entire college career,” another of Blackburn’s students said in a course evaluation, “Even though the content was difficult I felt like I learned a lot and everything was relevant to my future career. The instructor did an amazing job with this course.”
Kristofer Hagglund, dean of the School of Health Professions, noted that she is able to connect her classrooms with the “real world.”
“Her instruction elicits a recognition that what they are learning matters,” Hagglund says, “I watch her students become engaged citizens who think about their communities and how they can contribute and make a difference in the lives of others.”
But as engaged as Blackburn is with her Health Science students both in the classroom and in her office hours, she is just as engaged in other aspects of campus life, serving on multiple boards and committees. Most notably, she helped to reinstate Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated, a historically African American Sorority, at Mizzou.
“I have seen the myriad of ways that it has helped female students of color feel more connected to the university and community,” Blackburn said, “It is a reminder to me of the importance of teaching, mentoring, and shaping the lives of Mizzou students that takes place outside of the classroom.”
Blackburn is also committed to offering the best and most up-to-date resources for her students. She was an early adopter of Open Educational Resources (OER), a database of texts and resources available digitally to students in place of expensive textbooks. She was instrumental in moving four Department of Health Science core courses to OER, which saved students $33,495.
Not only is Dr. Blackburn truly a Mizzou-made success story, given her educational background and impressive career, but she also keenly exemplifies the School of Health Professions’ mission: To Teach. To Serve. To Discover. She serves students, campus organizations, boards and committees, and helps students discover career paths that will allow them to contribute to their communities.