Blackbourn steps down after 15-year tenure as MSU College of Education dean, returns to the classroom in January

Contact: Harriet Laird

Studio portrait of Richard Blackbourn
Richard Blackbourn (Photo by Russ Houston)

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Mississippi State’s Richard Blackbourn, who has led the university’s College of Education for 15 years, is stepping back to the faculty and returning to the classroom effective Jan.1, 2021.

The announcement was made today [July 1] by MSU Provost and Executive Vice President David R. Shaw who commended the longtime dean for his leadership of the college and for his work in preparing highly qualified professionals in the education field.

“Dr. Blackbourn has recruited outstanding faculty and top students that have distinguished the MSU College of Education as the premier training ground for Mississippi’s teachers as well as administrators, counselors and supervisors not just in academic settings, but in industry and agencies too. Creating and maintaining nationally accredited programs, preparing future educators with hands-on clinical training, and enhancing student research and scholarship opportunities have been crowning achievements during his tenure,” Shaw said.

One of Blackbourn’s major successes has been his involvement in the establishment of the Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program in 2012. He was a co-principal investigator on the $42 million proposal that established the METP, a joint project with the University of Mississippi that today provides academic and scholarship opportunities to bright students pursuing teaching degrees.

Also, the college’s services outside the classroom have grown in recent years with the 2014 opening of the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Clinic, a community service for families that also offers a hands-on learning environment for students; and the 2014 introduction of the Bulldog CHARGE Syndrome Research Laboratory,  one of only two international sites focused on educational, behavioral and quality-of-life research for individuals with the disorder and their caregivers.

Through the college’s Mississippi World Class Teaching Program, MSU year-after-year has increased the number of teachers achieving national board certification and has climbed to a No. 14 ranking nationally with 997 NBCT alums.

Blackbourn has led six departments within the college: Counseling, Educational Psychology and Foundations; Curriculum, Instruction and Special Education; Educational Leadership; Instructional Systems and Workforce Development; Kinesiology; and Music. Accreditations include the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, now known as the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation, and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

A onetime elementary school principal in Lowndes County, the three-degree MSU alumnus returned to campus in 2005 after serving as a professor and administrator at Clemson University for 16 years. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in elementary education and a doctorate in educational leadership. In addition, his father, Joe M. Blackbourn, was a long-term MSU education faculty member.

Blackbourn held teaching and administrative posts at Northeast Louisiana University from 1984 to 1989, and prior to this served the Lowndes County schools after holding early-career teaching posts in Natchez and Pascagoula.

Last year, he was selected for the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Institute for Management and Leadership in Education. In 2015, Mometrix, a Texas-based test preparation company that honors education administrators, ranked him among the 30 most influential deans of education in the U.S.

Blackbourn has chaired the Council of Southeastern Conference Education Deans, served as president of the Mississippi Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, and served on its executive board for seven years.

A member of Phi Kappa Phi honor society, he has written numerous scholarly articles and is the co-editor of the book “The Pursuit of Continuous Improvement in Educational Organizations,” a 1997 publication of University Press of America Inc.

Shaw indicated that a national search for a new College of Education dean will begin immediately, with the goal of having a selection by the new year. A search committee, with a majority of members elected from the college’s faculty, soon will be formed.

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at