Bridging the Gap with Professor Babcock

Afua Nuro, Staff WriterBabcock

   You may not see her around campus very often because she is a part time teacher who lives in a different town, but hopefully you are lucky enough to take her class. Marilyn Babcock teaches COMM 100. She is a very casual person which explains why she doesn’t want her students to call her professor, rather she asks that they call her Marilyn.

   Babcock is a SUNY Oneonta alumnus who graduated with a degree in speech communication, which we now know to be communications. She said she was a “wild and studious student.” The school environment here at Oneonta was different in the early 80s when she attended. Babcock recalls the bar at Hunt Union called Side Track Cafe and having
keg parties in the dorms with her RA’s. She remembers having to run around looking for professors and waiting in
lines just to register into her classes. In her junior year of college, she studied
abroad for a semester in Mexico and lived off-campus during her senior year. After she left college she worked for a human resources office in Oneonta. Before she decided to go back to school she had done some legal aid work, which sparked her interest in becoming a lawyer’s assistant.

    After graduating and working for a few years, Babcock did something bold and spontaneous; she moved to Spain after deciding that she wanted to improve her Spanish. One Christmas Eve, she bought a one way 99 dollar ticket to Spain and lived there for five years. While she was there she worked
freelance, teaching English to businessman. Babcock said she “felt like [she] had to travel and learn a second language so [she] would not be a narrow-minded white woman.” Living in Spain and also visiting many other places in Europe helped broaden her perception of the world.

   Now at the age of 54 Babcock lives a self-described simple and
quiet life, with an interest in expressive arts. She does not watch television excessively, but you can find her tuned in on Sons of Anarchy. One of her most interesting hobbies includes being an amateur mute clown. She shows up uninvited to public events such as parades or community functions and performs. “It’s like street theater,” she
says and loves seeing the reaction of the people especially the children.

   Babcock has been teaching for about eight
years and has another job as a therapist. In her many years of teaching she remembers many speeches that students have given, but one stood out in her mind. She had a student who had major anxiety about presenting her speech and she worked with that student to try to help her get over that fear. The student ended up giving an amazing speech that moved Babcock and the students, nearly bringing them to tears. I once was a student of Babcock’s
and she said she remembers me giving a speech on racism and my hesitation to give it, recalling the courage it took to
eventually present. She said, “Your speech is a great example of what I aim for and hope will emerge from my students: that the students with myself as guide, create an atmosphere in class that is safe enough to inspire people to creatively take new risks.” She strongly believes in the value of the subject that she is teaching and the book she uses to teach it. As we were wrapping up the interview she left me with a few words: “I have been making a living for many years as a therapist. If people knew everything in the communications book they would not need me!”

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