Grace Babcock is a Ball State senior who majors in English (her concentration being in Literature). She has been placed onto the Top 100 Students list for the 2021-2022 school year, which recognizes 100 juniors & seniors that represent Beneficence both in and out the classroom.

How has being a Top 100 student impacted how you view your work while at Ball State?

Being named a Top 100 student was such an honor, and it really encouraged me to do some reflection on my time here at Ball State. I’ve always taken substantial pride in my work, but frequently I experience periods of self-doubt. Gaining this sort of “external” recognition has really made me feel affirmed in my scholarship and involvement on campus. I’m so incredibly grateful for all the opportunities that were offered to me to dive into interesting research, read incredible works of literature, expand my academic and personal perspective, and support my fellow classmates through extracurricular work. My biggest takeaway and piece of advice from my undergraduate career is to “just say yes” to experiences that intimidate or scare you. Ask your professors to work with you on a project that might be mutually interesting, sign up for that leadership position, and submit a paper you’re proud of for publication!

How has your time in the English Department been worthwhile to you? Do you have a moment that sticks out to you as the most beneficial? Also, what lessons from the department do you’ll think you’ll take into your further education?

Really, I owe a lot of my success to the support of the English Department; without the encouragement and constructive feedback from my professors, my writing wouldn’t be nearly as sophisticated, my analysis wouldn’t be as nuanced, and I wouldn’t be close to the academic I am today. I feel that Ball State English’s professors have a unique gift for making their classrooms both engaging and intellectually rigorous. They facilitate discussions expertly, navigate occasionally challenging group dynamics with grace, and ensure that everyone, regardless of personality type or level of extroversion, shares their analysis and perspective in ways that make them feel comfortable. The conversations I’ve been able to have with my classmates in small and large group settings alike made me consider multiple differing interpretations, which as a result made me a more comprehensive and reflective scholar.
One of my favorite experiences so far has been working as the Lead Editor of the Digital Literature Review under Dr. Ferguson’s supervision, which has allowed me to develop not only a brand new, valuable set of transferrable editorial and technological skills, but to engage with a team of dedicated, hardworking, and hilarious students from disciplines like English, history, anthropology, and political science. Though I was apprehensive about taking on such an important, demanding position, my DLR teammates have made the experience so rewarding. We collaborate so well, and I’m so excited to see the final version of the journal that the Editorial, Design, and Publicity Teams will create together in April!
Finally, some of my favorite pieces of academic and personal advice have come from the English Department’s faculty. Dr. Mix’s patience with me and as I would come into her office many times throughout our semesters together and her careful considerations of my first drafts of analysis taught me to become a more meticulous, determined, and contemplative writer and human being. Dr. Rapatz’ flexibility with her students throughout the pandemic and her encouragement of my work on Medieval British Lit and Shakespeare (maybe the two most intimidating parts of English Literature to me!) allowed me to become more adaptable, to confront challenges creatively and head-on even when my perfectionist tendencies try to make me stick to a plan that no longer works! Dr. Ferguson similarly reminded me that the elusive “perfect paper” is a myth, and that if my audience can follow a cohesive and detailed argument, that I should consider my work a success; this piece of advice not only incentivized my writing, but took a substantial amount of pressure off my analytical shoulders. These instances are among the many that have influenced me as a student of English Literature, and I am so appreciative of the time, effort, and energy my professors have given me throughout the past 4 years. I can only hope to emulate the talents of my professors in my own career in education!

Professor Rapatz’s letter of recommendation for you mentioned that you are a “leader in and outside the classroom”. Do you feel that having these leadership qualities will influence how you tackle future endeavors?

I’m so thankful for Dr. Rapatz’s kind words about my leadership style, which I think revolves around facilitating collaboration above all else. I feel like the positions of leadership that I’ve been in thus far have been the most rewarding when I have a really great group of people working with me. I always want to make sure that members of my student organizations have input into the events we host, and I always aim to provide classmates with an opportunity to share their opinion and interpretation when we’re working on a big project together. I always aim for collective success! In the future, I want to continue to listen to another piece of Dr. Ferguson’s advice: delegate more! Sharing in the responsibility and creating new pathways for leadership for others in group settings is something that is so valuable, and I want to continue to collaborate with peers, future coworkers, and future students of mine!

Your letter of recommendation also mentioned that you are pursuing a master’s in education. What are your goals regarding this pursuit?  

One of my main career goals centers on the ongoing fight for equitable education. I am a firm believer in the equalizing power of education, but the first step in ensuring that students find lasting success is advocating for increased accessibility to quality education. I want to be the teacher that creates an engaging, inclusive learning space that amplifies the voices of my students. I’ve recently decided to take a fully-funded position as an ACE Teaching Fellow at the University of Notre Dame, which will allow me to spend the next two summers earning my M.Ed. in South Bend and the rest of the academic year teaching English Language Arts at an under-resourced all-boys middle school in Washington D.C. I am so excited to begin my first year as an educator and gain the skills to advocate for the long-term wellbeing and success of my students.

Lastly, how has the ongoing pandemic affected how you go about your college life? Do you have any tips for those who might have struggled with the adjustment?

I have had to become far more flexible in my approach to learning since the outbreak of COVID-19 in the winter of 2020. My fellow classmates and I missed out on months of valuable in-person discussions, and we all had to learn to navigate technologies like WebEx, Zoom, Canvas Chat, and others that created new hurdles to the learning experience. Even when we were back on campus, our classrooms looked different; sometimes they would take the form of a synchronous Zoom lesson or a hybrid form that kept us in-person half the week and online the other. I missed discussions that included the whole class, but I totally understood that these decisions were made for the protection of the health of our community. I realized that I could still make meaningful connections with my peers and my professors, but it would simply take on a new form. Though it took a while to “get used to it,” I ultimately appreciated the increased accessibility of digital course materials, and I think we all learned valuable lessons about adaptability and problem-solving. It was, and still is, a scary time for students, faculty, the Ball State community, and the world, but the support of passionate, understanding educators has allowed me to have a very enriching collegiate experience.

One of my biggest pieces of advice is definitely to have patience with yourself; worrying about your levels of productivity, which has been one of my biggest (non-health related, of course) anxieties throughout the pandemic, only leads to burnout and extra stress. Take the time you need to rest, to work, and to socialize in even amounts, and try not to let work and your to-do lists consume your thoughts. This is easier said than done, so I always try to purposefully schedule a lunch/dinner date with a friend, set aside specific times to grab a coffee and study in Bracken, or otherwise break up your screen time. Be respectful, take care of yourself, and protect your health!

You can connect with Grace on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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