“How Time Flies: Graduating From UB…20 Years Ago” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

UB President Bill Greiner and I at Commencement, May 1993, Amherst, New York

UB President Bill Greiner and I at Commencement, May 1993, Amherst, New York

Twenty years ago this month (February 2013), I graduated from the University at Buffalo (UB) in Buffalo, New York, having earned two baccaulaureate degrees in psychology and political science.  Unofficially, I also earned a specialization in music performance in voice and clarinet.  And, I completed my studies at this very rigorous university in less than 3.5 consecutive years.   I completed my studies in December 1992, my degrees were conferred in February 1993, and I participated in the Commencement Ceremony in May 1993.

It is so difficult to comprehend that 20 years have already passed since my degrees were conferred!  It seems like such a lifetime ago that I had graduated from my high school in Gowanda, New York, and began my adult journey in life at UB.  How fitting on this President’s Day, February 18, 2013 – 20 years since I completed my undergraduate studies at UB – that I should recall some of the good memories of my younger and more inexperienced days as a college student there.

As a college student at UB, there were so many activities in which I was involved.  Always very outgoing, I wanted to be involved in as much as possible, desiring to get the most and best that life had to offer.  At UB, the world opened up to me and I took it all in – the good, and the bad, too (when I couldn’t avoid it) – like a sponge.  UB was my oyster, and I revelled in all that it had to offer.

Indeed, I am proud of all that I accomplished and all in which I participated and/or had leadership opportunities with at UB.  With all of my classes, activities, and just living in general, there was not enough time in the day to pack everything in!  During my first year, I carried a heavy load of classes, while also performing in the wind ensemble (and being a soloist) and chorus, as well as participating in field events on the women’s track team (and earning a personal best in shot put at the NCAA championships), being involved in student government and yearbook, and going for tutoring on some evenings for my failure in chemistry.  I also immersed myself into intermediate Spanish during my first year, and was happy to be exempt from introductory English composition, however I had to take courses to catch up on my math proficiency.

As time went on, I also found the Polish, Irish, and German Clubs at UB, and was involved in each one, being both the Treasurer and Homecoming representative of two of the groups.  I will always appreciate my Polish Club Homecoming co-rep for showing up and being a gentleman during one particular year because the co-rep from the Irish Club chickened out and forced me to go solo, which I did during another year, however embarassing that was (needless to say, he never showed his face at the Club meetings again after that).

Being a member of these ethnic/language-related clubs opened my world yet further to students of Irish descent from New York City, as well as those of Polish and German descent from right around Buffalo.  The Irish Club, in particular, was a favorite of mine because I could always “let my hair down” and be myself with my friends in that group.  No matter our background or experiences, we always respected and accepted each other, and enjoyed each other’s company.  Additionally, it was my membership in the Polish Club that opened up opportunities to visit Poland as an exchange student to Jagiellonian University – and travel to several European countries, which I did during one summer, and had an absolutely fantastic time!  It was all just as it was described to me – and so much more.

In changing my major from physics to psychology in my second year at UB, I found my life becoming much less stressful.  No longer pursuing studies toward my goal of becoming a veterinarian, I found classes in which I truly excelled and enjoyed, those that “fit” my personality.  Psychology and the social sciences were right up my alley, and I took opportunities to complete independent research in political science, as well as to be a research assistant in a sensitive graduate-level psychology research project.  Also, the more classes that I took in political science, the more I enjoyed them, and became a double major, desiring to go to law school and become an attorney.  I, therefore, became a member of the Democrats Club, as well as the Political Science Club, and traveled with several members during one year to visit Yale University, a very impressive campus, indeed.  And, in my last semester at UB, I was named to the Dean’s List – miracles never cease!

Also during my time at UB, I was involved in other activities such as the Aeronautics Club, Striders Club (and I often went running independently at night under the lights), Recyclers Club (I had responsibility for managing the recycling in my dorm), and I was a regular participant in the religious celebrations of my faith that were held on campus, where I also became a lay Eucharistic Minister.  I also remembered the memory of a slain fellow UB student, Linda Yalem, by attending a memorial service for her, and running in the Memorial Run in her name.  I also worked part-time on campus, and was involved in so many groups and activities that I have difficulty bringing them all to mind.  Further, I took opportunities to attend college sports games, such as volleyball and basketball, even after having attended so many football games as a member of Pep Band.  It was in Pep Band that I met some really great, “real” people with whom I became friends, and with whom I kept in touch for a number of years as a student at UB (see photo to follow).

Me with my Friends, Karyn and Lori from Pep Band, on Graduation Day at UB, May 1993, Amherst, New York

Me with my Friends, Karyn and Lori from Pep Band, on Graduation Day at UB, May 1993, Amherst, New York

Within all of that, I attended many college events that included students, student-athletes, student government representatives, public officials (such as the mayor and governor), and college leaders (such as the president and his family, vice president and his wife, dean of students, and others).  Not only did I know many students, professors, religious leaders, and coaches, but I also met and got to know a few of the college leaders who so often worked behind the scenes to improve the university and try to make it better for everyone.  Of course, there were situations in which they did not always make things better, but I believe that the majority of them tried to the best of their ability to achieve that endeavor.

Particularly in my last year at UB, I got to know UB’s President Bill Greiner (sadly, who is now deceased) and his wife, Carol.  It often seemed that no matter where I was or what event I was attending, they were there, too!  It was great to see Bill and Carol so “involved” in student life at UB.  It was wonderful to observe and experience their commitment – not only to each other as great role models – but also their commitment and dedication to the students, faculty, staff, alumni, and patrons at UB.  I always made a special effort to speak with Carol as she is so intelligent, insightful, and positive, always having something kind and encouraging to share.  I definitely aspired to be more like her as she is such a great female role model and inspiration.

Before leaving UB upon completing my studies in December 1992 to head to New York City for about one year, I asked President Greiner to write a recommendation on my behalf.  Being so proud of myself and all that I accomplished at UB, as well as having some bittersweet memories and having experienced a critically life-changing event in my last semester as a student at UB (and surviving through it in the years to come), I desired something more to take away with me from my UB experience – just some pieces of paper with words written on them about me by others familiar with me.

My First Recommendation Letter, from UB President William Greiner, December 1992

My First Recommendation Letter, from UB President William Greiner, December 1992

My recommendation from President Greiner is the very first formal, written recommendation that I ever received (see document above).  He very eloquently and concisely stated many kind things about me, which I fondly remember and review to this day.  His recommendation is also one that I sent, along with my resume, in my job search to about 100 law firms in Buffalo in 1993-1994.  The piece of paper that I received from him was one that certainly helped to open a few doors for me, and I will always appreciate that, even though I did not pursue a law degree.

In fact, I can look back on it now, and remember a conversation that Bill and I shared one day, during which he inquired about the career I intended to pursue.  When I told him that I was interested in being a lawyer, he actually discouraged me from pursuing a law degree, stating that law firms are like factories.  I believe and warmly recall that he already knew that such a profession would not fit my personality.

There is definitely alot that I miss about UB, and I have fond memories and tearful nostalgia about many of my experiences at and through UB.  UB was a place in which I became an adult, whether I like it or wanted to, or not.  I can remember so many wonderful things about my experience at UB, however one or two critically hurtful things have also colored and clouded my perspective, still, to this day.  However much I would like to remember only the good things, the harmful experiences are also a part of who I am, of who I have become, for whom I advocate, and for whom I support – women (and children) who are victims and survivors of violent crime, trauma survivors.

While I believe that there are reasons for everything, I must be real in remembering my experiences at UB, both good and painful.  While there are many more good things that I experienced as a student at UB, what I experienced that was harmful – I believe – has shaped me into becoming a better, and more insightful, compassionate, sensitive, and understanding individual.  My experience at UB has helped me to become an advocate for and supporter of victims.  And, however painful, I have my experience at UB to recognize for that, too.

I also have that experience in being aware that not all offenders of violent crimes are apprehended, charged, or prosecuted, as well.  Further, such experience taught me that survivors of violent crimes may be revictimized by police and prosecutors.  I would not be who I am today without recognizing and being aware of all of my experiences, and I am now thankful (in a very sad way) for having such an experience because it has helped me to relate more personally with other victims and survivors of similar experiences, including those who are close to me.  While we cannot remove from our consciousness those painful experiences, we can try our best to make them better for ourselves and others.  I, therefore, remember that when I left UB, I intended to change the world, however it has been the world that has changed me.

So, on this President’s Day 2013 – and 20 years to the month that my baccaulaureate degrees were conferred to me – I remember and recall many of my experiences as a college student at the State University of New York at Buffalo (UB).  I had many wonderful experiences there, met many wonderful people there, and have many fond memories of my time there.  However much I would prefer not to remember the painful experiences that I had there, I would deny myself and not be who I am today.

And so, I must also be strong in mind, body, and spirit and integrate all of my UB experiences into my life, God willing.  Hopefully in doing so, I will have also assisted and supported others who have had similar good and/or painful experiences in their lives.  Therefore, I must recognize UB, for giving me the wings to soar into my life – in all experiences.

References:

DellaContrada, J. (2009).  William R. Greiner Dies.  Buffalo, NY: UB – University at Buffalo: News Releases.

Scrivani, Maria (1999).  Bill and Carol Greiner: UB’s Perfect Pair.  Retrieved on February 17, 2013 from http://www.livingprimetime.com/AllCovers/jul1999/workjul1999/bill_and_carol_greiner.htm

State University of New York at Buffalo Graduation, May 1993.  Buffalo, NY.

Special Note:

This article was also published by both the University at Buffalo Alumni and RAINN on LinkedIn (February 2013).  Mountain View, CA: LinkedIn.

“My Change.org Petitions for Children and School Safety” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Increased Building Security and Protections are Needed in American Public and Private Schools

Increased Building Security and Protections are Needed in American Public and Private Schools

The Sandy Hook Elementary School Tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut was horrific and devastating.  As a mother, a parent, an educator, a Christian, and an American, I was in shock about the incredible terror that was unleashed upon young, innocent, vulnerable children and their school teachers and administrators when I heard of and read about it last Friday, December 14, 2012.  My heart goes out to all of the victims, survivors, families, first responders, and religious who have had any involvement in this devastating tragedy; and that healing and hope will come to all of those who lost loved ones or were traumatized because of it.

I heard about the crisis while volunteering at a local Catholic store that aims to provide support and assistance to those who are in need.  Then, reading an Internet article about the tragedy, I was in shock and disbelief.  My own 9-year-old son became informed of the crisis while still at school by reading the headlines of an Internet article about the tragedy on a teacher’s computer screen.  He coped with his sadness and fears independently without any adult guidance until receiving it from me at school dismissal.

It is bad enough that so many children died.  To add to that, also imagine children throughout our country who have been required to mentally cope with this knowledge and information on their own, without any effective guidance or discussion.  Just yesterday, it was reported that an 11-year-old in Utah brought an unloaded gun and ammunition with him to school for protection.  Safety, protection, and guidance is needed for children, including appropriate shielding from sensitive information about such tragedies.

So many lives have been lost, so much innocence has not been spared.  How can we assure our children, educators, school personnel, and parents throughout our country that students will be safe in our schools in the wake of this tragedy? 

More action is needed to protect children, educators, and school personnel in our schools from violence.  An increased amount of legally-required building securities and protections are needed within our public and private schools throughout America.  More effective assistance and support is also needed for all those who are struggling with mental health issues.

Yesterday, I read about and cried over so many of the funerals that were being held for the victims in the Tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  The lives of all those who died are valuable and important, each in their own ways.  They are the lives of children and adults who will live on in our memories forever.  It is for them that we must act positively to make positive change in the wake of this tragedy.

Today, I signed 35 Change.org petitions related to honoring the victims of Sandy Hook, ending gun violence, curbing the sales of guns and ammunition, and increasing the availability of mental health care.  I also created two of my own Change.org petitions.  Please read, review, and sign my petitions that I posted on Change.org today in support of children.  The petitions include one calling for a National Children’s Day, and another seeking an increase in legally-required building security in public and private schools.  My petitions can be found at the following links:

http://www.change.org/petitions/president-barack-obama-united-states-congress-united-states-senate-create-a-national-children-s-day ; and

http://www.change.org/petitions/president-barack-obama-governors-governors-elect-washington-dc-mayor-increase-legally-required-building-security-at-public-and-private-schools .

The text of my first petition is as follows:

“In the United States, we celebrate so many special days, including Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Grandparent’s Day, Sweetest Day, Valentine’s Day, and so many other days to mark special events, occasions, and holidays. The creation and enactment of a National Children’s Day is necessary in the United States. In remembrance of the memories of the 20 children who lost their lives in the Sandy Hook Elementary School Tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012, an annual day to celebrate children in our nation is desperately needed. The day need not be on December 14, but can be on another day at some point throughout the year.

Countries such as Mexico honor children and have a national children’s day. Americans must also value, honor, appreciate, love, and respect children enough to create and enact a National Children’s Day, correct? It is long past time in the United States for the creation and enactment of a National Children’s Day to celebrate children and their innocence, vulnerability, joy, love, blessings, energy, and so much more that they bring into our lives.

Children are our future. We, as Americans, must value our children enough to create and enact a special day just for the children! 

Please sign this petition to President Barack Obama, and the members of the United States Congress and Senate, to create and enact a National Children’s Day in the United States.

Thank you.”

My second petition reads:

“In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School Tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, an increase in legally-required building security and protections are desperately needed in our public and private schools throughout the country.  Public and private schools should be legally-required to have working locked entry/access; working and monitored videocameras throughout the schools; communications devices such as telephones, public address systems, and panic/call buttons in each classroom; trained, competent personnel such as police and/or security officers to react effectively to crises; and practice and participate in regular monthly or quarterly lock-down drills and intruder alert drills. 

Our most precious, loved, and cherished young offspring are placed in the care and responsibility of educators and school staff each day.  They must be more and better-equipped and practiced in reacting to emergency or crisis situations.  Schools throughout the country require regular practice and participation of students and school personnel in fire drills, but there is no regular practice of intruder alert drills or lock-down drills in many schools, especially private and/or parochial schools.  Increased awareness and practice is needed so that everyone can react more quickly, efficiently, and effectively to protect and/or save lives in an emergency or crisis situation.

No matter how safe we would like to think or believe that our schools are, there are always unsafe situations that are unpublicized and unheard.  Just because one has not heard of a dangerous situation occurring in a school, does not mean that it has not occurred. 

We, citizens, educators, parents, and leaders must do more and demand more for the protection, safety, and security of our children in all schools throughout the country.  We must be willing to make positive changes and sacrifices for the protection, safety, and benefit of our children.  Children must be and feel safe in attending school, the place where so many of our children spend a great portion of their lives. 

We must take a stand against the increasing culture of violence in America, and work to improve and enhance the safety, security, and protections within our schools.  Please sign this petition to let our elected leaders know that positive change in these areas is desperately needed. 

Thank you.”

Let us stand together in this tragedy to help make the future better for ourselves, our children, and all Americans.  More must be done.  We must do it today!