Laurie Babin completes journey from military to academia

Published 12:37 pm Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Professor develops community engagement, leadership skills in transition

By Samantha Hendrix

Laurie Babin’s career is marked by service, and the University of Mississippi instructional associate professor of business administration is sharing that passion with her students.

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Babin, who helped re-charter the Ole Miss Rotaract, the collegiate version of Rotary International, shortly after joining the university faculty in 2019, is the new president of the Oxford Rotary Club. And one of goals is to strengthen the connection between city and campus organizations.

“By being a Rotarian, I can make a difference in my local community as well as the world through the Rotary Foundation,” she said. “When I was looking for a Rotary club to join in Oxford, I was informed that there was a student who wanted to get Rotaract re-chartered at Ole Miss. That inspired me to help him make it happen.”

“My experiences with Rotary started when I was in high school and was involved with Interact Club (high school version of Rotary),” said Matt Eddy, a 2019 graduate of the marketing program who lives in Mobile, Ala. “When I transferred to Ole Miss, I learned there was not a Rotaract club on campus.”

He contacted the Oxford Rotary Club, which put him in contact with Babin, who served as adviser for ULM’s Rotaract club.

“Dr. Babin’s previous experiences were instrumental in establishing the Rotaract club at Ole Miss,” said Eddy, who served as the first president of the Ole Miss Rotaract organization.

The Rotarian life is not new to Babin. She first joined a Rotary club 10 years ago while living in Louisiana. She has also spent much of that time fostering the next generation of community leaders.

She helped to charter a Rotaract at the University of Louisiana at Monroe and played a pivotal role in re-charting the Alpha Theta chapter of Pi Sigma Epsilon at UM earlier this year. Pi Sigma Epsilon is the national co-ed professional fraternity focused on marketing, management and sales.

“Dr. Babin is a wonderful example of a mentor and leader who gets things done,” said Ken Cyree, dean of the School of Business Administration. “She has the heart of a servant-leader and gets involved when she sees the opportunity.

“She is active in the community, as shown by her president role in the Rotary Club, and she has been instrumental in starting two student organizations. She has also continued to publish research and serves as a thesis adviser, among many other acts of service.”

Babin’s path to academia has been unconventional. After graduating with an engineering degree from Michigan State University, she taught thermodynamics and nuclear physics at the U.S. Naval Nuclear Power School.

“The students were very attentive because they really needed to understand how it works,” she said. “Imagine operating a nuclear power plant inside of a submarine – you better know what you are doing or you could all die.”

The move was motivated by a desire to avoid snow.

“Honestly, it was the opportunity to move to Orlando,” she said. “The Nuclear Power School at the time was located in Orlando. I was born in Michigan and hated winter my entire life.”

She earned an MBA from the University of Central Florida five years later, which sparked her interest in marketing and led to her seek a doctorate from Louisiana State University so she could teach. She credits her background in engineering for the ability to take the qualitative concepts and apply them quantitatively.

“My engineering background helped because I’ve always liked the quantitative analysis side of things, and that is really important in conducting and publishing empirical research,” she said.

Before landing in Oxford, she taught at the University of Southern Mississippi and ULM.

As president of the Oxford Rotary Club, Babin said her goal is to maintain the club’s status as a premier civic organization. To do that, she seeks to grow membership by merging the club with another local Rotary club and host a golf tournament to benefit the Oxford Medical Ministries Clinic.

“I was motivated to start two student organizations because I see my role as a professor as one to create opportunities for students to succeed and mentor them along the way,” she said. “I didn’t seek a leadership role in Rotary, but when asked, I was honored to serve in that role. Having a great leadership team in our club is what makes it so successful.

“I think Rotary’s official mottoes regarding service sum it up best for me: ‘Service above self’ and ‘One profits most who serves best.'”