Tracilyn Babington '14 received the 2013 Woman of Excellence Award. Assistant Dean
of Students James McGhee presented the award.
-story by Kaitlyn Sewell '15
Current events and personal interests are driving forces behind Randolph-Macon College
student Tracilyn Babington’s Schapiro Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF)
The project is a content analysis on the framing techniques of Don’t Ask, Don’t
Tell in the media. SURF offers students the unique opportunity to conduct
10 weeks of full-time, original research during the summer months, under the guidance
of a faculty mentor.
Research Connections and Applications
Babington, a sociology and
women’s studies major and English/writing
minor from Hillsboro, Ohio, joined the military in March 2011, six months before
this policy was fully repealed.
“My SURF project has given me a good background to serve with, and a renewed appreciation
for the ability to serve without having to hide,” she says. Babington has read dozens
of newspaper articles published from 1992-1994 and 2010-2012, identifying and coding
the information she has gathered. “It’s challenging to try and determine which coding
says what, and how the frames interconnect with each other, but it’s exciting to
see how the frames that gained the policy-wide support in the early 1990s were some
of the most hated frames in 2010. The way that the policy was framed in the media
is an indicator of the country’s cultural shift in opinion about homosexuals in
the early 1990s and today. It’s important to document how these articles are published,
since it’s a widely circulated medium that has exposed many people to different
information, depending on how the story was framed.”
Babington’s mentor, Sociology Professor Amy
Armenia, is intrigued by Babington’s research.
“This project builds on the existing literature about the military and political
battles over sexuality,” Armenia explains. “At the same time, Tracilyn advances
the literature by examining the most recent debates and comparing them to the discussion
that happened two decades ago. The media both reflects and shapes public opinion,
so this project is important in understanding larger issues related to GLBT rights
in the United States.”
In 2011, Babington was named ODAC Rookie of the Year in
swimming. She is the founder and president of Iota Iota Iota (Triota), an
honorary society for women’s studies majors and minors. She received the Woman of
Excellence Award during the spring 2013 Omicron Delta Kappa
(ODK) ceremony. In addition, she is the president of Alpha Phi Omega, a
co-ed service fraternity, and she spends much of her time working in Cobb Theatre.
This fall, she will serve in the Higgins Academic Center (HAC)
as a women’s studies tutor and a writing tutor.
Beyond her involvement on campus, Babington was recognized in her class for Basic
Combat Training military honors in Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Additionally, she received
a state achievement medal for her activation efforts during Hurricane Sandy relief
last year. Currently, she is proudly involved in the civil rights movement in the
military. “Now that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is no longer a part of military
code, I can participate without worry of being discharged,” she says.
Plans for the Future
“Be open to a change in plan,” Babington says when asked what advice she has for
new Yellow Jackets. “It will happen! When a plan does change, don’t get discouraged,
because some of the best things can happen by accident.”
Babington’s future endeavors include gearing up for possible deployment next year.
“I’m largely focusing on finishing my degree this winter so I can prepare for that,”
she says. Babington also hopes to use her SURF research for her academic future
in graduate school.
“In the long run, this SURF project could help Tracilyn gain admittance to a graduate
program in sociology where she can continue to study these issues,” Armenia says.
The SURF program was established in 1995 through a generous gift made by Ben '64
and Peggy Schapiro. The Schapiros continue to support this program, which promotes
scholarly undergraduate research by R-MC students in all disciplines.