When Dr. Brigid Beaubien was a student at Eastern Michigan University (EMU), she took a class in early childhood taught by Dr. Judy Williston.
"She asked me where I wanted to be in 20 years," said Dr. Beaubien. "I said that I wanted her job. I didn't say it in an arrogant or flippant way. I said, 'You have inspired me, and this is where I want to be.' She retired, and I applied for her job. I was lucky."
Dr. Beaubien is now a leader in the early childhood field, having won the Ronald W. Collins Distinguished Faculty Teaching Award, the top honor for an EMU faculty member. While in the field in Michigan before she became a professor at EMU, she was "profoundly proud of being an alumna."
"The faculty was the best in the state and was producing the leaders I was seeing in the field across Michigan when I was a student," she said. "I saw that other educators who were striving to grow in the profession were also EMU grads."
Dr. Beaubien has helped enhance and grow that reputation during her tenure in Ypsilanti. She teaches ECE 605: Foundations and ECE 608: Leadership and Advocacy in EMU's online Master of Arts in Early Childhood Education program.
In the undergraduate program, she teaches Integrated Elementary Social Studies Methods, which helps keep her passion for history alive.
"As soon as I became a college student and saw what the professors were doing, I knew that I wanted to teach at that level, too," she said. "I love to teach. The early childhood education program is constantly under evolvement."
Motor City Driven
Dr. Beaubien was born and raised in the Detroit area. She and her husband, Tim, met as students at Gabriel Richard High School in Riverview, Michigan, and they enjoy collecting antiques.
Prior to teaching at the collegiate level, she spent most of her career working in Detroit's public and private schools as a teacher and early childhood administrator.
"I always knew I wanted to be an educator — that was never a question," she said. "I used to play teacher as a kid, so it was always that way.
"With the birth of my daughter, Julia, I fell in love with what was going on in the early childhood years. I was working on my teaching certification at the time, so that's what drove me to early childhood."
After graduating from EMU with a bachelor's degree in early childhood education (1990), Dr. Beaubien earned a master's degree (1999) and a Ph.D. (2003) from Wayne State University.
Dr. Beaubien has received a number of teaching awards at EMU and had her research published in journals and books.
As an early childhood educator and leader, Dr. Beaubien remains focused on fairness and integrity.
"My scholarship walks a fine line between the early childhood piece and the social studies piece. It has a strong historic bent," she said. "I have looked at education and early childhood education through a historic lens.
"In two of the courses that I teach, I look extensively at equity in early childhood programs, specifically in urban schools because I was a teacher in public schools for so long. My research partner and I have written several articles talking about race in the preschool classroom."
Going the Distance
Since Dr. Beaubien achieved the career goal she set for herself as an undergraduate student by becoming a professor, she and the program have progressed along with technology.
"Teaching online has been an adjustment," she said. "We pride ourselves on having close relationships with our students.
"As we're going along, we are learning ways to build a sense of community with students across the state or nationally. We are striving to make sure that we still have that personal contact. I have learned so much in the last year about how to do that."
That's also part of the reason why EMU continues to have an impeccable reputation for early childhood education and produces well-prepared graduates every year.
''Dr. Beaubien is who I want to be when I grow up,'' said Rebecca Schnakenberg, a 2019 graduate of the M.A. in Early Childhood Education online program. ''She really sparks that fire.
"She shows you why your role is important in a child's life. We spend more time in a week with these children than their parents. We are their first responders in many cases.''
Beaubien is not bad at telling her own future, either.
Learn more about EMU's online M.A. in Early Childhood Education program.
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