We caught up with Dr. Walker to get some parting reflections about her time at MBU. Here’s what she had to say.
What was your favorite thing about working at MBU? What do you hope your legacy will be?
My favorite thing about working at Mary Baldwin has unquestionably been our students. Getting to know who they are, and watching the people they become as their education develops is a lot of fun, and a real privilege that my career in academia affords me.
Legacy is a portentous word; I don’t tend to use it. What I can say, though, is that I find it gratifying when students start to reflect and to question some of their own assumptions because they are engaging with ideas we have been exploring together. Sometimes that may not happen until well after a class has ended. Whatever the timing, if I have been provocative in the most literal sense of provoking them to think in ways they haven’t before, then I know all over again why I chose to do this with my life.
What will you miss the most about working at MBU?
The friends that I won’t be seeing and talking with all the time. This is a wonderful community of people to work with, and I know how fortunate I have been. Many of my closest friends are long-time colleagues. While I know we will stay in touch and continue to see each other as we can, I will miss their day-to-day presence in my life.
Share a favorite MBU memory?
The Eiffel Tower is probably the ultimate cliché of French culture. Left to my own devices, I wouldn’t choose to visit it again — as I have so many different favorite spots in that well-loved city where I was lucky enough to live for a while.
Yet, each time I planned a May term theater class in Paris — and I did seven of them over the years — it was one of the things we had to visit very early in our stay. I would roll my eyes as I put it on our first day’s agenda each time, knowing that first-time visitors to Paris couldn’t miss it, despite my reluctance.
But with each trip, I ended up finding it a real delight to stand at the foot of the tower with a group of students I knew well, and witness some of them seeing it for the first time: A simultaneous look up toward the top; an expression of amazed delight; an almost incredulous “Wow, I’m really here — in Paris!” That was a common response.
Each time, in the presence of that wonder, I recaptured my own first experience of being there. It was part of my pleasure in my students, and in teaching in Paris. That view of the Eiffel Tower through their eyes stood as a metaphor for what I find rewarding about this work: I have to remember that what is familiar to me is someone else’s first experience of something that matters, and I have to treat the idea as still novel and inspiring, and learn from students’ initial reactions.