Football discussions, Disney mugs help make award-winning professor

Morgan Day

Carole Barbato, associate professor of communication studies at the East Liverpool campus, adjusts the TV for her Criticism of Public Discourse class, sits down and immediately strikes up a conversation with one of her students.

“I get into my car, turn on the radio and the Steelers are driving,” the Cleveland Browns fan exclaimed, laughing and holding her hands to her temples. “I thought, ‘Just shoot me — this is terrible!'”

Barbato and Chad Hayes, junior power plant technology major and Pittsburgh Steelers fan, have had an ongoing competition with their favorite football teams. Hayes said it’s things such as this that make Barbato exceptional at teaching and have contributed to her earning the 2006 Ohio Communication Association’s Distinguished Teaching Award.

“She’s not one of those professors who reads from the textbook the whole time,” he said. “She makes it fun, and I think she has a good personality for what she’s doing.”

Barbato has been teaching at Kent State since 1975, but said she had never intended to teach at a university until she was invited to teach a summer course at the East Liverpool campus. Until then, she taught high school English and speech.

She said teaching at the college level is “a joy,” and every semester holds something new.

“It’s a shame to even be paid for this job; it’s so much fun,” she said. “It’s just been a wonderful career choice for me.”

Barbato has been influenced by her colleagues at the East Liverpool campus and by a previous professor, Bill Gordon. He was innovative and actively motivated his students in the classroom, she said. She was also impressed by Rebecca Rubin, professor emeritus in communication studies because of Rubin’s thoroughness and attention to detail.

Barbato said humor is essential in a classroom to keep things exciting and lively.

“I don’t know if I’m a frustrated actor or what, but this (the classroom) is my stage,” she said. “I have fun with it. I think you need to have a little humor. If not, then things become so boring.”

Her sense of humor is evident throughout her office and home, where Disney coffee mugs, picture frames and other collectibles, or “obsessions,” are taking over. She even gets a kick out of wearing her Disney ties around campus.

Sophomore English major Michelle McConnell said Barbato is “very lovable” and easy to talk with. However, along with her bubbly personality comes a reputation for being tough and thorough.

Barbato tries to challenge her students by setting high standards for them, and students eventually rise to that standard, she said. Her classes are meant to spark discussion and make students think about the subject matter.

“On any given day I’d say her classes are very difficult, but the way she explains things really helps,” McConnell said.

Contact safety reporter Mogan Day at [email protected].