BHSU Photography Professor Accepts Governor’s Award


Caleb Munger

Steve Babbitt gives acceptance speech for outstanding service in arts education at the governors Award February 15 in Pierre South Dakota.

Black Hills State University photography professor Stephen Babbitt is no stranger to winning awards for both his teaching and photography. He’s the recipient of BHSU’s Distinguished Faculty Award in 2013, and the Rushmore Honors Award from the Rapid City Chamber of Commerce in 2016. His work is displayed in the Lessedra Gallery in Sofia, Bulgaria and the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, France. These are just a few highlights of his many honors. When asked, Babbitt was too humble to list many of his accomplishments.

His most recent accolade is the Outstanding Service in Arts Education, awarded at the Governor’s Awards in the Arts in Pierre on Feb. 15. Babbitt has been a professor for 23 years at BHSU, developing the photography program from just two courses to an entire department.

Although he knew from the age of 15 he wanted to build a career in photography, he had no intuition that he would become an educator.

“In my last year of study, my professor asked me to teach a large format photography course. The idea wasn’t distasteful, I just hadn’t thought about teaching. By lunchtime of my first day, I said to myself, this is what I want to do. After that I took every opportunity I could to teach. At an art reception, I bumped into a photography professor I’d had. He asked me to teach basic photography. I thought it was poetic because that community college is where I took my first photography class.”

The San Francisco native earned both his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in photography from the San Francisco Art Institute, and has been teaching for a total of 25 years. He said his favorite thing about his career field is the students.

“They come here to learn, and they’re dedicated to what they’re doing. They respect each other, faculty, and what they’re doing. I enjoy the interaction with people who are here to learn, and I enjoy making them happy by learning something they’re excited about.”

Babbitt also mentioned he wouldn’t have been successful at BHSU without his fellow photography professor Jerry Rawlings.

When asked about his favorite aspect of working with Babbitt, Rawlings comically replied, “He’s cute. But all joking aside, Steve is one of the most effective instructors that I have ever met. I have personally witnessed how effective his compassionate style of teaching motivates students. Steve is involved in the arts throughout South Dakota. His ambition to educate in the arts goes far beyond the classroom setting. He is an active participant in arts organizations throughout the state and tirelessly promotes the arts whenever possible.”

Similar to Professor Rawlings, photography student Alexandria Schoenberner had nothing but good things to say about Babbitt.

“I think my favorite thing about him is how he talks to his students. He was never easy on anyone, but he made you want to try harder, be better and push yourself more. I think a true marking of a leader, and someone to make note of, are the people that make others feel capable- that is Steve,” Schoenberner said. “He taught us that there is room for everyone to be creative and to chase our dreams, regardless of the fact that we can “see the middle of nowherea�� from here.”

Babbitt sustains his advocacy for students’ future success with the advice, “Don’t give up. Take every possible opportunity, no matter how small it may seem. You never know what door the smallest opportunity can open. There’s so many examples in my life, and in my students’ lives, where the smallest thing that seemed so insignificant that led to something life-changing. Take every opportunity available to you. Every opportunity you don’t take is an opportunity wasted, no matter how small.”