Greg Babinski, B.A. ’71, M.A. ’77 reminisces about Wayne State, 50 years later


This article is a brief introduction to one of the many alumni who will be celebrating their fiftieth anniversary of graduating from Wayne State University at the Golden Jubilee on June 8.

Fifty years after receiving his bachelor’s, Greg Babinski, B.A. ’71, M.A. ’77, remembers his time studying geography at Wayne State University as fondly as if he had graduated yesterday.  

Babinski recalls the feeling of studying alongside a bustling campus adjacent to Detroit’s cultural center of libraries and museums:

“I remember walking from State Hall, going to the original Detroit Public Library branch on Cass, and doing some of my research there. There was this thing called a record library where you could find 75,000 LPs of Jazz, popular music and folk music. So you would choose a record and take it to the record librarian, who would give you this little enclosure to sit in, where you would put some headphones on and listen to the records,” Babinski said.

“There were these big windows, and I could look out at the trees in the springtime or the autumn while studying. It was just such a great place to study. My second favorite place to study was going to the Detroit Institute of Arts and sitting in the Diego Rivera room and looking at those wonderful, wonderful murals”.

In addition to the surrounding scenery, Babinski said he also loved his experience learning from professors William Bunge, Ph.D. and Robert J Goodman, Ph.D. Although he never took a class taught by the latter, Babinski said both instructors played an instrumental role in developing his geography ideas.

"They opened my eyes to the fact that geography really gives you the ability to understand things in communities,” Babinski said. “They made you wonder, why is the world organized the way that it is?"

Babinski said that this initial revelation to the illuminating power of geography set the stage for the next five decades of his career. Geography, Babinski noted, is not limited to examining terrain, population, and buildings. Instead, he said, it explores how these entities interact with society and the world at large. He adds that there is tremendous potential to utilize geography to promote equity and social justice.

Babinski and a friend prepare for a road trip in the seventies
Babinski and a friend prepare for a road trip in the seventies.

"As I go through life and as I travel, looking at the world, I think I look at it differently than other people might. In many cases, I think about why is this building here? Why was this road placed here? Why has the stream done this? Why are those mountains over there, but not over here? Why is that island over there?” Babinski said. “A lot of that is understanding geography and how the world was formed, and understanding how people organize when we build our farms and locate our cities and where we go to school and work, and choices like that.”

Babinski has taken this mind frame and put it into continued practice. Since earning his master's in 1977, he has led a rewarding life as an advocate for Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology. Babinski is currently the Finance & Marketing Manager for the King County GIS Center, the single most extensive and capable GIS operation in the Pacific Northwest. He is also a published author and GIS Instructor.

A poster advertising one of the WSU Geography Club movie nights that Babinski attended
Poster advertising one of the Geography Club movie nights that Babinski attended.

Before joining the King County GIS Center in 1998, Babinski was GIS Supervisor of the East Bay Municipal Utility District in Oakland.

Babinski has written numerous articles about his original research into geospatial industry management, finance, budgeting, and marketing. He was the author of the original GIS Capability Maturity Model and coordinated its adoption by The Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA) in 2013. In addition, he was the founder of URISA's GIS Management Institute Committee.

Babinski has received the URISA Leadership Award, the WAURISA Summit Award and was named a 'GIS Hero' by ArcNews. Greg has spoken about GIS at conferences and events in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, Australia, and across Europe and Asia. In his spare time, he likes hiking steep, narrow, dangerous trails that lead high above the clouds to incredible views.

Babinski said he is excited to attend the Golden Jubilee celebration on June 8 remotely. Graduates of the classes of '70 and '71 are invited to join in virtual events commemorating 50 years since graduation on Tuesday, June 8, 2021, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. EDT. Alumni are also invited to share their favorite memories, stories, and photographs from their time on campus.

Babinski's WSU transcript
Babinski's WSU transcript.

This article was written by Angelica Williams, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences alumni communications student assistant.

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