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Professor Spotlight: Dr. Barbara LeSavoy 

Dr. Barbara LeSavoy [left] with former Woman & Gender Studies student Chelsey Franz [right] and her daughter Stella at a protest for abortion rights. Photo Credit: Dr. Barbara LeSavoy

Dr. Barbara LeSavoy is an accomplished academic whose studies and teachings have crossed international borders, but her home base is the Department of Women & Gender Studies at SUNY Brockport as an associate professor.  

Before she was an accomplished academic and lecturer, LeSavoy was an activist. She still is today, and she attributes her affinity for her field of expertise to her mother and the way she grew up. She was raised by a single mother alongside her brothers, and her mother was very active in politics from as early as she can remember.  

“My mother was very political and was also actively engaged in civic life. She campaigned for politicians, and she was in many ways an activist in her own right. That was very influential for myself and my brothers,” LeSavoy said. “In fact, she often would take us with her to the election polls and do what was called canvassing, and she was just an extraordinary role model.”  

This influence from her mother followed LeSavoy into her studies, where she pursued a bachelor’s degree in English from Rhode Island College. A few more years down the road she would complete her master’s degree from Boston University, and then her PhD from the University of Buffalo. LeSavoy characterizes her college years as a period of continued activism, specifically for women’s liberation.  

“I graduated from high school in 1975, and it was right around then in 1973 when Roe v. Wade was codified as law,” LeSavoy said. “So that was really on the cusp of the sexual revolution, and if you can sort of take yourself back to the 1970’s, that was me in college. I was very involved in some of the early movements and that was also really influential for the rest of my life.” 

LeSavoy’s graduate studies took her to the U.K. and Israel, where she became increasingly curious about the lack of female voice and perspective in the material. This is what prompted her to focus on women in education and philosophy in her master and doctorate programs, respectively.  

“I remember noticing the absence of women in pretty much everything that I studied and read, and everything that I encountered kept reminding me of this very monolithic male paradigm that was really created by and for men. So the questions I started to pose in my studies were: where were women’s voices? Who are the writers? Who are the thinkers?” LeSavoy said. 

These questions would be the basis of LeSavoy’s academic career, even into her teaching abroad. As part of a sister city program Rochester is part of, LeSavoy taught and did extensive research on women’s rights in Novgorod, Russia.  

“I’ve studied International Women’s Day, which has grounds not so much in Russia but in Eastern bloc countries,” LeSavoy said. “And I became very engaged in Russian women’s rights, so I taught in Russia for five years and authored a number of different publications that are grounded in women’s rights in Russia and looking comparatively at women’s rights in the U.S.” 

These publications include “The Capitalist Hijacking of International Women’s Day: Russian and American Considerations” and “Negotiating Sex and Gender Mediums Across Continents: Brockport, New York to Novgorod, Russia,” among many other research publications outside the realm of Russian focus.  

Despite her long list of publications and well versed resumé, what LeSavoy is most proud of are her students and the impact they have on the world as educated and passionate young people. Part of the work she has done at SUNY Brockport is “Dissenting Voices,” a journal she developed to showcase students’ writing and work in the context of Women & Gender Studies.  

“I developed that journal as a way for Women & Gender Studies majors to publish their final thesis and become authors. The journal currently has 12 volumes out and the 13th volume will publish this spring,” LeSavoy said.  

In her upcoming retirement, LeSavoy plans to slow down a bit. She has hopes to travel, spend time with family and transition into the next chapter in her life. She intends to stay connected to her community and her students and continue to promote positive change, just as she has her whole life.  

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Paige Kingsley , Features Editor
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