Just a few short years ago, Women and Gender Studies (WMS) was a fragmented program at The College at Brockport. It didn't have a permanent home or full-time director and had less than 10 students in the major. That all changed in 2007 when Barbara LeSavoy was appointed the program's first full-time director. Since that time, WMS has thrived under her leadership and established itself as a discipline in the School of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.
LeSavoy has enjoyed an extensive and far-reaching career in higher education. She came to Brockport out of graduate school in 1986 to take a position as Academic Coordinator in the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) . Her role with the EOP would last for two decades and eventually grow into that of assistant director. She earned her doctorate from the University at Buffalo in 2004, which would help set her on the path to her current role.
Including students in her work is an absolute must for LeSavoy, and it takes on many different forms. Her students are regular presenters with her at the Seneca Falls Dialogues, a biennial collaborative event with several area colleges and universities that LeSavoy helped start upon becoming the WMS director. She also takes students with her to the annual National Women's Studies Association (NWSA) conference. Another example of innovation coming out of the curriculum is the student e-journal, Dissenting Voices, which she conceived of in connection to her senior seminar class. LeSavoy is the recipient of Brockport's 2012 - 2013 Academic Advising Award and Outstanding Service to Students Award.
"I engage students in my scholarship, and I think that's a really important part of my work. It helps me open a door for them, and I think it opens their eyes to the opportunities they have in front of them in terms of speaking, presenting, writing and research."
LeSavoy also provides a global view of the discipline. She helped obtain a grant that brought together her Honors Sex and Culture students and linguistics/gender students from Novgorod State University in Russia. The unique international collaboration allowed students on both sides to take part in a class through videoconferencing and online communication. It also led to LeSavoy's invitation to speak in Novgorod in March 2013 on International Women's Day - a trip that would provide additional research opportunities. Published in August 2013 in the International Journal of Women's Studies, LeSavoy's most recent scholarship looks at International Women's Day as comparatively observed in the United States and Russia.
"Not every student is going to have the opportunity to travel to another country," says LeSavoy. "I think my lens and my reach within this global arena really allow me to bring that experience into the classroom in ways students may not be able to access otherwise."
The Brockport WMS Program offers both a major and a minor and has grown to an average enrollment of 75 students. That growth parallels its significance in our modern society.
"A discipline like ours becomes more and more important as we start understanding difference and as we start thinking about the roles of how we get along with each other," adds LeSavoy. "What we teach becomes very useful to students across disciplines so I see the future as promising with lots of potential."
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