Campus Spolight: Dr. Barbara Koziak

“We defected from communist Czechoslovakia when I was still a little girl. My parents were convicted and they could not return for fear that their sentence would be executed. For many years, I was unable to see my family, yet I am very happy that my parents were brave enough to leave.”

“This is what I think politicized me,” said Dr. Barbara Koziak, director of the Women’s Studies program and Associate Professor in the Department of Government and Politics at St. John’s University. Koziak has a Ph.D. from Yale University with concentrations in ancient political philosophy, contemporary political theory, and feminist political theory.

“Any woman who wants to be fully human is a feminist,” Koziak said. “Being a feminist is essential to my development as a philosopher and just as a woman.”

Koziak went on to say that in today’s world, gender discrimination can lead to serious problems with self-esteem, and that young women want to take control of their lives and have self respect.

Koziak has been able to apply this human development in her works, including Retrieving Political Emotion: Aristotle, Thumos, and Gender.

In the classroom, Koziak, who teaches courses such as Feminism in Politics, “is not the traditional teacher that lectures and the students take notes,” student Gina Dorcelus said. “She engages each individual on controversial topics.”

Besides being active and thought-provoking in the classroom, Koziak, along with Dr. Jennifer Travis and professor Trent Hamann, also part of the Women’s Studies program, held a forum (sponsored by Pi Sigma Alpha, the Government and Politics honor society) in which they introduced the attendees to the program of Women’s Studies.

During this forum, Koziak and colleagues discussed both present and ancient social trends that have led to gender discrimination, how they have affected women, and what we can do as a society to cause change.

In addition to being an intellectual, writer, and professor, Koziak also is a proud mother who in the few years of raising her young son has come to see that, “for men it’s almost tougher growing up now, with all of the gender specific everything,” Koziak said in reference to children’s toys and clothing.

Koziak’s professionalism is reflected through her philosophies on women in the work force. “I waited to have my son until after I was tenured,” she said. Koziak can attribute this choice in large part to her belief “that American jobs aren’t really constructed for women.”

Koziak explained that “until the Clinton administration, there was no agreement on maternity leave and most women who did leave lost their jobs.”

Today we are glad to know that there are 12 weeks of maternity leave, yet the catch is they are still unpaid. “This act was the greatest achievement of Clinton’s administration,” Koziak said with visible pride.

Koziak provided a word of advice, courtesy of Anais Nin: “life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”

There is perhaps no greater testament to such courage than Barbara Koziak.