Professor behind Clinton course advocates for women’s rights


Portrait of Suzanne Holt at her home in Kent, Ohio on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016.

Lydia Taylor

As a young girl, Kent State women’s studies professor Suzanne Holt felt as though she had a mission in life — a wish to go out and save the world — but wasn’t quite sure what that mission was until she was 10 years old.

“There was the civil rights movement that was happening on television and … you saw people marching,” Holt said. “It occurred to me that in order to get what I had, some people had to beg and fight. It didn’t sit right with me and I hadn’t really begun to think about what that meant for me as a girl in the world that I was going to, at some point, fight my own fights.”

Sheryl Holt, Suzanne Holt’s twin sister, said Suzanne was always the kind of person whom people would confide in, and she would always be there for those who needed to hear her perspective.

“She was always the more confident person with an idea,” Sheryl said. “She demands that people speak from an authentic place. She was always the kind of person people needed to talk to, including myself. She’s my best friend.”

When Holt and Sheryl were young, they grew up in an progressive home in Sebring, Ohio, and loved to play sports of all kinds: basketball, softball, soccer and almost anything that involved athleticism and fun.

Once they entered school, they realized there were hardly any sports for women and how frowned upon it was to play sports as a girl. 

Holt started to experience the disparity in treatment between men and women.  

“It never occurred to me at the time that women were treated differently,” Holt said. “I went from this childhood of innocence and all of a sudden, I had this major question of ‘Why?’ Why were women being treated differently than men?” 

Once Holt reached adulthood, she realized it was not just a calling for her to be an advocate for women’s rights — amongst other issues —  but a way of life.

“I’ve always sort of been the defender of the underdog,” Holt said. “I feel like how I got into women’s studies was a complete fluke, but what it allowed me to do was help me navigate my way through the path I always knew I had and wanted to explore.”

Through women’s studies, she took her passion that she built over time, serving as an advocate for women. Recently, she decided to create a new course at Kent State based off of a woman that influenced her: Hillary Clinton.

“When she ran the first time, I found her fascinating,” Suzanne Holt said. ”The more people started to pick on her, I kept asking myself, ‘What? What’s the deal?’ One of my strong convictions about us as a species is that in our conversation, we seem to be talking about one thing, but we’re actually talking about ourselves.”

The Spring 2017 course, “Hillary Clinton Case Study: Perspectives on Gender and Power,” aims to delve even further into the reasoning as to why Clinton was treated differently compared to other presidential nominees, as well as spark discourse in regards to the difference in treatment with women, compared to men in society as a whole.

“It’s important to discuss these things because … we were consistently moving forward in the election and didn’t have time to slow down and talk about it,” Holt said. “Now, we can actually look back on all the factors of the election.”

Holt wants students in the new course to form their own opinions and thoughts around as to what exactly happened during the election, and why Clinton was treated the way she was compared to Trump or any other candidate running against her, she said.  

Junior music major Destiny Sabo said she took Holt’s Women’s Colloquium class, where Holt inspired her to look more in-depth at the details of the disparity between genders. She plans on taking the Clinton course next semester.

“The class I took with her was mainly discussion-based. She was very respectable and always ready to consider the opinions or input of different views,” Sabo said. “I consider myself a feminist, but I never realized how much the ingrained sexism of our society had taken a toll on me — especially considering the election. People hold women to a much higher standard than men.”

Outside of her focus on women’s studies, Holt enjoys her time with her three dogs — Ruthie, Thelma and Wabbit — walking them on campus and meeting students, as well as having fun with her three nieces.

“She’s amazing with my children,” Sheryl said. “It’s funny because when they were little, they couldn’t pronounce her name. So, they shortened it to ‘Loving Aunt Zan,’ and that’s one of the ways I would describe my sister as: loving.”

Lydia Taylor is an administration reporter, contact her at [email protected].