Barbara Baumgartner

Barbara Baumgartner

Teaching Professor in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Director of WGSS Undergraduate Studies. Associate Director, Prison Education Project

As a teaching professor in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Barbara Baumgartner goes far beyond her faculty duties to support the St. Louis Community.  

In 2011, Barbara was part of a faculty initiative that launched the Washington University Prison Education Project (PEP), a higher education in-prison program. At a time when there were very few prison education programs in the United States, this endeavor required careful and strategic work. And in the face of numerous logistical and bureaucratic setbacks, Barbara played a major role in ensuring the program would endure.  

“Quite simply, the Prison Education Project would probably not exist today were it not for Barbara Baumgartner,” said Jami Ake, a teaching professor and founding member of PEP. In 2014, PEP initiated its educational services by offering two classes to a group of 30 students at the Missouri Eastern Correctional Center located in Pacific, MO. The organization has since held two graduation ceremonies, where several students received bachelor’s and associate degrees, and has also extended its program to the Women’s Eastern Reception and Diagnostic Correctional Center situated in Vandalia, MO. 

While others often served as the public face of the program, Barbara has labored as the internal force that kept the program running. From resolving ongoing logistical challenges to introducing innovative opportunities for incarcerated students, Barbara has devoted an immense amount of time and energy towards sustaining the program. 

Barbara’s devotion extends to her community engaged teaching as a full-time lecturer in the Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (WGSS). Barbara provides opportunities for her students to work with organizations and activists central to supporting system-impacted women. She arranges for students to meet and hear from formerly incarcerated women, centering the women’s experiences and voices as the basis for ethical student action and research.  

Barbara’s teaching has changed the intellectual and personal lives of countless undergraduate students. Many PEP tutors, volunteers, fundraisers, and advocates within the student population have been introduced to these issues after taking a course with Barbara. Her former students now occupy key roles in organizations in St. Louis and across the nation, demonstrating her impact through the work of countless people she has inspired.   

As best put by nominator Kevin Windhauser, “Through tireless work and a steadfast belief in the power of a Washington University education to improve lives, [Barbara] made an immeasurable impact on this university and the city it calls home.”