Paying it forward

Vice Provost Savron inspires women in India to enhance their lives through higher education

4.2 min read

Vice Provost Doris Savron

Doris Savron knows firsthand how life-changing higher education can be for women, and that not everyone is given the opportunity. As the daughter of refugees who had minimal education, Savron has seen how her degrees have opened doors for her that weren’t open to her parents.

She is passionate about empowering women in similar situations and recently helped organize two leadership conferences in India to encourage local women to enhance their lives by pursuing higher education.

Savron, vice provost of colleges at University of Phoenix, was one of 16 leaders from the Phoenix area who traveled to India to participate in the empowerment conferences. Nearly 300 local community leaders attended the first conference and close to 1,600 were in attendance at the second conference held at a women’s university.

While some speakers focused on sharing how education helped change their lives, others spoke about the importance of leaning on other women. They shared how they build networks of women whom they can lean on during challenging times.

Savron saw the conferences as a way to encourage and inspire the women to continue their education and pursue a career to enhance their and their families’ lives and inspire others to do the same.

The conferences were just part of “paying it forward,” Savron says.

“There was this hunger to really change their circumstances. That is why they stick with it,” she says. “The perseverance and the determination to keep going, you see it in their eyes. You see how grateful they are to have an opportunity.”

The idea for the conferences came after Savron visited the region last year. The strength and determination she saw in women, and the adversity they faced in navigating poverty and the confines of their social structure, reminded Savron of her own story in some ways.


"People just want to know that they are being valued for who they are and to find a way to give back to their village, their community, their society… We should be cheerleaders for one another, because, ultimately, we all want the same thing."

Doris Savron, Vice Provost of Colleges, University of Phoenix


Savron’s parents met in Ohio as Yugoslavian refugees whose circumstances did not allow them to go past eighth grade. They raised a family while working in the shrinking manufacturing industry.

As a child, Savron says, her parents always told her how important it was to get an education, and she listened. She earned scholarships and received financial aid to attend college. While pursuing her undergraduate degree, she fell in love with learning and decided to go on to get her master’s degree and teach.

“Growing up, my parents struggled to meet the needs of our family month to month,” she says. “From observing that experience, I thought, ‘I’ve got to put myself in a position where that is not how limited my options are.’”

She became an associate faculty member at University of Phoenix 19 years ago and has been with the University since, rising to a leadership role. She is working toward her doctorate in management in organizational leadership and is writing her dissertation on women in executive leadership roles.

“It has changed my life in how I think, how I see people and how I give back,” she says. “That was all because of my educational experience.”

For the women attending the conferences in India, she brought along hundreds of notebooks and pens collected from a supply drive organized by Phoenix Women Rising, a University of Phoenix employee resource group. Paying it forward is exactly the mission of the resource group, says Devin Andrews, the University’s vice president for admissions and evaluation and the group’s executive sponsor.

Andrews says Phoenix Women Rising’s goal is to act as a catalyst and resource that empowers women to rise through education, advocacy, development and leadership. The donation of supplies was a “simple but rewarding way for us to bring our mission to women and girls in India through Doris’ work there,” Andrews says.

Savron says her group is already talking about returning to India to do more conferences. They encouraged the women attending this year to continue to build a professional network of women in their community. One message conference organizers wanted to get across was that the women would see they are assets to one another and are not in this alone.

In feedback Savron gathered after the conferences, many participants said they felt encouraged and inspired knowing that other women face similar challenges.

“People just want to know that they are being valued for who they are and to find a way to give back to their village, their community, their society,” she says. “This is a commonality the world over, in individuals I interact with every day and in communities as a whole. We should be cheerleaders for one another, because, ultimately, we all want the same thing.”

By Elizabeth Ziegler Murphy, Contributing Writer