MESA Mentoring Award
Susan Gilson Miller
University of California, Davis
In recognition of her exceptional mentorship to others in the field of Middle East studies, Susan Gilson Miller is also a recipient of the 2021 Mentoring Award.
During her more than three decades of teaching at Harvard, UC Davis, Brandeis and Wellesley, she mentored countless women and men, a significant number of whom went on to have successful academic careers in the fields of Middle East and North African studies. Dr. Miller’s dedication to her students has always been exceptional and extended beyond the confines of the classroom.
One former student noted: “Susan is exceptional for her commitment to her students. But what makes her extraordinary as a mentor […] is her humanity and empathy. […] She cared about her students as people and human beings. She understood the pressures and challenges that we faced. She balanced advice about research and publishing with the realities of the job market and the tenure track. She was always open and honest, treating me as a peer. […] I would not be the scholar I am today without Susan. But I learned how to be a mentor to my students from Susan. She has given herself consistently and unselfishly to her students—and subsequently, the field of Middle Eastern Studies—throughout her long and distinguished career. “
Another concluded: “I remain in awe not only of the vast body of knowledge she commands, but also, and perhaps especially, of her willingness and ability to transmit it to others.”
A third former student noted: “When I think about what kind of mentor Dr. Miller has been to me […] it is the combination of rigor and generosity that comes to mind. From the first time I met her until today, Dr. Miller has always been exceptionally unconditional in her willingness to help shape my growth as a scholar. […] I also cannot recall a time when Dr. Miller gave me anything but her full attention and her honest opinion. She is the kind of mentor I can count on to hold me to the highest professional and scholarly standards, while also knowing that she would do anything in her power to further my success. […] Dr. Miller is astounding as a mentor and a scholar in part because she is so very humble about this role. There is not a single ounce of self-interest in her mentoring relationships. […] Dr. Miller does not mentor junior scholars because she wants to augment her reputation or put her stamp on the field; she does so because she is deeply passionate about the study of North African history, and because she understands the value of passing along the kind of wisdom and knowledge she has accrued to the next generation. […] this is the selflessness I have seen her demonstrate to so many other young scholars at institutions all over the country.”
A fourth similarly recalled how professional generous Dr. Miller was in taking on a novice, not only introducing her to circles of contacts in Morocco and France, but also teaching her how to write well like a historian: “And perhaps most important, she was always there to offer encouragement, concern, support, and kind words even when the challenges of getting through the PhD and tenure were most difficult.”
It is an honor to recognize Susan Gilson Miller, who has constantly encouraged the finest of Middle East studies scholarship by training academics as colleagues at every stage of her career.