Sociology and Anthropology
Extending proactive counsel
Professor Susan Silbey’s genuine interest in her students’ professional and personal well-being makes a deep impression. She takes a proactive role in helping her students think through the type of research they pursue, and also the kind of scholar they wish to become. One nominator recalls how Silbey sat for two hours on a weekend, giving the student feedback to improve a paper. The student had been struggling over this paper, and, though Silbey had no academic involvement with this particular assignment, “If she didn’t have time, she would make time,” the nominator said.
It is not unusual for Susan to spend over an hour meeting with any of her students to work through tough papers or presentations. She is also supportive outside the classroom, offering students a break from academics in social venues, such as inviting students to her home for Thanksgiving. “She makes us feel like we have a home away from home,” said one nominator. When the same student missed a week of school because of illness, Silbey noticed her absence and reached out. Silbey gives valuable professional advice to her graduate students about job searching and navigating hierarchies, politics, and expectations at MIT. “She’s not only an extremely intelligent and insightful academic,” another student wrote, “she truly cares.”
Joining the MIT faculty in 2000, Professor Silbey is currently Leon and Anne Goldberg Professor of Humanities, Professor of Sociology and Anthropology, and Head of Anthropology at MIT. She received her Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Chicago and post-graduate training in the Sociology Department of Brandeis University, after which she was a professor at Wellesley College. Silbey is the recipient of numerous prizes and awards and has written and edited a long list of books and papers on the intersection of law, science, citizenship, ethics, and epistemology. She is Past President of the Law & Society Association, and a fellow of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.
Silbey is interested in the governance, regulation, and audit processes of complex organizations. Her current research focuses on the creation of management systems for containing risks, including ethical lapses, and environmental health and safety hazards.
In the words of one nominator, Susan is “a model of the consummate academic, exhibiting a concern for her own research, her students, and the university as a whole.” In short, as her student said, Silbey is “an involved citizen.” Her mentorship and dedication to students make her a truly valuable asset to the MIT community.