CH ’15 – Sarah Mahurin has been many things to my Wesleyan experience. She’s been my professor, advisor, committee-mate, confidant, and perhaps most importantly, my mentor. When I was informed about the push to get Wesleyan to hire her and her husband in a permanent capacity, I knew that I had to speak out. However, in the rush of getting back to classes, researching, and solidifying my plans for the summer, I felt overwhelmed and outgunned because I felt like anything that I did at that moment would be inadequate. I knew I needed help in collecting my thoughts on her, which are vast, into something coherent as well as potent. It’s important to note that learning my limits academically and socially in college is directly tied to having Professor Mahurin as my advisor, but more on that later.
CH P’15 – I met Professor Mahurin only once during the 2012 Homecoming but when I did, I was immediately impressed. I was concerned at the time that Christian had way too much on his plate (which he did) but was way too ambitious too get out of any of his commitments. When I first met her in the Chapel, I was impressed with the ease with which she spoke with me and how she made me feel comfortable that Christian was in good hands and she was going to steer him in the right direction.
CH ’15 – While I have endless glowing things to say about Professor Mahurin, if you asked me to think of the first word that came to mind when describing her, it would be tough. While very few people give me as much praise as Professor Mahurin does, no one gives me as much criticism. I could talk about how much I trust her and appreciate her here but I think it might be better to make a simpler point: the criticism worked. I am not the same writer or thinker that I was when she first took me on as a student and then as an advisee. I am much more confident in my voice, I’ve become a relentless self-editor (because I learned my lesson enough times about giving her anything subpar – she always knows), and I’m more “intellectually honest.” What I mean by that is because Professor Mahurin invests in her students, particularly in classroom discussions, it’s easy for her to tell when your writing isn’t in line with your actual views. To put it more bluntly, Sarah Mahur in can call out bull like nobody’s business.
CH P’15 – Christian was and is an independent person. It meant that he was really successful in high school but it also meant that he likes to say yes to quite a lot of things. Because of that, it’s refreshing that Professor Mahurin has never been afraid to tell him no. I remember one time Christian calling me laughing because he wanted to do research in psychology on top of everything else that he was doing. He’s not even a psychology major. He was laughing because Professor Mahurin had said that until he took some time to talk to the professor as well as showing her his grades for that semester, she wasn’t in support of it. I know that Christian can make his own decisions and in that moment he didn’t actually need her approval but she built a level of trust in their relationship where she knew that by telling him to contemplate an opportunity before taking it, he would reach the realization that he didn’t need that extra burden. He ended up not doing it and coinci dentally got higher grades in that semester than he did the semester before.
CH ’15 If I’m going to talk about Professor Mahurin honestly, I have to talk about race. The first time that I went to her office trying to schmooze my way into Intro to African-American Literature during the end of my first semester here, the first thing I thought was, “Wow, I wasn’t expecting this perky white lady when I knocked on her door!” Interestingly enough, she noticed my discomfort and it didn’t take her long to ask me about it. “You were weirded out by me being white weren’t you,” she asked not too long after I was in her class. While I was stymied by that comment, Professor Mahurin knew that I wasn’t going to lie to her and wasn’t afraid of my answer. She would be the first to say that who we are is brought to bear on the work that we do. As a professor of African-American Studies, she doesn’t shy away from questions that brings her white privilege into sharp focus. One time sticks out in particular. We were reading Amiri Baraka and there is a point in the poem that he starts talking about raping white women. It’s an unsettling, uncomfortable moment for everyone. After reading the passage aloud, she said “There was some of this where I was like ‘Yeah, I see where you’re coming from,’ and there were other parts where I was like “Oh my God, no.’ Rather than stumbling through the discomfort in the text, she addressed it head on and challenged us not to look at the text as problematic but to mine it for its political and literary potential. Professor Mahurin’s willingness to call out racism and ignorance both in and outside of her classroom has always meant a lot to me because it sets an impressive example of what ally-ship should look like. Once you get to know her, it doesn’t take long to realize that she’s not doing this work because she wants people to like her. She doesn’t need someone to be impressed with her. She works with the fervor that she does because she’s committed to anti-racism and social justice. She’s called out Public Safety, the administration, and her students when they’re not demonstrating the kind of cultural competency that we should expect from our community. Just as importantly, she’s not afraid for everyone to know it. Wesleyan has often underwhelmed me because people are so nervous about speaking out on what they believe because of the potential fallout. Professor Mahurin at many different times during my time here has shown by example how to be a student, a scholar, and an activist.
CH P’15 – Few people have driven Christian the way that Professor Mahurin has. I’m sure that she makes everyone else feel as comfortable and secure as she has made him feel. Wesleyan letting her go would be a travesty. I know that Christian wouldn’t be nearly as successful as he has been if it had not been for her. If they lose her, Wesleyan won’t be as successful going forward either.
Christian Hosam is a member of the class of 2015. Cheryl Hosam is a parent of a member of the class of 2015.