I had the distinct honor of having Professor Sarah Mahurin as my thesis advisor, and I can’t imagine what my thesis experience, and entire senior year experience, would have been without her. She was so thorough, engaged, and helpful week in and week out (through the good weeks and the bad)—I had an irreplaceable ally, and she truly brought out the best in me. (And I don’t know what it is she eats, but she has boundless energy.) But, talking about my individual experience with her is not what I intend to do, and not just because I would struggle to put it into words.
Being her advisee and TA, I spent a significant amount of time in her office, which provided me with yet another view of her impact on campus that I would like to share. Students would stop in to talk about their papers, of course, but also to continue discussions from class, ask questions about the lecture, talk about their personal successes and struggles, vent about other classes (and other aspects of Wesleyan), ask for job and grad school recommendations, get her to advice about résumés and cover letters (I can attest, she is a cover letter whiz), and much more. Of course, she made time for everyone, and though her office was on the edge of campus and most of the dorms, it became a hub of activity and more importantly a habitual sanctuary and hang-out for many students. I’ve been to a fair number of office hours in my day, and I have never encountered a professor who always had a line out the door, even on weeks where there were no assignments due.
Equally as beneficial to Wesleyan as her commitment to helping individual students is that Sarah Mahurin brings much needed academic perspectives and priorities to a school where the student body and curriculum is pretty darn homogenous. Professor Mahurin has generated an interest in African American Literature and Southern Literature amongst student communities who previously had no desire to think about let alone take classes in those subjects. As someone from a very small town myself, I was heartened by how her Regionalist Literature class addressed rural communities all over the US, and how my fellow students (from NYC, DC, LA and beyond) began to think about my background in new ways. And I have heard this sentiment echoed—nay, amplified—across campus by students of color and students from the south as well.
To me the most amazing testament to Sarah Mahurin’s impact on campus is this: when her name comes up in conversation among students, recognition, smiles, and appreciation show on the faces of everyone around regardless of whether they’ve taken a class with her or even spoken with her one on one. If they’ve never had her in class, students know her as the professor who went to their rugby game during homecoming (or football, or softball, or crew, etc.), the professor who was on the allyship panel in the DFC (or the one who participated in many other such events), the professor at the student recital on the weekend, or just as the professor their roommates rave about so frequently she’s a household name in the woodframes.
Sarah Mahurin is an incredible mentor, advocate and friend who has changed so many of our lives at Wes. If she isn’t here next year, I heartily congratulate the school where she ends up. Wesleyan, please do whatever you have to do to keep her.
Kelley is a member of the Class of 2013.