Editor’s note: Sharon C. Glotzer, the Anthony C. Lembke Department Chair of Chemical Engineering, shared the message below with the Chemical Engineering community in honor of Dr. Susan M. Montgomery’s retirement.
This month, after 27 years as a faculty member in Chemical Engineering—including 23 years dedicated to advising our undergraduate students—Dr. Susan M. Montgomery is retiring.
Susan earned her BSE from Michigan Chemical Engineering in 1984 and returned to campus in 1991 as a postdoctoral research fellow after receiving her PhD in chemical engineering from Princeton University. Two years later, she joined our faculty. Although Susan taught many of our undergraduate courses, her true calling was as Undergraduate Advisor, where she worked one-on-one with each and every Michigan chemical engineering student to help them achieve their goals. Incredibly, in her time on the U-M faculty, Susan has advised more than 2,500 students!
But the word “advisor” barely captures the important role Susan has played in the lives of our students, and the impact she has had on our students and our department. Beyond advising students scholastically, Susan—or Dr. M, as she is affectionately known—has been a mentor in the truest sense of the word. Every year, she made sure to get to know personally each and every student, meeting regularly with every sophomore, junior and senior in the department to check in on how they were doing. Susan is driven by a genuine love for her students, and that care and commitment is evident in every interaction and in every conversation. She provided career counseling and helped students through difficult times. She anticipated student needs, and marshalled resources to meet those needs. She cheered our students on and helped build our students’ confidence as well as their knowledge of chemical engineering. Even more, Susan helped our students build a sense of self—a key foundation to living one’s best life. She remains a fierce advocate for all students and she works especially hard to support our first-generation students and students from underrepresented groups.
When she wasn’t advising students or serving as Director of ChE Undergraduate Education, Susan was helping to build new student organizations and online resources, such as her Visual Encyclopedia of Chemical Engineering Equipment. She built strong connections between our students and alumni over the years, organizing homecoming and other events. Susan also serves as advisor to the Michigan chapters of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), and Habitat for Humanity.
Susan’s unequaled contributions to our students’ educational experiences and successes are known far beyond our department. In 2012, Susan was named the G. Brymer Williams Collegiate Lecturer as but one measure of the high esteem in which she is held. A named lectureship is among the very highest honors bestowed by the College of Engineering on a member of the faculty. And just last year, Susan received the 2019 Willie Hobbs Moore Achievement Award— sponsored by the Women in Science & Engineering Program and the Center for Engineering Diversity & Outreach—for “achievements that encourage and inspire others to achieve their goals”.
While we will miss Susan in chemical engineering, we are delighted that she will remain an important part of Michigan Engineering’s student support system. Susan is transitioning to a three-year period of phased retirement during which she will serve the college as an academic coach, working with transfer, first-generation, and underrepresented minority students, as well as students in our scholastic standing process, to improve their academic success strategies.
Susan’s phased-retirement plan is a further reflection of her deep commitment to every single Michigan student who has walked into her office seeking guidance and support. Her plans to continue providing academic coaching even as she moves toward retirement should come as no surprise.
We are grateful to Susan for her leadership and mentorship within Chemical Engineering and look forward to continuing to work alongside her in support of students as she transitions to her new role.