by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson
Susan Rose ’77 has made meaningful imprints on her alma mater—and in the careers and lives of countless students and colleagues—for nearly 40 years. As she prepares for a well-earned retirement as Charles A. Dana Professor of Sociology and director of community studies and Mosaics, the college announced a new dimension in her already outsized legacy.
Last Saturday, Dickinsonians from across campus, across the country and around the world gathered on campus for a three-part celebration of Rose’s life and career. The highlight: a formal announcement of a prize established in Rose’s honor.
The day of celebration began with a screening and Q&A hosted by Rose, featuring clips of documentaries she co-created to highlight distinctive programs and projects she’s led and co-led. Video from Dickinson’s early-2000s Argentina Mosaics illustrated the exceptional interdisciplinary research and experiences that arise from this distinctively Dickinson program, sparked and helmed by Rose.
Rose also shared clips about the global Clothesline Project and the Carlisle Indian School. The latter documentary eventually led to the creation of the Carlisle Indian School Digital Resource Center, the first scholarly national symposium on the Carlisle Indian School and a text of related research.
Colleagues, students, friends and alumni then gathered in the Stern Center for a symposium focusing on the impacts of the Carlisle Indian School Project, community-studies and Mosaics programs and Rose’s work with students and colleagues in the Department of Sociology.
“Fifteen years after participating in the Black Liberation Mosaic, I continue to draw on the skills and perspectives from that experience,” said Ryan Koons ’10, an ethnomusicologist and archivist who oversees the Maryland State Arts Council’s Maryland Traditions Archives.
“Because Professor Rose empowered my voice, I became a poetry teacher,” said Perry DiVirgilio ’00, a poet, educator, screenwriter, producer and founder of Vision Statements LLC, whose experience in one of Rose’s classes marked a watershed moment in his academic life and career trajectory. “Good teachers create good teachers.”
Teachers like Rose also create inspired colleagues, said Erik Love, associate professor of sociology. “Professor Susan Rose has also been an inspiration for me and just about every Dickinson College professor and student for the past four decades.”
The pinnacle of the symposium was the announcement of the Susan D. Rose Prize for Excellence in Community Based Research and Scholarship—a surprise for the woman of honor. Established this year, the scholarship will be bestowed annually by the sociology department to a student who exemplifies commitment to meaningful community-based participatory research, scholarship and learning.
The first community-based research prize bestowed by the college and the first Dickinson scholarship established in honor of a sociology professor since 1941, the prize was made possible by dozens of contributions from alumni and from Rose’s friends and current and former colleagues. Some of these were in attendance at Saturday’s events, including Dan Churchill, who, along with his late wife Betty Richardson Churchill ’58, has long supported the Mosaics program.
The first recipient of this scholarship will be announced this spring.
“I am so happy that this prize will recognize the meaningful and excellent work of others well into the future,” Rose said. “Dickinson has been a wonderful place to teach. It has been a good home for me to be able to explore many varied interests and to do so in collaboration with great colleagues and students.”
The day closed with a reception in Rose’s honor in the Rector Atrium. College leadership attended, along with faculty, students, staff, alumni and community members who’ve worked with Rose over the years.
These events only scratched the surface of Rose’s deep accomplishments through and contributions to Dickinson, which also include co-teaching the first women’s-studies course at the college and co-founding the Dickinson College Children’s Center. It takes an arsenal of skills—and ample enthusiasm—to get it all accomplished, says College Archivist Jim Gerencser ’93, who’s collaborated with Rose on the Carlisle Indian School Digital Resource Center for more than a decade.
“Susan is game for anything,” said Gerencser, who’s spoken, with Rose and with fellow archivist Barbara Landis, in more than a dozen Native communities across the nation. “She’s always thinking about the details and the logistics at the same time as she’s doing blue-sky thinking. And she gets things done.”
Her passion is infectious, added Professor of English Wendy Moffat, who began working at Dickinson in 1984—the same year that Rose entered the faculty. “Susan always thinks about how to make the community stronger, to value everyone’s voice, to bring people together in creative ways,” Moffat said. “Everywhere around us now is the legacy of her cheerful, good, hard work and love for Dickinson and its students.”
That approach is transformative, said Rose’s former student, CGSE Program Associate Nidia Werner ’21. “Professor Rose has built a legacy on a global scale,” says Werner, a first-generation college student who, encouraged by Rose, recently applied to a master's program, and has since been accepted into it. “We’ve all felt it. We’re grateful.”
Published May 3, 2023