Susan Gzesh is an Instructional Professor in the College who joined the faculty in 2001 after two decades practicing law. She also was a part-time Lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School from 1992 – 2001. From 2001 until 2020, she was the Executive Director of the Pozen Family Center for Human Rights, and formerly a Senior Lecturer and Senior Instructional Professor. Gzesh teaches courses on contemporary issues in human rights, the human rights of migrants, refugees, and citizens, the right to water, human rights in Mexico, and the use of international human rights norms in the United States. She taught in the Pozen Center’s Human Rights Study Abroad program in Vienna, Austria from 2014 to 2019.
Susan supervises students on BA and MA theses and advises on PhD dissertation projects. She frequently meets with students interested in careers in law. Her research interests include the inter-relationship between human rights and migration policy, the domestic application of international human rights norms, the right to water and to a healthy environment, and Mexico-U.S. relations. In addition to teaching, she serves on the faculty committee of the Center for Latin American Studies and of the Chicago Studies Program. She co-coordinates the New Drivers of Migration Project, part of the Provost’s Global Initiative programs.
Starting in 1978, Gzesh practiced law in private practice, federally funded legal services, and with the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights. From 1996-2001, Gzesh was Director of the Mexico-U.S. Advocates Network and co-founded the Regional Network of Civil Organizations for Migration, two innovative civil society coalitions spanning North America, Mexico, and Central America.
From 1997-1999 and from 2010-2014, Gzesh was a legal adviser to the Mexican Foreign Ministry on U.S. immigration law and policy. She was a Fulbright Lecturer in Mexico (1990) and served on the Clinton-Gore Transition Team for the Department of Justice (1992-1993). She was appointed to the State of Illinois New Americans Immigrant Policy Council (2005-2008) and the United Food & Commercial Workers Union Task Force on ICE Misconduct (2008). She served on the Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ Task Force on Immigration Policy in the Midwest (2012-2013). She has served on the Boards of Kartemquin Films, the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant & Refugee Rights, and the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs. She is currently a non-resident Fellow of the Migration Policy Institute, Washington, D.C., a member of the Chicago Committee for Human Rights Watch, and a board member of Congregation K.A.M.-Isaiah Israel.
Gzesh participated in civil society delegations to the United Nations High Level Dialogue on Migration & Development (2013) and the Global Forum on Migration and Development (2009, 2010) and was a keynote speaker at the Peoples’ Global Alliance on Migration (2010). She collaborates with the international NGO Alianza Americas and has been a speaker at seminars, conferences, and events in the U.S. and Mexico on topics related to human rights and migration.