Susan R. Gzesh

Instructional Professor

Human Rights: Contemporary Issues

headshot of smiling woman with glasses

Susan Gzesh is Instructional Professor (previously Senior Instructional Professor) in the College.  From 2001 until 2020, she was Senior Lecturer and Executive Director of the University of Chicago Pozen Family Center for Human Rights. She teaches courses on human rights topics, including the rights of migrants, refugees, & citizens; human rights in Mexico; the prohibition against torture; the right to water; and the use of international human rights norms in the U.S. Ms. Gzesh taught immigration & nationality law to law students as a part-time Lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School from 1992 until 2003, and as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Michigan Law School from 1990 -1993. She is currently associate faculty with the Center for Latin American Studies, the Friedrich Katz Center for Mexican Studies, and the Chicago Studies Program at the University of Chicago. Susan Gzesh received her BA from the University of Chicago in 1972 and a JD in 1977 from the University of Michigan. She is a graduate of the Chicago Public Schools. She is fluent in Spanish. She is an active member of the Illinois bar and of counsel to Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym, Ltd. in Chicago.

Beginning in 1978, she practiced law in federally funded legal services, private practice, and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, concentrating on the representation of immigrants and refugees in immigration, labor, and civil rights matters - and representing Latino candidates in local elections. In 1989 she was a founding attorney of the Midwest Immigrant Rights Center, now the National Immigrant Justice Center. She represented individual refugees and religious leaders who participated in the 1980s Sanctuary Movement.  Susan was a Fulbright Lecturer at the Universidad de Guadalajara in 1990, served on the 1992 Clinton-Gore Presidential Transition Team, and was a member of the Illinois governor’s New Americans Initiative advisory board. She was retained as legal counsel to the Embassy of Mexico in Washington, D.C. from 1997-1999 and co-led a project for the Mexican Foreign Ministry from 2010-2014. From 1996 to 2001, she was the Director of the Mexico-U.S. Advocates Network, coordinating the Regional Network of Civil Organizations for Migration (the NGO counterpart of the intergovernmental Regional Conference on Migration), as well as the Chicago-Michoacan Project and the Chicago-Mexico Leadership Initiative, all projects which promoted cross-border, transnational dialogues on migration policy and human rights. 

Gzesh participated in civil society delegations to the United Nations High Level Dialogue on Migration & Development (New York, 2013) and the Global Forum on Migration and Development (Athens, 2009; Mexico, 2010) and was a keynote speaker at the Peoples’ Global Alliance on Migration in Mexico (2010). She currently collaborates with the 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. 

Her recent publications include:

She is currently a member of the Board of KAM-Isaiah Israel (a Reform Jewish congregation) and Local 73, Service Employees International Union.  She is currently a non-resident Fellow of the Migration Policy Institute, Washington, D.C., a member of the Midwest Legal Advisory Committee of the Consulate of Mexico in Chicago, a member of the advisory board of Instituto para Mujeres en la Migracion (IMUMI) a Mexico-City-based NGO, and an active member of the Chicago Committee for Human Rights Watch. She has served on the boards of Kartemquin Films, the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant & Refugee Rights (ICIRR), and the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs. She served on the Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ Task Force on Immigration Policy in the Midwest (2012-2013). She has been active in local politics in Chicago since the 1980s, providing advice on election law for progressive candidates. 


Office hours, Tuesdays, 2 – 4 pm, in Gates Blake 412, no appointment needed.  Students can request appointments for other times by emailing sgzesh@uchicago.edu