In Fall 2020, the African Studies Center had the privilege of welcoming one of our newest associates, Ambassador (ret.) Susan D. Page, to the U-M community.
Ambassador Page joined both the U-M Ford School of Public Policy and the U-M Law School as a Professor of Practice. In spite of Covid-related limitations on physical meetings, Professor Page hit the ground running at U-M and has already participated in multiple ASC-sponsored events, including the recent, highly successful U-M Africa Week (Feb. 15-19, 2021). Professor Page has also added richly to the U-M Africa-related curriculum with courses that combine her diverse experiences in Africa, international relations, human rights, and transitional justice, among others. Her “life’s work has been to promote justice, fairness, and peace through diplomacy, law, and policy,” says Professor Page.
Prior to entering academia, Professor Page had a lengthy and exemplary career in the U.S. foreign service. Her first government position, shortly after she graduated from Harvard Law School, was as an attorney at the U.S. State Department’s Office of the Legal Advisor. From there, she moved to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) General Counsel’s Office so that she could “combine [her] interest in living and working overseas with international affairs”. Thus began her career in international diplomacy. Professor Page’s first assignment with USAID was as “a regional legal advisor for USAID in Eastern and Southern Africa based in Nairobi” for two years. Next, she moved to Botswana where she also served as a legal advisor at the USAID Regional Center for Southern Africa.
Professor Page’s rich Africa experience continued and deepened in her position as a political officer for the human rights portfolio at the U.S. Embassy in Kigali, Rwanda. In this position, she had the opportunity to observe the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Russia, where alleged perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide were prosecuted pursuant to the principles of public international law. Professor Page also observed indigenous Rwandan transitional justice through the gacaca community-based courts that focus on truth-telling, forgiveness, and reconciliation rather than Western-style criminal punishment.
Next, she joined the United Nations Development Program as head of the Justice and Human Rights Section until she was called to work on the Sudanese peace process, one of the major highlights of her career, where she was part of the team mediating a permanent truce between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement. After the peace agreement was signed in 2005, Professor Page then “went to the UN and worked for a few months while they were…setting up the [UN] peacekeeping mission” in Sudan, after which she took the lead of the Rule of Law Section of that mission in Khartoum, Sudan.
After two years with the UN in Sudan, Professor Page “had spent fifteen years in Africa or overseas”. Desiring to return to the States for a while, she assumed the role of regional director for Southern and East Africa at the National Democratic Institute in Washington, DC. In this position, she gained greater experience in the domestic policy space, attending many meetings on Capitol Hill and testifying before numerous congressional committees. Professor Page thus became well known in Washington and shortly thereafter joined the State Department as Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs under Assistant Secretary Ambassador Johnny Carson, where she covered Central Africa, Southern Africa, and the Sudan. After South Sudanese voted overwhelmingly to secede from the Sudan in an internationally supervised referendum, South Sudan gained independence in 2011. Professor Page was confirmed as the first U.S. Ambassador to South Sudan later that same year, where she served until 2014. In 2018, she served as special advisor to UN Secretary-General Guterres on rule of law under the Global Focal Point Initiative.
Her diverse experiences make Professor Page’s courses highly desirable to public policy and law students interested in Africa, human rights, transitional justice, international diplomacy, and/or peace negotiations. In the 2020-2021 academic year, Professor Page is co-teaching a seminar on racism, colonialism, and the United Nations. And in Winter 2021, she is currently teaching a class on diplomacy and statecraft at the Ford School and a seminar on African nations and the International Criminal Court (ICC) at the Law School.
We at ASC are thrilled to welcome Ambassador Page to the U-M community and we look forward to engaging in many enriching collaborations with her. Please join us in welcoming her back to U-M, her undergraduate alma mater!