Beloved by her students, Mills College Student Supervisor and Professor in the School of Education Susan Marchant will receive the Distinguished Service Award for 2015 by the Child Life Council (CLC).
Since 1988, the Child Life Council has annually recognized the innovators and pioneers of the child life profession with the distinguished service award, which honors members for their exceptional gifts to the field of child life.
With her quiet dedication, Marchant has been key in developing the field of Child Life, a combination of psychology, education and child development. This field of study provides emotional support to children and families in high risk situations. The CLC will honor Marchant’s commitment to the field for the past three decades at the annual CLC meeting in Cincinatti.
“Susan is recognized inside and outside of the child life community for her quiet strength and tireless dedication to the future of the profession and has mentored, educated and advised many aspiring and currently practicing child life specialists over the years,” the CLC said in their announcement.
Marchant was surprised to get the phone call telling her she had won the award.
“I was absolutely shocked,” Marchant said. “The award has been around for quite a few years, and the other professions, who have claimed this award, are people who I have looked up to for years. I was shocked and very, very grateful, but shocked,”
Mills students who have worked with Marchant describe her as the one professor who encouraged them to reach for their highest goals.
“She has truly supported all of us in not only becoming the Child Life Specialists we have long hoped to become, but also in giving us tools to become successful in our endeavors and in teaching us to believe in ourselves and our purpose,” Second year graduate student Amanda Trapp said.
Second year graduate student Erin Shields said Marchant makes students feel accepted.
“Susan truly embraces each and every student for their quirkiness and strengths, and as a result she has created an environment that is strength-based and in which all of her students … feel that they can excel,” Shields said.
Before coming to Mills to teach, Marchant worked for 28 years at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital and Research Center in Oakland. She was central to creating the hospital’s first Family Resource Center as well as working with the Oakland Unified School District to create one of the leading hospital school programs in the country.
Marchant graduated from Mills in the first child life program the college offered in a time when Mills was the second college in the United States to have classes in child life. In 2006 Merchant retired from UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital and brought her expertise and experience back to her alma mater, where she says she feels very privileged to teach at what she says is one of the premier child life programs in the world.
Marchant has been part of creating what the field of child life is today.
“Susan’s professional work has been foundational to the development and rise of the child life field,” Associate Professor of Education Priya Shimpi said.
Graduate student Cathy Suzuki said Marchant inspires generations of students who get to work with her, growing the field of child life each year.
“After a conversation with Susan, I always felt confident, strong and inspired,” Suzuki said.