Heather Paxson

History; Anthropology; and Science, Technology and Society
Providing Stellar Support
paxsonProfessor Heather Paxson’s supportive and caring attention has helped her advisees to succeed. One of her nominators says, “Doing a PhD can be a challenging and arduous endeavor. Heather Paxson goes out of her way to make sure we are all doing well academically and personally.” Heather always makes the time to meet with her students and provides detailed feedback on their work. Another nominator describes, “As my advisor, she has gone above and beyond with care. She reads and provides feedback on my work in great depth, but is also there for a hug or a calming walk if need be.” The same nominator says, “Once, when I was a GRT on campus, I was having a particularly distressing week … I was at a meeting with Heather and broke down crying, and she hugged and comforted me and I left feeling lighter and as if someone cared about my life and stresses outside of the PhD.”

Heather Paxson has also made it a priority to build community in MIT’s transdisciplinary graduate program in History; Anthropology; and Science, Technology and Society. One of Heather’s nominators says, “As Director of Graduate Studies [2013-2015], she has been instrumental to many of the positive changes in our department: from setting up a weekly program seminar to discuss student work and major issues in our field, to a dissertation writing bootcamp, to one-on-one mentoring on grant proposal preparation.” Heather also contributes to the sense of warmth and community by hosting regular get-togethers and dinners at her home. One of her nominators says, “Heather is one of the … faculty members in the program who is dedicated to maintaining a sense of community and for that reason, is integral to the success of all graduate students.” Says another, “All students have been lucky to have had the stellar support and guidance of Prof. Heather Paxson.”

Heather Paxson’s research explores how people craft a sense of themselves as moral beings through everyday practices, especially those activities having to do with family and food. She is the author of two ethnographic monographs: Making Modern Mothers: Ethics and Family Planning in Urban Greece and The Life of Cheese: Crafting Food and Value in America. The latter work explores domestic artisanal cheese and the people who make it, analyzing how craftwork has become a new source of cultural and economic value within American landscapes of production and consumption. Heather is a Margaret MacVicar Faculty Fellow and has received numerous awards for her work and teaching, including the Diana Forsythe Book Prize from the American Anthropological Association, the James A. and Ruth Levitan Teaching Prize in the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, and the Everett Moore Baker Memorial Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.

Heather Paxson brings a warmth to all of her interactions, which permeates through those around her. Her nominator says, “She cares deeply about each of our successes in the field, as well as our general happiness and well-being at MIT.” We thank Heather for making MIT a more warm and welcoming place.