Living by the adage “service is the rent we pay to live on the earth” and a passion to teach others to do the same, Department of Sociology Professor Hollie Nyseth Brehm educates students about different cultures and societal phenomena and shows them how to use their education to change the world.
Making an impact in the community through academia drives Hollie to pursue interactive educational opportunities as well as impactful research. She encourages students from diverse backgrounds and first-generation college students to engage in research and educational opportunities that have real-world benefits.
In 2016, Hollie led a group of undergraduate students to create a student organization and nonprofit, Refuge, to provide central Ohio refugees with the knowledge and resources to pursue a higher education. Hollie’s goal is to help refugees attend college, which diversifies student bodies at top universities.
Students at Ohio State work with Hollie to mentor refugee high school students as they apply to college and, in the process, learn about diverse cultures. Students in Hollie’s classes also conduct community projects that facilitate similar learning experiences. For instance, her Global Criminology students interviewed refugee families about their experiences integrating into central Ohio.
Whether she’s working with Refuge or with students in her classroom, Hollie takes open-mindedness and respect to the next level when preparing students so they can help in ways that truly contribute to the well-being of everyone. Part of this involves challenging students to be aware of their own privilege.
“I see a lot of students coming into Ohio State with big ideas on how to save the world,” Hollie said. “I want to encourage them to pursue these ideas after taking the time to learn about the world and while they engage in continual reflection.”
In what she calls her biggest achievement at Ohio State, Hollie created a study abroad program that takes students to Rwanda to learn the causes, impact and aftermath of the genocide.
“Study abroad is particularly impactful because of the great benefit it has on students’ lives and their engagement at Ohio State,” Hollie said. “I’ve seen students shift their life goals after this trip.”
Hollie and Ohio State students visiting a Rwandan Women’s cooperative of women whose husbands were killed in the genocide and women whose husbands participated in it.
Hollie and Ohio State students with people who rescued others during the Rwandan genocide.
The passion for educating about genocide was inspired by a lecture Hollie heard in her undergraduate career on the countries who have experienced genocide, few of which she had heard of before then.
“I was shocked at that lecture because I had little knowledge that genocide had occurred in most of the countries the lecturer spoke about,” Hollie said. “I think it’s important to recognize genocide continues to happen and that extreme discrimination affects people worldwide on a daily basis.”
Hollie’s desire to provide more students with access to education motivates her to serve underrepresented students like refugees and strengthens her commitment to Ohio State’s mission of education for all.
“Education is a human right and I like how Ohio State supports this right by providing opportunities that make education more accessible for people from different backgrounds,” Hollie said.
Known by her colleagues and students as a compassionate person and selfless educator, Hollie reflects Ohio State’s dedication to excellence and diversity.
For her accomplishments and unwavering commitment to diversity, Hollie was recognized with a 2019 Distinguished Diversity Enhancement Award.