Social justice scholar

Hollie Nyseth Brehm, ’08, will receive the Rada Distinguished Alumnus Award.

’08 grad respected in sociology, criminology

Editor’s note: This is the sixth and final in a series of articles recognizing alumni receiving distinguished service awards in September 2017.

She’s published ground-breaking research. She’s impacted hundreds of college students. She’s influenced communities through grassroots social justice.

Hollie Nyseth Brehm, ’08, will receive the Rada Distinguished Alumnus Award.

Hollie Nyseth Brehm has accomplished much since earning her bachelor’s degree at UWL in 2008. And in her three short years as an assistant professor in sociology at The Ohio State University, she has earned numerous accolades there, too.

Brehm was the youngest faculty member ever to receive the OSU Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching given to no more than 10 faculty campuswide. Students also gave her the College of Arts and Sciences Outstanding Teaching Award awarded to one of the more than 500 faculty in the college.

Brehm shares her talents and expertise with more than just students and faculty. She is credited for starting a Minneapolis-based high school for refugees when she was 22. She’s given a popular TEDx talk on eradicating genocide. Also, she was asked to join a 15-scholar member federal task force dedicated to predicting global instability.

“She shares them [talents] with the public and indeed the world,” notes David Pellow of the University of California who served as her dissertation chair. “We are all better off because of her indefatigable drive to improve society.”

Brehm is internationally respected for her expertise in Rwanda where she spent four months researching her dissertation and has returned six times. Nicole Fox, who has worked with Brehm on several projects, says Brehm creates an environment in which those she interviews feel respected and validated.

“She is the most detailed, thoughtful and intelligent person I have ever worked with,” says Fox.

The Hollie Nyseth Brehm file

  • Assistant professor of sociology, The Ohio State University, since 2014.
  • Ohio State Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching, College of Arts and Science Outstanding Teaching Award, 2016.
  • Best Dissertation Award, University of Minnesota, 2015.
  • Named to the inaugural list of “30 Top Thinkers Under 30” by Pacific Standard.
  • Master’s (2012) and doctorate (2014) in sociology from University of Minnesota.
  • Double majors, sociology and political science; double minors, international studies and Spanish, from UWL, 2008.

The 6 receiving distinguished alumni awards

Alumni being honored for distinguished service and successful careers return to campus in fall. They will speak with students and participate in a panel at 2 p.m. Friday, Sept. 22, in the Great Hall, Cleary Alumni & Friends Center. An Alumni Awards Brunch and Ceremony is planned for 9 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 23. Get ticket information:

Awards and honorees include:

The Maurice O. Graff Distinguished Alumnus Award

Recognizes outstanding achievement of alumni who have brought honor and distinction to the university. Long-time administrator Maurice O. Graff instituted the honor in 1977.

  • Shelmina Abji, ’85

Rada Distinguished Alumnus Award

Recognizes alumni who have graduated within the last 20 years, achieved professional distinction and taken part in humanitarian activities. Professor emeritus Ron Rada and his wife, Jane, created the award in 2002.

  • Hollie Nyseth Brehm, ’08
  • Patrick Gonzales, ’05

Parker Distinguished Multicultural Alumni Award

Recognizes outstanding alumni who have contributed greatly to improve multiracial culture and understanding on campus and in their careers. History Professor Emeritus James Parker initiated the award in 1997.

  • Jessica Rae, ’05

Burt and Norma Altman Teacher Education Award

Honors and recognizes outstanding educators and the significant contributions they make to children and communities. Professor Emeritus Burt Altman and his wife, Norma, long-time supporters of teacher education, created the award in 2015.

  • Lisa Koenecke, ’91
  • Christopher Gleason, ’02