Nicole Breazeale in office

Community & Leadership Development is excited to welcome Dr. Nicole Breazeale to our Big Blue Family. Coming to us from just down the road at Western Kentucky University, we're excited for her energy to join CLD. Dr. Breazeale is coming onto our team in CLD as an Associate Extension Professor. In efforts to get to know a little bit more about her, we've posed a few questions. Read her answers below!

Who inspires you?

"I'm currently obsessed with the hip-hop infused musical based on the life of Alexander Hamilton. Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote and starred in Hamilton, and it is storytelling at its very best. It is historically accurate, incredibly dramatic, hilarious, uplifting, tragic, brilliantly written, cast to reflect America's diversity, and packed full of life lessons and complex themes. The entire show is sung and rapped from start to finish, so you can discover new surprises every time you listen to the album. Miranda's musical speaks to current day issues affecting our democracy and political economy, but also challenges us to embrace "our shot," claim our voice, and do what we can to make a difference in this society: "Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?"         

What do you like most about Kentucky?

"I was raised in Lexington, Kentucky and feel very blessed to be hired as a professor in the Department of Community & Leadership Development at UK, which is where I completed my MA degree almost 20 years ago.  My first job after I completed that degree was with the newly minted HEEL (Health Education through Extension Leadership) program, so I am back to my Extension roots as well. I lived for a spell outside of Hazard in 1999 (Chavies, KY), and I've been working in Glasgow and Bowling Green as a Sociology professor at Western Kentucky University for the last seven years, so I have had an opportunity to get to know many different parts of our lovely state. What I love most about Kentucky is our connection and commitment to place -- and to the environment and people who sustain it."

What’s the greatest bit of advice a parent or mentor has given you?

"I know it's hard to believe right now, but eventually all will be well, all will be well."

"These words were uttered by a dear friend, mentor, and spiritual advisor, Sister Claire McGowan, founder of the New Pioneers for a Sustainable Future in Washington County, after the tragic death of my beloved young husband, Phil Johnson, from brain cancer."

What’s the last book you read?

"My son, Alexander, is six years old and my favorite part of the day is reading to him at night. We are working our way through several books right now, including the end of our Roald Dahl stint. Also, I recently got remarried so our bedtime reading routine has expanded to include James Patterson's "I, Funny" series along with Harry Potter, which I get to enjoy with our amazing older boys."

What’s your favorite part of teaching?

"It's all about awakening the sociological imagination! Also, I love the intensive community projects that are integrated into many of my classes. For example, we partnered with the Barren County Detention Center and the wider community on Breaking Ground: A Sustainable Jail Garden and Food Justice Project. I taught undergraduates and incarcerated women together in my 2016 Sociology of Agriculture and Food class. We learned about the strengths and challenges of the contemporary food system and then built a 3/4 acre permaculture garden that flanked the facility and provided fresh produce to the jail."

What’s your learning style?

"I like collaborative, hands-on learning. At Swarthmore College, I started a non-profit program for adolescent girls with six of my closest friends. That early experience of self-directed, creative, collaborative, applied, action-focused learning around a social problem that we had a personal stake in was nothing short of transformative."

Describe yourself in 6 words.

"Passionate, committed, high-strung, bubbly, intellectually curious, resilient"

If you were a crayon, what color would you be?

"Multicolored! Fun effects twistable Crayola crayons, if you really want to know...."

Who was your favorite teacher in school and how did they impact you?

"I have had many extraordinary and inspiring teachers and mentors over the years. Most recently, it is my students at WKU who have been my greatest teachers. They have exhibited tremendous courage in the telling of their own personal stories of hardship and growth to a public audience in order to motivate action. They haven't stopped there, either, but have continued to stay the course and be the change-makers they dream of being. I have learned to be bolder and more vulnerable in my work and personal life because of their influence."