About the series: On Main Hall Green With … is an opportunity to connect with faculty on things in and out of the classroom. We’re featuring a different Lawrence faculty member each time — same questions, different answers.
Jason Brozek is seemingly everywhere on the Lawrence University campus.
The Stephen Edward Scarff Professor of International Affairs and associate professor of government is a highly respected professor in Government as well as the interdisciplinary departments of Global Studies and Environmental Studies. He chairs the latter, which launched an Environmental Science major earlier this year. And he’s playing a lead role in developing a soon-to-be-announced International Relations major.
Brozek serves as a special assistant to the president and was recently named one of the co-leads for a campus-wide guiding coalition charged with visioning Lawrence’s future.
He recently helped launch and lead the Social & Environmental Justice Cohort summer internship program, which debuted this summer in collaboration with a bevy of nonprofit organizations in the Milwaukee metro area.
Off campus, Brozek has been an advocate in the Fox Valley for environmental justice and bicycle-related safety and growth, serving on the Outagamie County Greenway Implementation Committee and Appleton Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee. He also is a member of the Appleton Library Board.
In his spare time, he runs ultramarathons.
Brozek joined the Lawrence faculty in 2008, specializing in international security, global climate politics, water conflict, and international law. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Wayne State College and a master’s degree and Ph.D. in political science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
We caught up with Brozek to talk about interests in and out of the classroom.
In the classroom
Inside info: What’s one thing you want every student coming into your classes to know about you?
This is my 13th year at LU and my 20th year teaching college students, and I love it—but I still get nervous before every single class. Some of that is probably lingering imposter syndrome—it’s only a matter of time before everyone realizes I’m a fraud!—but I think it’s also because I genuinely, deeply care about what my students get out of our classes together.
Getting energized: What work have you done or will you be doing at Lawrence that gets you the most excited?
Right now, at this very moment, I’m just jazzed to be back in the classroom again after four terms of teaching with Zoom. But bigger picture, I’ve started working with a group of folks from every slice of the Lawrence community on a project about envisioning LU’s future. We’re just getting started, but after 18-plus months of pandemic, I think there’s a lot of people who are ready to think big about charting a course for the future. What do we want Lawrence to be, what can we achieve together, and how do we get from here to there?
Going places: Is there an example of somewhere your career has taken you (either a physical space or something more intellectual, emotional or spiritual) that took you by surprise?
It still feels surreal sometimes that I’ve had the chance to take dozens and dozens of students to China over the last 10 years. I was a first-generation college student who grew up on a family farm in Nebraska, and studying abroad was never an option for me. No one encouraged me to think about it, and even if they had, the price tag would have made it a non-starter. Eighteen-year-old me would be gobsmacked. I’m hoping we can nail down the funding to get back to international study trips the moment it’s safe again.
Out of the classroom
This or that: If you weren’t teaching for a living, what would you be doing?
Ha! I honestly don’t know. Maybe something in city planning? That seems like a pretty big leap from international politics, but there’s something really tangible and powerful about libraries, parks, and bike paths. Fortunately, Appleton is a place where I can dip my toes in that a bit; so I’m not a city planner, but you can definitely find me at Council meetings arguing about stuff like giving away public space to parking.
Right at home: Whether for work, relaxation or reflection, what’s your favorite spot on campus?
Maybe it’s a cliched, too-easy answer, but I honestly love walking by the river. LU had its back turned to the water for a long, long time and we’ve only started embracing the Fox River in the last 10 to 15 years. It’s such a gem, and I hope we keep pivoting our physical campus toward the water as we build and expand.
One book, one recording, one film: Name one of each that speaks to your soul? Or you would recommend to a friend? Or both?
Sci-fi and pop culture tell stories about politics that no other medium can, and I’m a huge proponent of taking them seriously. For example, Octavia Butler’s reflection on climate change and capitalism in the dystopian sci-fi book Parable of the Sower is something everybody should read. And I don’t know of anything as high profile as Falcon and the Winter Soldier that’s tackling the intersection of race and patriotism/nationalism. Doing it through the lens of Marvel superheroes means there’s a lot of new folks wrestling with the question of what it means for a Black man, Sam Wilson, to carry the shield of Captain America. Sure, it’s a Disney+ show with a tie-in action figure line, but it’s also like a contemporary version of Frederick Douglass’s “What, to the Slave, is the Fourth of July?” I’m also a podcast dork, and I can’t recommend the series This Land highly enough. It’s by Rebecca Nagle, a member of Cherokee Nation, and the series is about constitutional law, Native America rights, and tribal policies in the U.S.