Being raised with a deep sense of responsibility for the welfare of others led Dr. Kelly Brotzman to earn a PhD in ethics, and ultimately into the classroom. While she enjoyed teaching, she’d always hoped the reach of her work would extend further.
“I was headed toward a career in which I would have a big impact on students, but not a big impact on the real world and the real things out there that happen and that are deeply unjust,” she said.
Over the years, Dr. Brotzman has sought to merge her scholarly self with her activist self.
In her new position as the founding executive director of the Martin Richard Institute for Social Justice she’ll have ample opportunity to do just this.
Dr. Brotzman was born in the Philippines. A proudly self-proclaimed “Air Force brat,” she moved around constantly as a child.
“I lived in about ten different homes before I left for college,” she said. These peripatetic years gave her a wider perspective on the world, and helped her adapt to new situations. It also taught this introvert how to speak her mind and work with a diverse range of people.
President Frederick W. Clark Jr., in announcing Dr. Brotzman’s selection to the campus, said: “Throughout our storied history, our community of educators and administrators have strived to ensure that all students have an opportunity to receive an outstanding college education and fulfill their highest potential. In bearing the name of Martin Richard, the Institute for Social Justice has a special responsibility to Martin, his family, and to the larger community. Kelly Brotzman is the ideal leader to forge that responsibility into meaningful action toward the advancement of social justice.”
Dr. Brotzman previously served on the faculty of the Shepherd Program for the Interdisciplinary Study of Poverty and Human Capability at Washington and Lee University. There she taught several courses on domestic and global poverty, and also supported and advised students engaged in different kinds of anti-poverty work.
Prior to that she’d served as director of the Office of Community Engaged Learning, Teaching and Scholarship at Loyola University in New Orleans from 2008-2014. In that role, she started and directed a nationally recognized community engagement office, and worked with faculty from nearly every department in incorporating community-based learning into their courses and the curriculum; cultivated and managed scores of partnerships with community-based organizations at the local, national and international levels; secured substantial grants; and led a rigorous process in obtaining Carnegie Community Engagement Classification for Loyola.
She received her B.A. in English literature and religion at Washington and Lee, and earned an M.A. in religious studies and a PhD in ethics from the University of Chicago.
Dr. Brotzman believes that, career-wise, she’s had the best of both worlds.
“I’ve found a way to keep my foot planted in the real world, with the other in the university environment,” she said.
Attracting her to the position at the Richard Institute was Bridgewater’s institutional commitment to social justice and its bold use of the term in naming the institute.
“I thought how refreshing it was to see a public institution asserting the importance of social justice,” she said. “If I was ever to summarize what gets me up in the morning it’s social justice.”
The other attraction was being the founding head of the institute.
“I like starting things,” Dr. Brotzman said. “I like the creativity that I can tap in to, and working with the campus community.
“We have a huge opportunity to do amazing things, and begin to discern the shape of what direction we should take the institute in,” she said. “And that’s really exciting.” (Story and photo by John Winters, G1’11, University News & Media)