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In a Class All Her Own

Professor of Sociology Brenda Wilhelm, PhD, earns Distinguished Faculty Award

Brenda Wilhelm, PhD, is this year’s Distinguished Faculty for her dedication and service to Colorado Mesa University. Wilhelm received dual bachelor’s degrees in sociology and mass communication from the University of Minnesota. She went on to earn her master’s and doctorate in sociology from the University of Arizona, as well as a postdoctoral fellowship at the Population Center of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. She’s always loved school — Wilhelm said that being on a college campus, around the energy of young people all day, is a dream job.

 She began her career at CMU as an assistant professor of sociology in August 2000, and 21 years later, Wilhelm believes there is no better place than college to teach a diverse group of students the importance of understanding society and its people.

 “I’m the luckiest person in the world to be able to teach sociology at the college level because everything is interesting!”

 A shy girl growing up, Wilhelm didn’t think she would ever be up in front of a group of people teaching. In graduate school, she contracted Valley fever (walking pneumonia) and had to teach her first class. She set the bar low for herself because she was so ill, but her lesson was well-received by the class. It was that moment she was hooked.

 Focusing on undergraduate students, and particularly those not necessarily from privileged backgrounds, is what attracted Wilhelm to CMU. It’s where she felt she could make the most difference.

“I spent much of my career creating, shaping and trying to make this major as useful as possible for students.”

And a rewarding career it has been. Wilhelm has been the sociology program coordinator at CMU since 2011 and has served on numerous committees throughout her tenure including as the faculty trustee.  


Brenda Wilhelm, PhD

Years at CMU: 21

Hometown: Brookfield, Wisconsin

Favorite place visited: Tucson, Arizona

Hobbies: Hiking and learning to play piano from an app and keyboard

Most memorable book: Freedom Summer, authored by her mentor, Doug McAdam

Favorite accomplishment: Her family — she is married with two step kids and two dogs

Favorite class to teach: No favorite, she loves them all!


Written by Heather Portenier