What Sociology professor, Nicole Lambert, loves most about teaching at MassBay is the connection she has with her students, having the opportunity to provide service to the community, and sharing her passion for sociology to help students understand the world. A community college student herself, Professor Lambert finds her education and career journey has truly taken her “full circle.” She explains, “I really can relate to our students in their pursuit of an education. My pathway was similar to theirs. I am a first-generation college student, and I attended a junior college because it was close to home and affordable. I transferred to a four-year public university for my bachelor’s and master’s degree program, and then earned my Ph.D. My parents didn’t go to college, so I’m a first-generation student like many of our students at MassBay—I’ve walked that similar path.”
Growing up in a small town in Ohio, Professor Lambert first attended a community college that was part of the Kent State University system in her hometown. She transferred to the University of Toledo where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology with a minor in Creative Writing. She continued at the University of Toledo to earn her Master of Arts in Sociology. While at the university, she taught undergraduate classes in sociology, which she says prepared her for the classroom with hands-on experience. From there, Professor Lambert attended the University of Colorado Boulder to earn her Ph.D. in Sociology. Professor Lambert has taught at the University of Colorado, Front Range Community College, Owens Community College, and University of Toledo before moving across country to teach here at MassBay.
“What I like most about teaching is having the opportunity to demonstrate and communicate with students the concepts and subjects that make me really excited. I try to find how students learn best and teach subjects in a way that gets them interested. I enjoy sharing my passion for learning and the subject matter. I believe the ways in which we, as professors, function in the classroom is a service role. We are providing a service to students. They take our classes, they learn and grow, and then they go out into the world to use that education to discover themselves. It’s so gratifying to watch them further their education and apply what they’ve learned.”
Professor Lambert has taught for close to a dozen years at five institutions and has found the most rewarding and inspirational part of her job is bonding with her students. “I remember a student from my Drugs and Society class who emailed me after the class had ended for the semester, saying that our class had given him perspective into people who are addicted to drugs. The course had—in his words—taught him to be more understanding, and he now thinks of addiction in a different way because we had talked about the relationship between trauma and addiction. He went on to explain he had a family member who was struggling with addiction and how my class helped him understand more than what was happening on the surface. When I received that email, with him sharing aspects of his life that are so deeply personal…it’s a meaningful thing.”
Focusing much of her teaching and research on race and ethnic relations and social inequality, she enjoys connecting with her students about their experiences inside and outside the classroom. “I remember at the University of Colorado, I was teaching the course U.S. Race and Ethnic Relations. During one of my classes, we discussed a neighborhood in Denver called Five Points, which was historically a black neighborhood, but has starting changing over the years as a result of gentrification. After class, a couple of black women in the class approached me to thank me for talking about the neighborhood, where one of them had grown up. It was a standout experience for me in my career, especially when they explained that they do not feel as if people tell that story–their story. It was powerful and my students felt they were validated, that they were heard and seen.”
Professor Lambert’s career and her teaching approach was influenced by one of her graduate professors from the University of Colorado, Dr. Janet Jacobs. “Something I learned that has stayed with me and that I have implemented in my classroom in teaching my students is to look for new, unexplored information by understanding the ideas and concepts that have already been discovered and researched. I was taught in graduate school to always critique and analyze everything and to always look for what is missing in previous research. Professor Jacobs taught me to look at the history of a theoretical perspective and appreciate all the foundational work that already had been done. In my classes, I take that approach, having students look at classical theories, engaging them on the tools the theorists gave us to understand modern life and reminding them of how far we have come since those initial assumptions. When I explain this perspective in my classes, it allows students to understand that classical theories are still relevant in their lives, and they can find their own examples and learn to appreciate the subject matter that much more.”
When Professor Lambert isn’t teaching her courses, she keeps busy by contributing her expertise and research. In 2019, she published a co-authored book chapter titled, “Intimate Silences and Inequality: Noticing the Unsaid Through Triangulation” in Qualitative Studies of Silence: The Unsaid as Social Action, based on her dissertation research on immigration and trauma. Professor Lambert was recently selected as a 2019-2020 W.E.B DuBois Community College Faculty Fellow at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, a program which focuses on issues of race, social justice, and diversity, with activities ranging from workshops to trainings.