Breea Clark sat in her Adams Hall office, busily cutting triangles from purple squares of paper. She looked up and smiled.
“I can multitask!” Clark said. “Come on in.”
Clark has been the director of the University of Oklahoma JCPenney Leadership Center since April. The paper triangles were for a crossover event between business and engineering students. The goal of the exercise was for the intermingled students to build a full square out of the triangles without talking. Business and engineering cross paths often, Clark said, so students in these fields must know how to work together
On top of directing the leadership center, Clark is also a city council member and a mother of two. She’s a professional multitasker.
Clark, 35, was born in Wichita, Kansas. She graduated from Wichita State University in 2005 with a degree in political science. When asked why she came to Norman, she said, “Do you want the honest answer?”
Clark had followed a man to Norman — the town where she would become a public figure.
“I was in love with the DJ at a bar,” Clark said. “That’s how I put myself through school — I was a bartender. And he had a child from a previous relationship in Shawnee, and his mother worked at the University of Oklahoma. So, I knew if we were going to have a future, I should really look at Norman, Oklahoma.”
The man Clark followed would become her first husband — her “practice husband.” She is now remarried to her high school sweetheart and has two sons: one from each marriage.
After moving to Norman, Clark said she knew she wanted to attend law school at OU but was initially waitlisted. She called every day until she got in.
“I was the first person off the waitlist, and then I made dean’s honor roll first semester,” Clark said. “So I think they made a good choice.”
Academic integrity and city council
Clark started working for the OU provost’s office in her last year of law school. At this point, the Office of Academic Integrity didn’t exist, and the process for academic integrity cases was complicated.
In 2008, when Clark had graduated and passed the bar exam, she said the job market was oversaturated with lawyers. She didn’t want to work 80-hour weeks when the economy was bad.
“So I kind of pitched like, well, what if we had a full-time person who did nothing but academic integrity?” Clark said. “And they started me off with a 30-hour position a week.”
Clark, who was also practicing family law part time, then wrote a memo comparing OU to other Big 12 schools, most of which had an academic integrity office.
“And the moral of the story is if you want a job at OU, find a way that we’re lacking compared to Oklahoma State,” Clark said.
In 2009, Clark was offered a full-time position working with academic integrity issues, and the Office of Academic Integrity was born.
“I helped to create an office at a big institution,” Clark said. “And not many people can say that.”
Will Spain worked with Clark in the academic integrity office for six years.
“(Clark) made work fun to be at every day,” Spain said.
Working in the academic intergrity office involves hard work like telling students they’re in trouble for academic misconduct, but Clark always had the courage to do so, Spain said.
“She was never one to shy away from telling students we have high expectations,” Spain said.
Students were often angry after getting in trouble for academic misconduct issues, Spain said, but many students returned to visit Clark after they took her required class. Clark became a guide for the rest of many students’ college experience, Spain said.
“I think that speaks a lot about who (Clark) is as a person,” Spain said.
At the end of 2015, Clark’s mentor urged her to run for the Ward 6 seat in Norman City Council. Clark said she felt like she had made enough connections in the community and knew enough about Norman to perform the job well, so she decided to try. Six months of campaigning later, Clark had won the seat.
She didn’t draw an opponent when her first term was over.
“Apparently, I’m doing an OK enough job where no one felt the need to run against me,” Clark said. “And so (I) automatically got a second term, and here we are.”
Norman Mayor Lynne Miller has known Clark since Clark was elected. Miller said Clark is excellent at getting large amounts of work done in a short time, researching relevant issues and managing her busy life.
“I think (Clark) is a really good example for other young women in that she seems to do a good job as a wife and a mother and a professional woman, and then she does this big volunteer job as well, which is what the council is,” Miller said. “She seems to be able to juggle things really well.”
JCPenney Leadership Center
In April 2018, Clark accepted the offer to direct the OU JCPenney Leadership Center.
Clark has called herself an “outsider” to the program because she does not hold a business degree. But her existing relationships within the business college and her passion for community engagement make up for it, she said.
“One thing I just really love about this position is it’s a great intertwining of my commitment to my community and public service and my commitment to leadership and mentoring,” Clark said.
The 25-year-old center helps “high performing” business students network and develop their leadership potential through networking opportunities and events, according to its website.
“It’s a phenomenal group of leaders who have a ridiculous amount of potential,” Clark said. “I get to hang out with these young people . . . so it’s really neat to be able to share my experience and my connections and my network to help them go even further.”
The program focuses less on previous involvement and more on potential, Clark said. She said the time commitment is heavy, and students who are already spread thin may not be accepted.
“I don’t want to say that we’re in an elitist program because we’re not — you know how big I am on diversity,” Clark said. “But out of the 138 applications, we took 50, which is a 36 percent acceptance rate.”
Clark said her vision for the leadership program is to use OU’s diversity to benefit the university and the Norman community.
“I would say my vision is to capitalize on our diversity. Not just to say, ‘this is our diversity,’ but what are we doing with it?”