Professor Broussard: This Georgia College Professor Teaches History from a Very Unique Point of View

Not only is Dr. Ray Broussard a UGA/USG eCore History professor still teaching in his 90s, but he’s also a World War II and Korean War veteran. eCampus visits Dr. Broussard’s home in Athens, Georgia for an update on his love of life and teaching.



We last interviewed Dr. Broussard in 2012, when we learned about his time in the Navy, his early teaching days, and his genuine surprise when he realized you really could teach History online. Today, he is not only the oldest, but also one of USG eCore’s most engaging instructors and consistently receives gushing comments from students in his course evaluations-- many who are amazed to learn world and United States history from someone who helped make the history.

At 91 years old, Dr. Broussard and his wife (a retired high school history teacher), haven’t been up for traveling as much, so he invited us to visit with him at his home. We arrived at his peaceful, quaint little house on the Eastside of Athens where he eagerly welcomed us at the door and guided us to the living room. Surrounded by family photos, shelves upon shelves of history books, and various naval memorabilia, we settled in on the couch for our chat. In Dr. Broussard’s own words, “History is not about the future. If any historian starts teaching about the future, stop listening. He is no historian.” Thus, we spent a lot of our time together speaking about his past and what influenced his career in higher education. 

His eyes sparkled as he recalled his early years as a graduate student and one of his professors, Dr. Carlos Castañeda, who was not just a mentor, but “almost like an uncle.” Dr. Castañeda, of whom the Perry-Castañeda Library at the University of Texas at Austin is named, played a central role in the early development of the Benson Latin American Collection there, which is considered one of the world’s foremost repositories of Latin American materials. 

With a double major in History and Spanish on the undergraduate level, Broussard was torn between the two when he reached graduate school. It was due to his close relationship with Castañada that he discovered Latin American Studies. According to Broussard, Latin American studies was really “whatever you want to make out of it; history, literature, and economics…” However, when he reached the doctoral level, he had to choose one because as he puts it, he “couldn’t write a thesis on all three.”

"History is not about the future. If any historian starts teaching you about the future, stop listening... they are no historian."

In his undergraduate years, Broussard spent a lot of time “taking various courses that
interested [him], but not with any particular focus or direction, educationally speaking.” Broussard says that if he could go back and speak to his younger self, he would advise him to “concentrate a little more.” He emphasizes the great importance of students focusing on something that really interests them, and it will come easily. Originally a chemistry major, Broussard found himself struggling to make Cs. However, he was making As in History without “even cracking a book,” he says. 

Today, Broussard’s excitement for history shows as he tells us about the book he is currently reading, Lucky 666: The Impossible Mission, about a B-17 bomber that flew a suicide mission into enemy territory during WWII, at one point making an emergency landing in the jungles of New Guinea. Stories like this one are of particular interest to Broussard because they took place in areas where he was actually stationed during the war.

 “I’m fascinated with what happened; it was an area of New Guinea in the Bismarck Sea. That’s where they were operating, and that’s where I was! On a little island on the Bismarck Archipelago called Manus.” 

While reading the book, he recalled reading in the newspaper at the time (1942-1943) about a new technique developed in the area called “Skip Bombing.” Bombers flew close to the water and dropped bombs onto the water, “skipping” them across the ocean to hit their intended targets. “This book is bringing back a lot of that, and filling in a lot of blanks of information that I didn’t have before.”

During his time of service in WW2, one of the less obvious challenges faced was the lack of sanitary conditions. Meline Bay in the Pacific “was a very miserable time for all of us,” he said. With no soap to clean or wash food trays, gastrointestinal problems were widespread through the troops. “And I’m not going to tell you anymore. It was pretty bad,” he said.

Broussard spoke with conviction as he reflected on the historical uniqueness of America. “This country is different than almost any other country, because of the way it started” during the American Revolution, he said. “They created a government where the people were in control,” but in the last 30 or 40 years, this appears to have become somewhat less certain, he explained.

Broussard’s love of history, country and teaching is what led him to eCore, the University System of Georgia’s online core curriculum (first two years of college). 

“Teaching is something I love to do. The more I did it, the more I loved it. That is why I’m still doing it, and I am grateful that they gave me an opportunity to do it when I couldn’t stand in front of a classroom anymore.” 

Broussard says he decided to retire from the classroom at the University of Georgia when his hearing deteriorated so much that he had trouble hearing his students. “But on the computer—no sound,” he says. Soon, Broussard was approached to teach an eCore history course; he thought it was “simply impossible” to teach online and that “it couldn’t be done.” Seventeen years later, Broussard can’t imagine life without his computer and the ease and convenience it offers him at his age. “I just have to get up to the computer desk and start punching those keys,” he says confidently, but not before revealing he “didn’t know beans about computers” prior to receiving a few lessons. 


Dr. Broussard and his family use Facebook as a form of extended communication.

Broussard has found online learning to be his preferred method of education. In 1966, Broussard had an average of thirty students in a class, but towards the end of his time in face-to-face instruction, he remembered looking out to a lecture hall of two-hundred and fifty students, having little participation. He began to evaluate how effective that form of teaching was, where he was only able to engage twenty percent of the class and found that “that’s not teaching.”

Even in smaller classes, he would find a number of students “scrunched down and not participating.” In online courses, discussion posts are required, which inspire student engagement. Broussard logs on every day to interact with his students, where he has found that most of the discussion in the course is between the student and himself, rather than student to student. He frequently poses challenging questions hoping to encourage his students to reflect deeply and “remember history as a story.”

"It's so good to hear history from somebody who's so old to remember so much of it!"

In addition to being highly engaged with his online students, Dr. Broussard also makes a
concerted effort to sway those who are not history fans. His advice for those who do not enjoy history is to, “just stop back and remember—history is a story. Look for the story.” And it seems that there are some students that appreciate the storytelling style of his online dialogue, as he still recalls a comment from one of his very first eCore course evaluations. “I still remember this one student wrote, ‘It’s good to hear history from somebody who’s so old to remember so much of it!’”

Toward the end of our time together, we asked Dr. Broussard what inspires him to continue teaching. He responded with what he calls his favorite expression, “It keeps my juices going. It gives me something to look forward to every day. You know, when you get along in years there’s not much that keeps you going. Some people just watch television all the time. I’m really not interested in television.” 

Students at most University System of Georgia institutions can enroll and register to take Professor Broussard’s introductory U.S. History course through eCore.


Have you taken eCore History with Dr. Broussard? Share your experience below.

Jessica Blakemore, Mia Bennafield, and Dr. Melanie Clay contributed to this article.  

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