by Anna Roy
Christine Broussard describes her new job teaching biology at the University of La Verne as something she feels passionate about, though right now, she said she is still adjusting.
Broussard, one of nearly 30 new faculty members to start this fall, comes to ULV from the National Institutes of Health in Washington D.C., an umbrella organization of many different research centers.
There, she did post doctoral research at the National Cancer Institute and the National Human Genome Research Institute.
“I think that I was a good scientist at the NIH, but I wasn’t as passionate about it as some of the great scientists, but I am passionate about teaching,” she said.
She tapped into that passion recently when she began volunteering at a local high school, teaching at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Chicago.
“I was interested in being in a slower-paced, more liberal environment,” said Broussard, 33. “I was actually looking into two different types of schools, community colleges and small, liberal arts colleges. I felt that that population of students are those that are less prepared for college or that at least I think they would be a group that I could help the most.”
Then she found out about the University of La Verne.
“I felt like there wasn’t going to be a liberal arts college out there that would let me reach the type of student that I was interested in,” she said.
“La Verne has a focus which is very similar to my own.”
Finding ULV, she said, “Was like being served my ideal school on a silver platter.”
She liked that ULV is classified as a minority-serving institution, in addition to having a strong first generation program and having a large proportion of women students in the science department.
Already, Broussard has contributed to ULV by acquiring equipment from the NIH, through a program called Direct Donation, in which equipment which is not being used by anyone at the NIH becomes available for non-profit institutions throughout the United States.
“If we were to buy it outright, it would be on the order of $100,000,” said Jeff Burkhart, professor of biology. “The equipment will help to upgrade lab facilities with molecular biology coursework, it will allow considerable hands-on learning opportunities for students, will allow her to carry on the active research and will allow our students to be involved in the research as well.”
Broussard’s journey began in Louisiana, where she was born the middle child in a very poor family. “We were at poverty level,” she said.
School was an escape for her, the middle child in a very poor family. “We were at poverty level,” she said.
School was an escape, a place where she received positive reinforcement, it was where she began a love for science.
Growing up, she suffered child abuse, which finally stopped in junior high when a teacher reported it. She does not use what happened to her as any type of excuse.
Broussard believes that being open about this experience will help others who have been through the same.
“I also feel like my life is pretty amazing, with what I’ve lived through already. So I feel very lucky, and part of what helped me survive all the way through that was one of my teacher’s that reported the child abuse and caused it to stop basically,” Broussard said. “And it was also one of my teacher’s, a different teacher who pointed out to me that I could do more than I thought I could.”
After graduating from high school she enrolled at Louisiana State University. She was the first ever in her family to go to college.
During her time there, she focused on classes and work, most intent on succeeding.
“If I had to do it over again, I probably would have gotten more involved. I think that I was so afraid of failing, that I didn’t want to wind up like my parents or my family,” she said.
It wasn’t until later in life, that she began taking on leadership positions.
Broussard remembers carrying an 18 unit load her first semester of college, and not being able to keep up. After dropping a 6-unit course, she began to settle in, while at the same time working three jobs.
Her jobs included positions as resident assistant in the dormitory and teaching assistant in the microbiology department.
While in college, she spent summers researching in Houston, Tex., and Portland, Ore. and graduated with a degree in microbiology, and a minor in zoology and psychology.
She then entered the Master’s Program at the School of Veterinary Medicine at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. There she helped to found a chapter of Beta Beta Beta, a biological honor society.
She earned her doctorate from the University of Texas, at the Southwestern Medical Center.
ULV students and faculty have welcomed her.
“She was at the top of our list, all the way across the board,” said Burkhart. “She has a very strong background in biology, she brings in skills from the research sector and she has not a lot of teaching experience but is a natural teacher.”
Currently, she teaches principles of cell biology and cell immunity.
Broussard taped to her computer at home a piece of paper which says, “It’s never too late to start believing in yourself.”
“In spite of all the things that I’ve accomplished the greatest thing is that I’m starting to believe in myself. That’s the greatest challenge.”