The Exponent - Purdue's
By Clare Walters
On the surface, forestry and cheerleading don't seem to have a natural connection, but attending an Indianapolis Colts game could soon double as an extra credit opportunity for forestry students.
Shorna Broussard, assistant professor of forestry and natural resources, is beginning her rookie season as a cheerleader for the Colts and is considering accepting a one-page game summary from her students for bonus points.
All joking aside, the professor has the challenge of balancing her time between her profession and her pastime ? but Broussard is used to the busyness.
"I have always taken on a lot of things at one time," she said. "It just takes a little extra planning."
For biweekly cheerleading practices on Wednesday and Thursday evenings in Indianapolis, Broussard has to pack her day's worth of clothing and food ahead of time. The challenge and a commitment that coincides with cheering have proven to be a viable outlet and stress reliever for Broussard.
"While my colleagues are going to soccer practice with their kids, I have this," she said.
Despite the fact she had never been a cheerleader before, Broussard initially started thinking about auditioning for the Colts after reading an article in her sorority's publication. The article discussed a former Colts cheerleader and mother of two who had commuted to games and practices from Kentucky. With an "if she can do this, so could I" attitude, Broussard went to auditions with the idea that she was going to make it.
"I went in thinking, 'this is mine to lose'," she said.
Broussard, who has always danced or been involved in gymnastics, made the squad after the intensive tryout process. She was then given an exciting opportunity to perform.
April Smith, director of Colts Cheerleading, said the squad strives to obtain mature and ambitious women and Broussard demonstrated these strong qualities.
Broussard is impressed by the group's cohesiveness and mentoring strategies. She is also excited to be a part of a cheerleading program that she considers very professional.
"I hope to promote that image in the community," Broussard said.
As a cheerleader, she will be able to be involved in community service ? something that has always been one of Broussard's interests. She will have numerous opportunities over the course of the year as the squad participates in fundraisers and charity events. Smith said that even though the squad is from Indianapolis, they engage in community service activities across the state.
Broussard said the funny part of becoming a Colts cheerleader is having her coworkers at Purdue find out. Dale Whittaker, associate dean and director of academic programs in the School of Agriculture, was one of the first department employees to discover Broussard's pastime.
Whittaker's daughter and Broussard dance at the same local studio, where an announcement congratulating Broussard on her newest accomplishment was posted. Whittaker said that his initial reaction was to investigate if the cheerleader mentioned was "the same Shorna Broussard" he knew.
When his suspicions were confirmed, he said, "My second reaction was 'Wow, I'm impressed.'"
Whittaker then sent a congratulatory email to Broussard and asked her if she was keeping her new cheerleading career a secret. Broussard said she wasn't.
Whittaker believes Broussard's cheerleading achievement says a great deal about her ability to balance her life. She is aware of her creative talents and interests and she is also very good professor and researcher.
"She's one of our young stars," said Whittaker.
Broussard's main area of research is human interaction with the natural environment. She teaches three courses ? two dealing with the human dimensions in natural resources and one in natural resource policy.
Broussard became initially involved in forestry because of her interests in the environment, but soon found out that forestry presented her with broad possibilities. Broussard's current position has allowed her to mesh natural resources with socialization and the arts.
"I think there is a definite connection between natural resources and the arts," she said. "It's a really interesting link."
At Oregon State University ? where she received her doctorate degree ? Broussard worked on a project called Art About Forestry. The project used art as a way to communicate natural resource issues to people who wouldn't seek them out otherwise. Broussard said working with those individuals and having them make the connection between art and natural resources were some of the most exciting aspects of her occupation.
"I love my job," she said. "I find it really rewarding. I'm really interested in making a difference."
Broussard said her move from Oregon to Purdue over two years ago was a challenge because Indiana's environmental issues are significantly different than Oregon's. But, learning about Indiana's mixed landscape was a challenge Broussard readily accepted.
After receiving her Ph.D., Broussard looked for positions at some southern schools as well as Purdue. Broussard is from Texas, and she considers herself "a southern girl at heart," hoping to return to the South.
"Purdue was the wildcard for me," said Broussard. "But, after I interviewed here I knew it was the place for me."
Broussard was attracted to the forestry and natural resources department because of its forward thinking and interdisciplinary projects.
Perpetuating interests in interdisciplinary activities, Broussard is in the process of developing a new class for the spring of 2004 with the landscape architecture and hospitality and tourism management departments. The class will use a real local issue ? the U.S. 231 reroute ? as an opportunity to compile viewpoints pertinent to all three departments.
Broussard is using the summer to prepare herself for the upcoming school year and football season. She has already learned three new routines with the cheerleading squad and is preparing for the two classes she will be teaching this fall.
"My time is pretty much accounted for," she said.
Broussard hopes to continue cheerleading for a couple of years. She is looking forward to her first game, where she will be cheering in front of 50,000 people. She anticipates being "a good nervous." She is also eager for the Houston Texans game, when her family will be in the stands.
"The ticket sales will probably double because my family will all be here," she said.
Broussard's family has been very supportive of her and can't wait to see one of her performances, she said.
Cheerleading aside, Broussard's No. 1 goal is to obtain tenure.
"I think I'm making good progress to that goal," she said.
Whittaker said the best people in the world, and Purdue's faculty, know how to balance their lives. And certainly, Broussard doesn't have any qualms about balancing hers.