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Bob's Story

Dr. Surbrug is a history professor and the director of the Honors Program at Bay Path University. A native of New Jersey, he received his bachelor's in history from Rutgers University and his master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

“My understanding of diversity is always evolving. It includes a lot of things: gender, race, sexual identity, class. What makes us different enriches life. Looking at the arc of history, we have been making halting progress towards a true Democracy, which is inclusive of everyone. That’s what diversity means to me.

My love of history was shaped by growing up in New Jersey during the ‘70s and ‘80s. The Vietnam War had been all-consuming and divided the country. The Civil Rights Movement, the Hippie Counter-Culture, Watergate, and fear of nuclear war were the backdrop to my childhood. I saw these two Americas that hated each other. I was very aware of it, even as I was doing normal kid stuff like building ramps and jumping off of them with my bike.

History is a way to understand all of the chaos in the world. It’s a really valuable subject because if you can understand history, then maybe you can change history for the better. A high school teacher of mine encouraged me to follow that passion.

While I pursued my bachelor’s degree in history at Rutgers University, I became heavily involved in activism. We protested against apartheid in South Africa, U.S intervention in Central America, and government indifference to the AIDs crisis.

I then went to the University of Massachusetts, Amherst for both my master’s and doctorate degrees because they had a good history department. I really fell in love with Western Massachusetts. There’s the rural countryside, but you also have progressive artsy towns and cities.

While I was getting my doctorate, I became an adjunct faculty member at Bay Path. Their full-time history professor had left, and they invited me to apply. I got the job. Soon after, they asked me to take over the Honors Program. I wanted to make a good impression, so I said, “Sure, I’ll do it,” and I’ve been running it ever since.

I truly love teaching at Bay Path. The fact that it’s small and you get to know everyone reminds me of my childhood growing up in a small town. Similar to myself, I also like that a lot of the students are first-generation college students. Many students come from class backgrounds similar to my own.

When I’m not teaching, I take Tai Chi classes--- the meditation kind, not the martial arts. I also go to the Y to swim. I’m a big fan of film noir and horror movies. I’ve done a lot of traveling, both on my own time and with Bay Path’s One America program. Savannah, Georgia, is a favorite location of mine. I visited Germany as a student during the Cold War, which was fascinating because we had to go through barbed wire and checkpoints to get to the other side of the Berlin Wall. I’ve been to Hawaii, which was absolutely beautiful. But I’d have to say that the most impressive place I’ve been to is the Grand Canyon, as cliche as that may be.”