The experiences of a Vietnam veteran came to life at Mississippi School of the Arts via online video conferencing. Students in Mrs. Vickie Malone’s fall semester US History class had the opportunity to listen and participate in open discussion with Dr. Randall O’Brien, a former sergeant of the United States Army.
Now retired, O’Brien is a McComb, MS native living in the state of Iowa. He became the 22nd president of Carson-Newman University in 2008. Prior to that, O’Brien served Baylor University from 1991-2008. He is a graduate of Southwest Mississippi Community College, Mississippi College, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Yale Divinity School, and Harvard University programs. He has an extensive Curriculum Vitae, having completed a successful career in ministry and post-secondary education.
The class used television and web conferencing equipment to connect remotely to O’Brien over the world wide web. “My goal is to have this type of technology available in classrooms so that instructors can connect remotely to anyone in the world and bring real-life experiences to their desks. Technology takes away the barrier of traveling long distances to hear stories like those shared by Dr. Randall O’Brien. We’re simply re-inventing the classroom, where these types of experiences will become the norm. This is just the beginning.” said Patrick Brown, technology coordinator at Mississippi School of the Arts.
Students wrote down questions and took turns asking Dr. O’Brien about his experiences in the trenches of Vietnam. “This was a different type of war America had never seen. You didn’t know who was the enemy and who wasn’t,” he said. “You knew who the North Vietnamese were, because they wore uniforms, but the Viet Cong didn’t.”
“Dr. Randall O’Brien agreed to join my US History class today via Skype to share his experiences as a veteran of the Vietnam War. It was a powerful experience for us all. Thank you for contributing to the development of these young people. We will not soon forget.” wrote Vickie Malone in a Facebook post.
O’Brien suggested several books to read to get true experiences of the war, which included watching the PBS docuseries “The Vietnam War” by Ken Burns.
Dr. O’Brien served two years, active, between 1970-1971 and U.S. Army Reserves, Inactive, 1971-76.