UVU Assistant Professor’s Podcast Teaches History to Thousands


History gets a bad rap.

Utah Valley University Assistant Professor Gregory Jackson says too often the study of the past is labeled as “boring.” He’s proving that assumption wrong on a biweekly basis with a national podcast with an engaging title — “History That Doesn’t Suck” (HTDS). It focuses on American history and brings it to life with lively stories.

At this point, Professor Jackson has around 10,000 listeners. “I can publish an episode that receives more downloads hours after it has been published than research articles, many of which don’t see that kind of light,” he said.

Jackson also enjoys the liberty a podcast provides in how history is shared.

“I really enjoy narrating, making it into a story, which is a difference from teaching in the classroom.”   

Each one-hour episode stands on its own as a story — but taken together they walk the listener through a survey of U.S. history that starts with the Revolution leading to the present day. Throughout the journey, Jackson takes an irreverently educational look at the events that have shaped the nation, including those you would likely find in a textbook, with each wrapped around an interesting person.

“Deciding what to include and what to exclude is the essence of what a historian’s job is. You can’t tell every story or even every version of every story,” he said.

Jackson’s goal is to make the podcast into something that people who don’t typically study history can enjoy. By telling historical events in a narrative-driven format, he said he has a broader reach. 

“I noticed that there was a dearth of podcasts that were produced by real professionals in history. I wanted to focus on giving people quality information. People need a legitimate rigorous source for learning American history.”

Each hour of programming is thoroughly researched, historically accurate, and story-driven. That takes time.  Every episode requires more than 50 hours to research, write, and record. Jackson’s team includes Cielle Salazar as the senior researcher, and Josh Beatty as the producer.

Jackson hopes his listeners will gain a deeper understanding of issues in our nation’s past and how they impact our present. “I look at the fractures that we see today and how understanding history can help people realize that we have more in common than is seen.”

When Jackson started the podcast, he thought it would be similar to teaching, but quickly realized the differences. “It is more like putting together an 8,000-word academic paper and putting it into audio form.”

Jackson has developed many friendships with other hosts of history podcasts. “I didn’t plan on turning into someone who’s kind of in the public sphere making appearances in other shows and then becoming friends with these people. It’s been a pleasant, fun surprise.”

With the attention “History That Doesn’t Suck” has received since its creation in 2017, Jackson is excited to see the growth and the future of the podcast.

“This style of self-education that is happening on the internet, this is the future of education. While other forms will still be relevant, it is exciting that we are entering a world where anyone with an internet connection can get a quality education. I’m excited to be a part of it.”