| John Strait
Department of Environmental and Geosciences
P.O. Box 2148
Huntsville, TX 77341
Professor of Geography
Urban Geography; Geographies of Race, Ethnicity & Music; Diaspora Studies
I am a broadly trained human geographer specializing in sociocultural, urban, and ethnic geographies. I’ve yearned to learn about and explore the world since I can remember, and now share these yearnings by serving as a Professor of Geography. I earned my BA degree in Geography and Urban Studies from Wittenberg University (Ohio), my MA degree in Geography from Georgia State University (Atlanta, Georgia), and my Ph. D from the University of Georgia (Athens, Georgia).
At SHSU, I currently serve as the Assistant Chair of the Department of Environmental and Geosciences, and the Coordinator of the Geography Program. I also serve as the faculty sponsor of GOSH (Geographers of Sam Houston), the campus-wide organization comprised of student geographers. I regularly teach the following courses: GEOG 1300 (People, Place & Environment); GEOG 1401 (Weather & Climate); GEOG 3350 (Cultural Geography); GEOG 4356 (Urban Geography); GEOG 4360 (Cultural Field Study: Music, Civil Rights, & Place in the Birthplace of the Blues); and GEOG 4076 (The Mixed Plate: Cultural & Environmental Diversity of Hawai’i).
My main research and teaching interests lie at the intersections of racial and ethnic identities, urban residential dynamics, diaspora studies and the geographic dimensions of social movements and the ways they manifest via music, visual arts, urban street art, and religion. I possess strong interests in the geography and culture of music, particularly blues culture and music, and in the geographical dimensions of the Great Migration and the civil rights movement, including the black freedom movement. My recent work has investigated connections between social movements and issues of environmental and cultural sustainability by focusing on the evolution of the indigenous movement of resistance across Hawaii and New Zealand. This works entails disentangling cultural and environmental connections between the indigenous roots of the Hawaiian Renaissance Movement and ethnic-based social movements seen throughout the continental United States, exemplified by the Black Panther Party, the Young Lords, and the American Indian Movement (AIM).
Additional ongoing research endeavors orient around two related streams of geographical inquiry. One focuses on the intersections of racial & ethnic identity, neighborhood experiences, and the spatial realization of socioeconomic disadvantage. These interests have led me to study the impacts of neighborhood-level poverty on health disparities between racial and ethnic groups. A second research interest focuses on integrating place-based approaches with community engagement through immersive field experiences, aimed at enhancing geographic education. This research interest has led to collaborative projects focused on artistic and literary representations of the geographical environments from which blues music has evolved, as well as a focus on the transcultural dynamics of urban street art, particularly within Spain, France, Hawaii and Mexico City. I direct field courses and workshops that incorporate this various subject matter, particularly as they pertain to the U.S. South, the Mississippi Delta, Hawaii, Spain and Morocco. These endeavors integrate the “pedagogy of place,” an educational philosophy and methodology that enriches conventional classroom instruction by utilizing specific “places” as pedagogical resources or “texts.”
See SAM Today Story: Sam Students Celebrate Life Of Delta Blues Legend
SAM Today Story: Growth Comes Through Learning In Hawai’i ACE Field Course
See: National Geographic Society-funded project bridging secondary & post-secondary geography curricula; Dr. John B. Strait, Co-PI BUILDING AN ENGAGING PLACE - BASED GEOGRAPHY LEARNING COMMUNITY IN METRO HOUSTON
Beyond my work for SHSU, I have also been heavily involved in directing summer field-based workshops sponsored by the National Endowment for Humanities (NEH) that integrate place-based approaches and are designed for teachers, college faculty or other scholars. I serve as board member for the European Science Institute and am the Editor-in-Chief of the European Scientific Journal – Humanities. I also serve as an editorial board member for The Southeastern Geographer. My most rewarding service activity is the role I serve as the in-house geographer for Red’s Blues Club in Clarksdale, Mississippi, and my service as a heritage consultant to the Board of the Muddy Waters Mojo Museum in Chicago, Illinois. In 2023 I was awarded, along with my wife Ava Fujimoto-Strait, the Distinguished Teaching Honors Award by the AAG (American Association of Geographers).
My ultimate goals as a geographer are to someday write the comprehensive book on the geography of barbecue, a project for which my skills as a participant-observer will be fully utilized. I also aspire to sit down with pie and coffee in every county seat in the state of Texas – I’m on my way toward attaining this goal but have a long way to go. My personal interests include reading, art, hiking, music, sports - especially fishing, football and college basketball. I live to travel – it literally feeds my soul. I cherish exploring the world both alone and with my ohana (family and friends), particularly my wife and geography colleague Ava, son & guitarist Prezley, daughter Memphis, and our canines Tupelo and Kaia Rei. No day is complete without a long adventure in the woods with the dogs and without listening to music at some point.