Today@Sam Article

Strait Represents SHSU In CUSA Faculty Honor

July 2, 2024
SHSU Media Contact: Campbell Atkins

John Strait and students pose together during a field course exploring the Mississippi Delta.

Sam Houston State University’s 2023 leap to Conference USA symbolized the institution’s upward growth and its personnel’s commitment to elevating the Bearkat name. It is only fitting that a catalyst for student success who experienced that growth firsthand represents SHSU in the conference’s first faculty excellence award since the realignment. 

John Strait, a distinguished geography professor and recipient of multiple faculty excellence awards, has been named one of CUSA's 2024 Faculty Achievement Award winners. The award recognizes excellence across all major areas of faculty performance, including teaching, research and service.

“One of the things I really appreciate about this place is that while it has grown in scope and size, it has always been true to what it is: we are still a student-centered university,” Strait said. “It has grown, but it has never grown away from its true mission.”

Since joining the faculty as an assistant professor in 2006, Strait has championed immersive educational opportunities that place his students at the heart of their subject through firsthand experiences directly in the field. This initiative began with his field course exploring the Mississippi Delta and, with the support of the Department of Environmental and Geosciences, has expanded to encompass multiple field courses in diverse locations including Hawaii, Spain, Italy and Morocco. He has coordinated many of these hands-on learning experiences in collaboration with his wife, Ava Fujimoto-Strait.

“Not a lot of universities provide a space to do the types of things we are able to do,” Strait said. “It is humbling to see the letters and references that supported my nominations for awards like this from students, colleagues and administrators – people for whom I have the utmost respect.”


Throughout his tenure, Strait has advanced through the faculty ranks to his current position as assistant chair and geography program coordinator for the Department of Environmental and Geosciences at SHSU. His academic contributions are diverse and impactful, including over 30 peer-reviewed journal articles, research presented through various mediums such as photographic art exhibits and numerous news media interviews. He has secured approximately $300,000 in external grant funding, much of it supporting student learning experiences. His editorial roles have been extensive, serving as associate editor, senior editor, and editor-in-chief of the European Scientific Journal, senior editor of the International Journal of Applied Geospatial Research and editorial board member of Southeastern Geographer. Strait has been the primary academic advisor for the geography program, directly mentoring hundreds of undergraduate students throughout his career.

His innovative methods have earned him several prestigious awards, including recent national recognition by the American Association of Geographers (AAG) through their Distinguished Teacher Award. He furthers his impact on the university’s student population with his work as a faculty sponsor of Geographers of Sam Houston (GOSH), a student organization.

It is his informal mentorship roles, however, that greatly contribute to Strait’s prestige. As a former member of the football team during his time as a first-generation student at Wittenberg University in Ohio, he is able to connect on a personal level with many of his students.

“We get a lot of athletes in our program,” Strait said. “It is a challenge to be an athlete and a student, so I always felt like I was able to give back to that in different ways through informal mentoring roles. Most students are not sure what they are going to do once they leave here, but sports serve as a motivation to establish and achieve goals while being part of something. Sometimes it really helps to connect with someone who has been in your shoes and understands your journey. Having someone you can relate to directly can make a big difference." 

Strait is one of 10 nominees for CUSA’s Professor of the Year distinction, which will be voted on by the institutions’ provosts. He will be honored by the university at its Annual Academic Awards Dinner as well as a home football game this fall. Click here for further information on his fellow nine nominees.

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