A veteran and multiple award-winning EKU instructor for more than 15 years, John Strada believes in accessibility and taking an active part in his student’s educational experience. Strada goes above and beyond to ensure his online students have just as much opportunity to interact and build a relationship with him as their on-campus counterparts. Strada’s personal attention and dedication to helping students reach their goals, particularly through adversity, makes him a particular point of pride on EKU’s campuses, both in-person and virtual. We take great pride in offering the chance to get to know him a little better.
What brought you to EKU?
I came to EKU originally in 2004 to teach a couple classes as an adjunct faculty member. Later, when a full time opening came available, I took the chance to apply and was hired. I have been working here in the Department (now School) of Communication ever since.
Tell us a little about your work in your field.
My primary areas of academic interest are interpersonal, group and instructional communication, along with exploring issues in leadership, policy and teaching in higher education. I enjoy learning how people form and transact positive interactions and relationships with one another, be that in one-on-one situations, in teams, on the job, or in a classroom setting. I also enjoy exploring how professionals in education can help to create equitable structures, policies and processes, both in the classroom and on the larger institutional level, that can help lead to student learning, retention and success.
What moment at EKU stands out as most memorable?
My favorite time of the semester is graduation. I serve as the graduation announcer and name reader for EKU, so I get to see first-hand the joy and accomplishment of students as they walk across the stage with their degree. It is especially rewarding for me to see students that I have taught who may have faced various personal, emotional or professional obstacles, but who have persevered and overcome those challenges to get to graduation day.
What is your approach to online teaching?
As research indicates, instructor presence is crucial for student success in online classes. Hence, my approach to online learning is to try and provide an instructor-student connection in the online setting that is of the same quality that a student might receive in a face-to-face classroom setting. I try to be active with my e-mail communication, as well as making sure I leave detailed and personalized feedback on student assignments. Additionally, even though the online classes are asynchronous, I am always available to meet with my online students in my “virtual office” via Zoom. Just because a student pursues a degree online doesn’t mean that they can’t ever meet their instructors, or that they shouldn’t have the same chance that on-campus students have to develop a professional connection with the faculty in their degree program
What tactics or approaches do you use to aid in your student’s success?
Presenting a well-designed and well-organized course is essential for a successful learning experience, as well as providing students with an atmosphere of procedural justice for the course. If a course is hard to navigate, if assignment instructions are nebulous, or if course expectations are not clear, students might spend more time trying to figure out what to do than working on their projects. Plus, it is easier to assign a fair score if the expectations are clear from the beginning.
Additionally, making sure learners are challenged in their course is essential to their educational and professional growth. While taking an “easy” course may sound more appealing, “easy” doesn’t always help you grow. Students, whether on campus or online, are competing for jobs with graduates of every other college in the nation. Making sure that I am providing quality content, providing helpful feedback on assignments, as well as holding student work to high professional standards, means they will be more competitive when they hit the job market.
What do you believe are the biggest advantages to online learning?
Flexibility is the biggest advantage for online learners, especially for those who are already in a career or who may have family obligations. Online learning means that you don’t have to set aside time during your day to drive to campus, find a parking spot, and get to class on time while trying to juggle all of your other responsibilities. You can do your work on your schedule. Do you work second or third shift and want to work on your projects in the middle of the night? No problem. Do you have young kids and want to work around their schedule? No problem. I’ve also had students who quite literally have lived on the other side of the planet while in my online classes. For many who serve in the military, who have spouses or family that serve in the military, or who are stationed overseas for their work, an online degree program may be just right for them. Living a world away doesn’t mean that you can’t be an active and successful member of the class.
What have you been up to lately? (Research, projects, awards, etc.)
One of my biggest passions outside of teaching is service. I believe that service is a way for me to give back, to do my part to return some of the good I have received in my life. I’d also like to be able to say that I was a “net positive” human while I was on Earth, and service at any level is a tangible way to pay forward some positivity into the world. I was recently awarded the Governor’s Lifetime Service Award from the office of Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear and the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) in recognition of my dedication to serving others and encouraging others to serve. I hope that an award like this can bring visibility to the need for service in our communities and might inspire others to give back in some way to their communities.
I also believe that student learning can be enhanced by participation in service, so I try to provide opportunities for students to incorporate service in their classwork. I’m fortunate that the academic discipline of communication lends itself to community involvement, both though service and through professional outlets including non-profit businesses and advocacy. By developing tangible skills and knowledge in their coursework, I hope students in our classes can apply what they learn to make their businesses, communities and the world a better place.
What advice would you give to someone who’s considering finishing their degree, or starting for the first time as an adult?
My colleague Krista Kimmel and I have coached many of EKU’s commencement speakers over the years. We’ve seen inspiring stories of graduating students who were in the same place that many potential students might be right now, wondering if they should start their degree or go back to finish what they started years ago. I also understand from personal experience that making the choice to apply can be stressful. The feelings one may face might be daunting and intimidating. Will they accept me? Is it too late? Do I have what it takes to be a college graduate?
My advice? Go for it. Apply. EKU is widely known as the “school of opportunity” because of our record of success with students who may have thought a college education was not an option for them. EKU is looking for learners just like you who want to take that big step. A degree is absolutely attainable, and you have what it takes.
EKU faculty want you to succeed. If you bring your hard work, desire and ambition, the faculty will meet you where you are with their quality instruction, mentoring and guidance so that you can achieve your goals. There is no reason that the next success story shouldn’t be you.
Interested in advancing your career?
Earn your online bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited university that has been an online education leader for more than 15 years. Complete the form to learn more about how you can earn your bachelor’s in communication studies and pick up an in-demand certificate in workplace communication or dispute resolution along the way, giving yourself a competitive edge in the job market. Contact us today to get started.