Dr. Dan Strait Receives Teaching Award
WILMORE, Ky. — During conversations with Dr. Daniel Strait, professor of English at Asbury University, lines from poems and novels are woven into the dialogue so seamlessly that it’s hard to know where his thoughts end and the literature begins. However, students and colleagues say it is precisely this integration of personal passion and faith with subject matter that has led to Strait’s most recent distinction as the recipient of the 2012 Frances White Ewbank Excellence in Teaching Award.
“One of my favorite memories of class with Dr. Strait is when some of us students arrived early to class one Friday, decided to switch things up and changed all the desks to face the corner of the room instead of the front,” said English major Emily Scheie ’12. “When Dr. Strait arrived, he quoted an Emily Dickinson poem, saying, ‘Tell all the truth, but tell it slant,’ and he lectured from the corner of the room. This memory is a comic illustration of how ready Dr. Strait always is to integrate the truths of literature into the common events and circumstances of our lives. He is always asking us to think of examples and situations from our own experiences, helping us realize that the literature we study is not just an interesting or beautiful story, but an exploration of the human condition.”
The Frances White Ewbank Excellence in Teaching Award is given in honor of Dr. Frances White Ewbank, an English literature professor at Asbury University in the 1950s. Ewbank’s legacy of inspiring students to engage the world with both heart and mind is recognized through the annual recognition of a current professor’s outstanding contribution to the liberal arts. The award includes a $1,000 prize and is supported by alumni donations. (For more information on contributing to Asbury University, click here.)
From Strait’s perspective, there is very little difference between what he has chosen for work — teaching literature — and what he does for fun, which is reading literature. Furthermore, he says, the approach he takes to teaching is the same many other faculty members take, as well.
“We’re all making the same investments every day in the lives of our students, and if we don’t do it in community, it won’t have the same impact,” Strait said. “Your avocation and your vocation blend into one thing, and they’re both defined by love.”
However, Dr. Chuck Gobin, chair of the Asbury University English Department, recognized the ability to draw together different areas of knowledge from a Christ-centered perspective and engage students as a special skill.
“Dr. Strait does what all good teachers do: he helps students see and make connections in their learning,” Gobin said. “We live in an age where information is plentiful and cheap. Great teachers are not purveyors of information; they are shapers of wisdom, which is knowing what to do with all this information and knowledge we've acquired. Dan is dedicated to forming lifelong learners, which should be the mission of any institution that is committed to the liberal arts.”