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Gray's nontraditional path, engaging manner leads to Outstanding Faculty Award for Teaching

Published: Thursday, July 20, 2017

Julius Pegues, director of the John Hope Franklin Center, leads a tour of the John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park for a class taught by Dr. David Gray, visiting professor of American studies.

As someone who started college at age 28, Dr. David Gray has personal insight into what it’s like to be a nontraditional student.

Because of that experience, Gray, a visiting assistant professor of American studies, can relate to his OSU-Tulsa students, many of whom have families to support and work obligations that keep them in the Tulsa area.

“I was a returning student myself. I think that shapes the way I teach my classes,” he said.

Gray is this year’s recipient of the 2017 OSU-Tulsa President’s Outstanding Faculty Award for Teaching.

Born in northern England, Gray grew up in a working-class family and never had any expectation that he would attend college. He left high school at age 15 and found jobs as an engineer’s assistant on a construction site, a record store clerk and an occupational therapy aide at a psychiatric hospital.

Gray earned his undergraduate degree at Lancaster University in England and his doctorate, also in American studies, at the University of Minnesota. Gray won a post-doctoral fellowship at the Clinton Institute for American Studies at University College Dublin, Ireland.

He joined OSU-Tulsa in 2009 after spending a year as lecturer in the American Studies program at the University of California-Davis.

David GrayGray became fascinated with America’s culture, history, ideology, politics and society in the 1980s as he watched President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher forge a stronger alliance between the two nations.

He became interested in the “stew of things” that makes America unique – politics, culture, history, ideology, economics and society.

Gray’s students have praised him for getting them to think about things they had never thought about before.

One student noted that Gray’s teaching is “exemplary” and “engaging.” Several appreciated his encouragement toward critical thinking, analysis and discussion.

Gray’s Tulsa Public Cultures class is particularly popular. In the class, he takes students out into the community to visit local sites to learn about not only Tulsa’s history and culture but the process of historical memory that has shaped dominant beliefs about the city and its past.

The course begins with an analysis of the Tulsa Race Riot - exploring the implications and limits of the term itself, Gray notes – before exploring the histories of politics, music, photography, religion and the recent renaissance of what is now called the Brady Arts District.

To explore these aspects of Tulsa’s past and present, Gray invites guest speakers and includes field trips. “It’s an unusual class,” he adds. “I act partly as a curator in this course. It’s great to be able to expose students to people and resources in the community that help them to gain deeper perspectives on Tulsa.

There is still time to enroll in the Tulsa Public Cultures course for the Fall 2017 semester. Contact your academic counselor or visit myOKSTATE and search for "The Arts and American Society - 64890." The class is scheduled from 4:30-7:10 p.m. on Thursdays beginning Aug. 21.

The OSU Bachelor of Arts degree program in American studies provides a broad and multidisciplinary education to enable graduates to pursue careers in a wide range of fields including business, nonprofit organizations, the arts, public history, academia, law, research and media. OSU-Tulsa's course offerings incorporate Tulsa history, culture and experiences, such as the Tulsa Public Cultures class.

To learn more, visit the OSU American Studies website. For questions about the OSU-Tulsa program, visit the degree program website.

Media Contact: Aaron Campbell | 918-594-8046 |