Distance Education, Closer Connections
Sharing knowledge online and reaching underserved audiences motivates Deidra Craig, both professionally and personally. As the distance education coordinator in North Carolina State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ (CALS), Craig helps promote distance education and expand CALS’ online learning opportunities. Outside of work, Craig is raising her 2-year-old daughter, Charlee, with her husband and sharing advice with other Black mothers via social media and blog posts.
“I think it’s important to share your knowledge,” Craig says. “You never know who you may help.”
Finding a Passion
When Craig started her undergraduate degree in NC State’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences, she thought she wanted to be a teacher, so she studied English education. She later changed her mind and earned an English degree instead. Following a passion for communication, she went on to earn another bachelor’s degree in mass communication and media studies from North Carolina Central University and a master’s degree in education with the goal of working in higher education.
Her first university role was in the School of Medicine at Duke University as an education administration specialist, where part of her job was to coordinate the online learning management system.
“I really liked the learning management system and wondered what kind of careers would be out there,” says Craig. “It’s something that kind of just fell into my lap, and I was like, ‘This is really cool. I like this.’”
Distance Education Opens Doors
After nearly three years at Duke, Craig started working as a public communications specialist in NC State’s Department of Agricultural and Human Sciences after a welcoming interview.
“I remember coming in for my interview, and my hair was all pushed back because I didn’t want it to be a distraction to anybody,” Craig recalls. “I remember thinking that I couldn’t wear too much makeup and that I needed to wear black because nobody hates black, but the interview was very relaxed, and Kim Allen was one of the people on the panel that made me feel like I could calm down and just be myself. At the time, I didn’t feel like most interview panels were a safe space. She’s such a warm and kindhearted person, and she wants people to feel comfortable.”
“I was really interested in how we can improve distance learning and make it an option for underserved audiences.”
Her role was split between communications and supporting faculty with distance teaching and managing the online graduate certificate program. She also earned a master’s of education from NC State in 2019.
“I liked the idea of doing the distance graduate program while also working for a distance graduate program, so I got to see it from both lenses,” Craig says. “I was really interested in how we can improve distance learning and make it an option for underserved audiences.”
In 2021, Craig started her current role with a goal of spreading awareness about what modern online learning looks like and creating additional opportunities for online learning in CALS. With many courses turning online during the pandemic, she thinks students might have a misconception of how effective, and essential, online programs can be.
“There’s still so much value in taking courses online, and I think it’s important for people to know that it’s not just you sitting at home on a computer doing work,” says Craig. “We’re reaching audiences that wouldn’t have otherwise had an opportunity to learn.”
Sharing Her Knowledge
Outside of her work, Craig is reaching Black mothers like herself on social media. She had Charlee during the pandemic when support and opportunities to interact with other mothers were scarce. She also has another baby on the way.
“I like social media, so I’d like to continue sharing more of motherhood and my life outside of work on my social media pages to people who might find it helpful, specifically for Black mothers. I want to be a support because I didn’t have a huge support system.”
Craig is also passionate about celebrating her race and teaching others about the contributions of Black people, especially during Black History Month.
“I think Black History Month is about education, honoring and remembrance,” Craig says. “It’s an opportunity to honor those who’ve made great strides in history. We should listen, learn and pass the information on to our kids, our kids’ kids and colleagues and whoever may have an interest.”
As a Black alumna and staff member, Craig has advice for Black students at NC State.
“Don’t get lost in your education. I know that’s what you’re here for, but you should also make connections with those that look like you on campus and advocate for issues you’re passionate about and issues that specifically matter to Black people. Over time, I think NC State has made great strides in making sure that it’s a safe place with diversity, equity and inclusion in mind.”