He may be soft-spoken, but John Casserino holds a passion for his subject and his students that is unmistakable. “This is not just a job for me,” he explained when he joined the faculty in the fall of 2014. “This is what I want to do when it’s all over. I’m planning to be here for the next 20 years.”
After graduating from the Air Force Academy with a degree in astronautical engineering and a second degree in engineering sciences, he was commissioned and remained in the Air Force for over 25 years, achieving the rank of colonel. For much of his career, he focused on space operations—in fact, he managed the program execution for the development and modernization of the Air and Space Operations Center as Air Force’s premier Command and Control (C2) capability. He was also a group commander, and the co-chair of the Air Battle Management Steering Group formed with the United Kingdom.
Those positions couldn’t hold a candle to the three years he spent as the University ROTC Department Chair for Michigan Technological University. In this position, he was the instructor for sections covering U.S. airpower and military history, and he discovered a passion for teaching. “That was probably the most fun I ever had,” he commented.
After leaving the Air Force, Col Casserino worked as a system engineer for DCMA in Michigan, then as a senior performance consultant at Edge Consulting/IBM in Chantilly, VA. “Basically I was a consultant to the government on intelligence issues,” he said. He performed data analysis on a variety of intelligence systems, and provided recommendations on how to use those systems more effectively and whether there was a need for additional capability. Throughout these years, however, the joy of being in the classroom continued to niggle at his mind.
“I didn’t want to spend my waning years in an office, doing data analysis,” he said. “I want to be invested in lives.”
So in 2011, he returned to college to work towards a master’s degree in education. As he reflected on what he would teach, Col Casserino realized that as much as he had enjoyed the ROTC program, he loved engineering too much to leave it behind. “I’m an engineer at heart,” he said. “I don’t think you should do something unless you can do it well.”
With that in mind, he has set out to teach a new generation about engineering through his physics classes. “No one ever told me in high school that physics was the foundation of all engineering,” he said. “It is critical for future engineers. Even for non-physics people, I hope I can impress on them the importance of the subject—looking at the world around you and discovering how things work has value for all people.”
Through labs—simple ones and complicated ones—Col Casserino hopes to get that point across. “It’s hard because a lot of principles can be at work at the same time, and you have to sort out the impact of each,” he said. “Physics can be counter-intuitive. You might think it works one way, and the principle is totally different. For teaching, groups are vital. It allows the students to learn from each other and explain things to each other. That way, they are not just taking what I say as truth. It is proven through valid arguments and experiments, and they can convince themselves.”
Col Casserino and his wife, Carri, have three children—Jacob, who is a second lieutenant in the Army, Anna, and Ethan. When not in the classroom, he might be found relaxing with artwork or woodwork, exploring astronomy, or perhaps running a few miles. Despite his dedication to his teaching responsibilities at R-MA, he also serves as a deacon in his church and teaches the seventh to ninth grade Sunday School class.
- M.S., Stanford University
- M.S., Michigan Tech University
- M.Ed., George Washington University
- B.S., USAF Academy
- Classes: Physics, AP Physics, Geospatial Information Systems
- R-MA Mentor