When he’s not reading, writing, grading or advising for the Observer, a student-run newspaper at Elgin Community College, you can find Assistant Professor of English Nick Obradovich on the mat practicing martial arts, a hobby he has pursued since the mid-2000s.
In 2015, Obradovich decided to settle on Brazilian jiu-jitsu. “Jiu-jitsu is a grappling (close hand-to-hand combat) art that, for most people, is very difficult to master,” he said. “It is a deeply satisfying activity; any small improvements you make are hard fought.”
Brazilian jiu-jitsu promotes the concept that one can defend themselves against a bigger, stronger, heavier opponent by using proper technique, leveraging position and body weight, and taking the hand-to-hand combat to the ground. Patience and practice are key to mastering jiu-jitsu as it can take up to three years just to move up one belt level.
In the summer of 2016, a year after starting jiu-jitsu, Obradovich competed in a tournament and ended up winning his age group in the novice (white belt) division. He has since earned his blue belt, the second-level ranking for adults.
Martial artists must be devoted to training, learning technique, practicing moves and setting goals in order to improve. The process is similar to earning a degree, notes Obradovich.
“I would compare learning Brazilian jiu-jitsu to the process of earning a bachelor’s degree,” he said. “They are both long, often challenging processes. But, once you commit to learning, you don't want to stop.”
Obradovich is just as dedicated inside the classroom. Each semester, he seeks to develop relationships with his students “where students trust that teachers have their best interests in mind and want them to succeed.”
We caught up with Obradovich to learn more about his life and his work at ECC. Here is what he had to say.
What year did you start at ECC?
In your words, what do you do at ECC?
I teach English composition, literature, and journalism. I also advise the Observer.
What would you do if you were ECC president for a day?
Schedule a summit with select ECC students, faculty, administrators and trustees, university professors, and people who are in charge of hiring at local businesses. I think everyone would learn something about others’ roles in preparing students for their futures.
If there was a movie about your life, who would you want to play you?
Tom Hanks, at a similar age.
What’s on your “bucket list?”
Taking a family trip to Hawaii.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
Brazilian jiu-jitsu, running, and reading.
Where was the best place you’ve traveled to?
I enjoy the coasts, including Florida and California. Hawaii was the best. In terms of ECC, taking some journalism students to Washington, D.C. last fall was a blast.
What’s one fact we should know about you?
I love where I’m at right now in life and I hope it lasts.
What’s something about your job that others should know?
This job is the most rewarding job I could ever hope to have.
What would be your “theme song?”
“Gonna Fly Now,” the theme from the film “Rocky.”
What was your favorite class in school?
That’s tough to narrow down. I loved history, political science, and most writing-based classes in college.
What was your first job out of school?
I was a publicist for a book publishing company.
What quote best describes your philosophy?
It might be clichéd, but the Golden Rule of “treat others as you want to be treated” is an idea that people (including me) should reflect on every day.
On a different note, I’m fond of the quote supposedly said by Otto von Bismarck: “Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.” While I certainly make mistakes and learn from them every day, seeing what was done before and seeing what errors to avoid is something more people should try.
Complete this sentence: “I enjoy working at ECC because…”
My colleagues are top notch and I am always meeting new students who inspire me.