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Personal Space

Celluloid reality


  • Bruce Elliott

Colorado's professor of last year Robert von Dassanowsky, has a lot of fancy titles after his name: associate professor of German and film, chair of languages and cultures, director of film studies. But if you ask him what he really does, he'll offer this condensed definition: "a cultural intellectual tour-guide."

Von Dassanowsky, who works at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, won recognition as the state's top professor of 2004 from the Stanford, Calif.-based educational nonprofit Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching for his innovative student programs.

"I've done things a little different than perhaps was expected of me," he said. For example, after he began teaching in Colorado Springs in 1993, he founded the university's film studies program as well as a growing video and filmmakers club. In bringing film into his academic life, he's transformed his passion into an important tool for learning.

"Teaching is the ability to get students to do something with the material," he said. "It's important to me for students to experience what they're learning."

Von Dassanowsky speaks at a rapid clip and bristles with energy. He's the opposite of the stereotypical staid professor. This makes sense, as his background is far from typically academic. His mother, Elfi von Dassanowsky, was an opera singer and cinema legend in her native Austria. She founded one of that country's first film studios before moving to America.

Robert von Dassanowsky, a Hollywood actor before becoming a professor, follows in his mother footsteps as an emerging film historian and movie producer.

Whether it's Hitchcock or Godard he's teaching, the most important thing for von Dassanowsky is to expand his students' understanding, he said. "I want them to discover their own joie de vivre."

-- Dan Wilcock

photo by Bruce Elliott

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