What Am I Doing Here?

About three decades ago I became aware of the Fulbright Scholar’s Grant and made it a career goal to attain one of them. A few years ago I was pondering an idea for my next sabbatical (#4) and realized that I needed to push myself to go through the laborious process of spending months organizing the idea and the application. As RIT has a ‘sister’ program in Dubrovnik, Croatia I organized taking a class there for a term in the spring of 2007 and was greatly impressed with the country.

During that academic year a Fulbright Scholar come from the University of Zagreb to RIT to observe our program as they were expanding their Cinematography degree where still photography was a requirement but not a major. Sandra Vitaljic would oversee and organize this evolution.

How it came to me sitting here in Croatia and the specific process? I’m not quite sure but here I am fulfilling this fantasy and living out the dream.

I often tell my students to dream big; go for the ‘grand prize’ because why not, we are all so fortunate that we can be taking all this time to learn how to make a photo and to live photography as a way of life. When there are so many people living from day-to-day with so little or living in a war zone we are truly privileged to be able to spend this amount of time dedicating our lives to image making!

As I am behind in getting all of this up I will recap my activities since arriving on September 11th. (A strange date to start all of this. A few friends said I was quite brave to travel on this date.)

I arrived on a Friday and spent a few days getting settled. Monday the final exams for the spring term were held. (Imagine, all you students, being able to have the entire summer to prepare your portfolios!) The students individually come before a group of about 5 faculty to present films and prints. The assignments vary between technical problems and aesthetical assignments (motion films made at dawn, dusk, of the trams, a ‘free’ assignment and more)(stills of the b&w landscape, color portraits, other technical problems and also a ‘free’ assignment).

Each student came into the room and presented her/his work. Then there was discussion with the faculty, the student left and the faculty discussed the grade and the student was asked back in and told what the grade was and how to proceed. All of the exams for all levels are done with a presentation of the work and discussion by a group of faculty. Very time consuming but well worth the energy. For me, of course, I missed most of the discussion as I speak virtually no Croatian but I could usually tell the tenor of the discussion by the tones in the faculty voices.

It was a good experience for me to meet the faculty from the film department as well as to see the student work and be able to meet them. Overall I was more impressed by the quality than I thought I would be.

A few images from the reviews:

A Student Showing Her Film.

Looking at Prints.

Sandra Offering Criticism.

In this image the faculty are checking the files of a student who is accused of cheating. His images were to be original transparencies but evidence was seen to the contrary. We did prove that they were in fact copies of digital files, not originals. The student was brought before the faculty and grilled as to the origin. At first he denied they were copies but with proof he admitted the cheat. I was sitting there watching and even though I could not understand the language the intonations were clear. (I was wondering how this situation would be handled different in the US. I don’t think a public display would be allowed. Perhaps there would be lawyers involved and it handled in a quite manner.) Once we had his admittance the entire class was brought in and told of the situation.

He was given a ‘D’ for the term which I feel sets a bad example and only, to some degree, encourages more to do it. This particular student has a history of cheating and I would have immediately failed him. However, if he had failed he would be expelled as he failed the course last year and is repeating it this year, you can only fail the same course once at this university.

As I understand cheating is frequent in Croatia. When I was in Dubrovnik there were several cases each term. Once while I was proctoring an exam for a distance learning class there was a student who was texting a friend for the answers. In most cases the student does not fail the course but is reprimanded. My take on this is that they are, to some degree, encouraging it.

Images of Faculty After the Reviews