UNC School of the Arts
2016 Excellence in Teaching Award Winner: Dale M. Pollock, University of North Carolina School of the Arts
Dale M. Pollock serves as associate professor in the School of Filmmaking at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, where he has served on the faculty since 2006. He also is the inaugural recipient of the Dale M. Pollock Endowed Chair, and holds the position of Distinguished Scholar. Prior to joining the faculty, Pollock was dean of the School of Filmmaking for seven years.
In his Philosophy of Teaching statement, Pollock describes his current role as a faculty member as “the most satisfying and gratifying of my near 50-year career.” He brings a phenomenal breadth and depth of information to the classroom, and strives to give his students examples of effective moviemaking from the past 120 years, in order to “inspire them to reach higher in their own content creation in the 21st century.”
Pollock’s pedagogical approach has clearly resonated with his students. One nominator spoke to this, stating that “Mr. Pollock is a passionate teacher with a vast amount of experience and knowledge. He engaged sophisticated class discussions that opened students’ eyes to successful filmmaking techniques.” Pollock also commits substantial time to one-on-one mentorship of students, far beyond what is simply customary or required. A student spoke of the impact this approach has had on their development. “In my first year of college, I remember being overwhelmed and constantly doubting my actions. Mr. Pollock approached me and said that if I ever needed help with anything, I could stop by his office. Without thinking of it twice, I met with him, and it became a weekly meeting that has lasted three years.”
Colleagues on the faculty hold Pollock in the highest regard. One individual wrote a compelling letter of nomination touching on just a few of the reasons why this is the case. “Mr. Pollock is an invaluable resource, and he is unfailingly generous with his time, his support, and his feedback. I have had him as a guest in my courses on multiple occasions, as have many of my colleagues. I am continually impressed with his energy, his enthusiasm, and his extensive knowledge.”
Pollock is the author of Skywalking: The Life and Films of George Lucas, currently in its fourth printing, with over 100,000 copies sold. He has had articles published in Esquire, GQ, People, Life, and Rolling Stone. He is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Producers Branch, the Producers Guild of America, the Writers Guild of America, and the Governor’s Task Force on Film. Prior to joining the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Mr. Pollock was co-Founder and co-chairman of the Producing Program at the American Film Institute.
Pollock holds an MS in communications from San Jose State University and a BA in anthropology from Brandeis University. He also completed the Management Development Program in the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2004.
Q. The Teaching Awards were established in 1994 to underscore the importance of teaching and to encourage, identify, recognize, reward, and support good teaching within the University. What does this award mean to you?
A. The most meaningful aspect of this award to me is that it originates with students and faculty in my school. I invest a great deal of time and energy in my interactions with my students, both in and out of the classroom. I also try to share best practices in my teaching with my colleagues, and to refer interested students to them for mentoring in their particular craft. I am humbled by the number of students and faculty who nominated me for this award, and I hope to justify their confidence in me with evolving improvements to my teaching.
Q. What was your path into teaching?
A. My path to teaching was a circuitous one, although now that I look back on it, much of my professional work led me to teaching those skills in various ways. I first taught as a substitute teacher in Boston just after graduating college, and I remember feeling terrified in the classroom. It wasn’t until I began sharing my history and skills as a feature film producer with graduate students at the University of Southern California that I realized that teaching energized and animated me. When I co-founded and taught in the Producing Program at the American Film Institute, I woke up to the fact that teaching had become more important to me than producing. I came to UNCSA to be a dean, but more importantly, to embrace teaching as my new career choice, and I have never looked back.
Q. Besides this award, is there one particular achievement in your career that makes you especially proud?
A. I grew up loving movies, and always dreamed of winning an Academy Award for whatever contribution my talent could provide. I never achieved that goal, but I was invited by my peers to join the Producers Branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1994, and I have been a member ever since. It’s a reflection on the quality of the work I did producing 13 feature films, since I never had a huge box office success. Recognition from my peers has always been meaningful to me, as it is with the Teaching in Excellence Award.
Q. What teaching methods do you use to engage students?
A. I believe I engage students primarily from my passion for my subject matter and my overwhelming love of cinema. My enthusiasm has proven infectious, not just because I am vociferous in my opinions, but because I challenge my students to look at and critically examine films in all their aspects, from physical production through their deepest meanings. The ability to think and write critically remains a crucial skill in my field, and I would like to think I demonstrate their relevance to my students in all of our interactions.