While it is hard to compete with in-person instruction, the lectures delivered by CSUDH alumni during the annual Professor for a Day event on March 15-18 offered a unique glimpse at how faculty can work with guest lecturers to elevate engagement in the virtual classroom.
Organized by CSUDH’s Office of Alumni Relations, Professor for a Day (PFAD) pairs each alumna/us with classes that match their fields. Since its launch eight years ago, and despite the challenges of navigating the virtual space during COVID-19, the popularity of PFAD has continued to grow.
This year, a large pool of alumni from diverse industries served as honorary professors over several days, including several first-time PFAD lecturers. Among them was alumnus Keith Arem, CEO and president of Los Angeles-based PCB Productions, who taught his first PFAD class to Lecturer Kelly Herman’s “Acting for the Camera” course.
Arem has been directing, producing, and providing creative leadership at PCB, Virgin Interactive, and Electronic Arts for more than 20 years. He is one of the leading directors in the video game industry, with a focus on immersive content creation that blends technology with entertainment.
Using the remote lecture format to his advantage, Arem sat at a recording console in his studio and took the students on a deep dive into the gaming industry, starting with what’s required to become successful in the competitive industry. He began with core principles and concepts, such as how to build your wheelhouse, developing your ear, understanding gaming mechanics, and building your business.
“It was fulfilling to come full circle and return to my university to share my experiences since graduation,” he said. “It’s rewarding to see students excited about new opportunities and a side of the industry that they were not aware of before.”
Over the past seven years, Arem and his wife, who is also a director, have been teaching technical acting workshops for the gaming industry to both new and experienced actors, including such celebrities such as Gary Oldman, Ed Harris, and Michael Keaton. In their PCB facilities, they work with students on facial and motion capture, how to protect and project their voices as video game characters, and many other skills.
“These are unfamiliar techniques to typical acting classes. It is a chance for actors to come and work with us directly on real scripts from the game industry, and get real direction and feedback,” he says. “It also gives them the opportunity to make mistakes, which is the best way to learn. And you want to make those mistakes with us instead of in front of one or our clients at Sony or Nintendo.”
Alumna Jeana Somers, a vice president of compliance and operations for Emigrant Bank in New York, addressed Assistant Professor of Finance Jennifer Brodmann’s business and finance class. Somers has more than 25 years in the banking and financial services industry, primarily in commercial lending and private equity.
Somers provided the students a nuanced glimpse at the security industry, touching on such topics as how it has changed, environmental governance, and the new job market demands during the pandemic. She also offered sound advice, such as the importance for business majors learning environmental, social, and governance (ESG) compliance, an increasingly complex and challenging regulatory environment for companies to navigate.
“No matter where you want to go after you graduate, ESG is important to understand. State and banking regulators look closely at how companies are pivoting to ensure that they are building disclosure into the business model,” Somers explained. “It’s a good idea, as a business major, to learn how businesses are putting themselves out there in terms of the way the world is evolving, even if this work is not a goal for you.”
Instead of a prepared presentation, Somers spoke freely and encouraged students to engage with her during the lecture. Brodmann pitched in, using the session chat board in Zoom to share with her class information about Somers’ background, and to offer question ideas to help keep the conversation fluid.
“Virtual learning offers several advantages for students in the personal finance course, including the opportunity to hear from and engage with business leaders like Jeana Somers,” Brodmann said. “They had the option to engage in the discussion through chat and ask questions, real-time access to resources in relation to the topic, as well as the flexibility of joining the course from anywhere.”