Teacher-scholar Herbert Zettl: applied educational ideals.

Author:Mullen, Lawrence J.
 
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After examining the 40-plus years of his scholarly activity and talking with his former students and colleagues, one thing is clear: Professor Herbert Zettl exemplifies the ideals of the "teacher-scholar." Those who pursue intellectual inquiry through both research and teaching shape higher education and help create academic culture:

The Teacher-Scholar is someone who understands the subject matter

deeply enough to structure, select, and organize it in order to

effectively communicate to students and whose scholarship and service to the university and community demonstrate a commitment to creating new knowledge, to applying knowledge to solving problems, to synthesize various strands of knowledge, and to understand how students learn. ("Defining the Teacher-Scholar," n.d., [paragraph] 4)

A teacher-scholar is, in other words, a leader in the classroom, in research, and to his or her colleagues. Herb Zettl is all of these and more. His influence extends to the professional world of television production. Indeed, his influence reaches an international audience of students and experts alike. This essay looks at the academic career and contributions of Herb Zettl, who passionately and gracefully fills the roll of teacher-scholar.

The Teacher-Scholar: Career Details

In 1959 Zettl began teaching at San Francisco State University in the Department of Broadcasting and Electronic Communication Arts. While at San Francisco State, he headed the Institute of International Media Communication (IIMC). The IIMC facilitates international visitors through the auspices of the U.S. State Department's International Information Programs and the San Francisco International Diplomacy Council, sponsors international visiting scholars, and gives occasional international summer workshops for television professionals. He received the California State Legislature Distinguished Teaching Award in 1966, and in 2004 he received the Distinguished Education Service Award from the Broadcast Education Association. He is currently Professor Emeritus of Broadcasting and Electronic Communication Arts in the College of Creative Arts at San Francisco State University.

Zettl taught courses in media aesthetics, television production, and seminars in experimental production. In his experimental production course he spearheaded various experimental television projects such as dramas for simultaneous multiscreen and inductive narrative presentation techniques. This experiment led to the publication of the seminal article, "Toward a Multi-Screen Television Aesthetic: Some Cultural Considerations" (Zettl, 1977). In the article Zettl explored the use of multiscreens in contrast to split-screens, quad-screens, or other ways of dividing up a single frame. Multiscreens "represent an extension of the space-time entity of the single screen" (p. 6). In fact, they "represent ... an organic extension of the television mosaic into several self-contained space-time units" resulting in a "clarified and intensified screen Gestalt" (p. 6). As a teaching exercise, his students became aware of these theoretical constructs as well as the practical aspects associated with the technical and logistical issues involved in producing complex shows. This applied, practical link between his teaching and research is a theme that runs through much of his career. This was, in many ways, a necessity due to the fact that San Francisco State is not a research-oriented institution. Rather, their emphasis leans strongly toward students and high-quality instruction.

His approach toward teaching and scholarship was, according to Phil Kipper, former director of the Department of Broadcasting and Electronic Communication Arts at San Francisco State, very influential. Zettl's ideas "permeate our curriculum and still serve as the program's guiding ethos" (P. Kipper, personal communication, June 15, 2005). Kipper writes:

 Herb Zettl provided our department with a unique perspective that joined an artistic sensibility with the popular medium of

television. To put it simply, Zettl was perhaps the first scholar

to see television as an art form with wide potential to affect human

emotions and experience. His examination of the medium did not dwell

on specific content or genres, as is typical of much of media scholarship, but looked beyond to television's phenomenological qualities. He used artistic models to show how the use of light and color on the screen influenced audience perceptions. He developed his vector theory to explain how forces of motion and graphic mass on the screen shape the viewer's experience. (P. Kipper, personal communication, June 15, 2005)

Besides its applied nature, Zettl was always careful to link his theory and concepts to ethical standards. This was an important...

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