Insight and Interview

Professor Paul Echeverria

Founding Director of DIMA,

Assistant Professor, Communication and Media Arts


This is the first in a series of faculty interviews conducted and written by talented WCSU MFA student, John Bonanni. Our goal is to celebrate and learn from some of WCSU’s dedicated teachers and scholars.


The truth is on the wall in Professor Paul Echeverria’s “corner” office. The current schedule of the iconic Film Forum is prominently displayed just inside the entrance to a room filled with film, camera and sound equipment. Bearing witness to uncreative commercials and music videos from his experience in a film rental house, Professor Echeverria sought a platform to develop experimental and independent filmmaking as an art and a career. Progressive jaunts in digital filmmaking at the Manhattan Youth Community Center and as a fifth-grade teacher at Public School # 85 in New York City made this professor an experimental media sage.

Professor Echeverria is primarily a storyteller, and in his present position as Founding Director of the Digital Interactive Media Arts Program, or DIMA, his objective is to develop the pure art found in the work of student expression and integrate the process within an interdisciplinary framework that includes digital interactive media arts, computer science, and art.  

His biggest challenge is preventing his students from being affected by the contamination commercially generated art that infiltrates the student’s creative perspective. Social media, advertising, unrelenting aural and visual technologies inevitably influence that creativity, transforming it through a branding process into a marketable product with broader appeal.  The art then becomes profitable. Professor Echeverria reflects that the art “becomes sanitized and loses the purity” of its original content and artistic purpose. He advises that the result eventually “makes the students consumers of art rather than producers.” 

He also fights the trend to resist media arts as educational tool. Media Arts still bears the stigma of an elective discipline. Professor Echeverria advocates the discipline deserves inclusion into the general curriculum as a respected communicative tool. He dismisses the false concern that technology will replace the written word. He reminds us “the book is the longest lasting form of media available,” and “there was no recorded media or [reproduced] sound for five hundred years.” 

His students produce text printed magazines. He reminds us that “there would be no Twitter without the Gutenberg printing press.” Learning the new language of technology just increases the vocabulary in which we communicate. His curriculum ensures this by including tech heavy classes.  

Protecting the “avantgarde” purity of student generated experimental filmmaking is essential to the pedagogical objective of the department. Professor Echeverria notes that nearly every experimental art form runs the risk of morphing into a commercial product. He remarks that the only survivor of an experimental art form that still retains artistic purity is punk rock, a musical art form that never mainstreamed into wide commercial appeal. 

Many students come into the program today only knowing the mainstream product of the art. His advice is to “find something, a movement or form that will inspire to break the rules. Google your dreams, find out what they are looking for, then tailor your path to the job.” 

Pretty sage advice from a free-thinking artist with a well-organized sense of direction.

Interview conducted by John Bonanni & Ronald Samul

Author Bio: John Bonanni spent the last forty years in the theatre on tour, on Broadway, at Radio City Music Hall and many places in between managing every sensitive personality he encountered. He now writes about them, among other things. His articles have appeared in Adelaide Literary Magazine, Inspired Living Magazine, and Senior Outlook Today.  He is currently enrolled in the MFA in Creative and Professional Program at Western Connecticut State University.  theliteraryfish@gmail.com

CELT Podcast: Dr. Maya Aloni

Tips for Improving Online Discussion Boards

Click to listen to the podcast with Dr. Maya Aloni

Maya Aloni, is an Associate Professor in the Psychology Department at Western Connecticut State University. She earned her Ph.D. in Social-Personality Psychology from the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, and her bachelor’s degrees in Psychology and Philosophy from the University of Toledo. Her research interests center on close romantic relationships and the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. In the area of close relationships, she studies how people form impressions of and stereotype romantic partners with dietary restrictions. Her pedagogical research has focused on teaching strategies for improving the quality of discussions both within the classroom and in online discussion boards. In this podcast she will be offering tips for improving online discussion boards based on her recently published literature review.

To read the full article please click on the link below:

Aloni, M., & Harrington, C. (2018). Research based practices for improving the effectiveness of asynchronous online discussion boards. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology, 4, 271.

For further reading, see:

Hew, K. F., Cheung, W. S., & Ng, C. S. L. (2010). Student contribution in asynchronous online discussion: A review of the research and empirical exploration. Instructional Science, 38, 571–606. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11251-008-9087-0

Paul, R., & Elder, L. (2016). The thinker’s guide to Socratic questioning. Tomales, CA: Foundation for Critical Thinking Press.

Strang, K. D. (2011). How can discussion forum questions be effective in online MBA courses? Campus-Wide Information Systems, 28, 80–92.http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/10650741111117789

Special thanks to Peter Puccio and Scott Volpe for recording this podcast.

Discussion Board: Best Teaching Practices

We are developing a discussion board on Blackboard. This online forum is designed to remove traditional physical barriers between faculty–especially when we have two seperate campus locations. The goal is to create a safe space to discuss teaching topics such as pedagogy, technology, mentoring, etc.  We hope to cultivate a growth/entrepreneurial mindset culture to adopt best practices and foster collaboration among teaching faculty. Potential rewards may include social support and opportunities for professional development. If you are interested in participating in this pilot program, please email me directly at brewera@wcsu.edu

CELT Faculty Spotlight: Professor Ken Scaglia

Check out how out this talented faculty member scaffolds a challenging assignment and evokes excellent outcomes!

Professor Ken Scaglia

Professor of Art – Foundation + Applied Arts

Department of Art

Honors 398

Identify Yourself

Spring 2019, 2020

The course aims to present the connection between visual arts and self-awareness in the changing world of what a person’s identity means for their future. Included are contemporary art-making methods and how the making of art involves creative problem solving. The relationship between process, form, and content for presentations will also be examined.

Mask Project. Create two masks, either contrasting in form or a progression of form.

The mask project will develop both the ability to conceal and reveal in the constructed form of two masks which can substitute or distort our true selves. The mask forms will be discovered through discussion and examination of personal authenticity.

Week 1: Introduction of mask histories. Presentation of examples and resources.

Week 2: Sketch development, collection of materials for scale mockups.

Week 3: Source materials. Begin assemblies.

Week 4: Assemblies continue.

Week 5: Final assemblies and photography.

At each step in the process an individual critique will take place.

Each student has the opportunity to confront their personal authenticity and reveal aspects of their complexity as a person to others. The class-wide discussions that take place are spirited, yet respectful, and guided toward the artistic method and form which helps realize the final presentation.

Increase the accessibility of your content!

thumbnail_image002Does this look familiar in your Blackboard courses?

What do your students see? 

Want to fix this for all of your documents?

On Wednesday, October 23 we will again be holding a workshop where you will get hands-on assistance to turn all the red and yellow indicators to green, in order to provide alternative formats for those using assistive technologies. Remember, Ally focuses on making new and existing content more accessible for all users, not just those with disabilities/accessibility challenges.

Please have your documents that need adjustments readily accessible either on a thumb drive, or through your email, or one-drive.

The session on October 23rd will be held in Haas Library, Room 434, 1:30pm – 3:30pm

Please RSVP to coxc@wcsu.edu.