Spring 2014 – GDS Final Review

January 18th, 2014 by David Weaver No comments »
An Image from my Mid-Point Review

An Image from my Mid-Point Review


This is my next to last class.

Typically this is the last class you should take.  I’m taking it out of sequence for a couple reasons.

I very uncertain about how my thesis work is coming along and this will give me an opportunity to redo/rework or even trash and restart my project with the idea of being done in December of 2014.

SXSW happens during this semester and prior experience tells me that the two weeks I get caught up working in SXSW really detracts from my efforts in class.  I want to do well in this class, still I know that I will put some other work ahead of schoolwork and I’ll have to pay the price for it.

A great thing about this class is that it is being taught by the Assistant Director, Tamara Hubbard.  She is a real asset to the program.  In my 4+ years in the program I’ve had her both as a professor and I’ve had to contact her as an administrator and explain issues I’ve (and other students) had with a couple instructors.  She’s fair, gives great reviews on work, and appears to push hard for student success. 

Off to the new semester! 

Almost there.

December 22nd, 2013 by David Weaver No comments »
Done with the Fall Semester

Done with the Fall Semester


It’s been a busy last half of 2013.  Between a large teaching load (thanks in part to my work at AAU), working on new commercial clients, reading all sorts of articles and books around my thesis project and taking a class in MPT I’ve not had much free time.
My review of MPT663 – Aesthetics of Editing are a bit mixed.  I enjoyed the class as I got to watch and deconstruct a number of movies I had never seen, or had only seen several years ago.  Each assignment was the same.  The repetitiveness of assignments got old, but it also made me sharper in what to look for as I did not have to reinterpret homework every week.
Class discussions were not as good as I’d like.  However, I set the bar high in this area.  Each week we had to write a 5 page paper.  Each page had to be on one of these:

  • Character Development
  • Pacing
  • Structure
  • Music and Sound
  • Stylistic Elements

If a page was small then the grade got reduced.  Even when one area was significantly expanded upon as it deserved significantly more analysis the grade didn’t improve.  I found grading to be almost mechanical.  6-7 pages =A,  5 pages = A or B, 4 pages=B.
Grading and feedback were different from what I was used to getting in the Photography Department.  Often feedback was a sentence or two of my review with a sentence or singe question by the instructor. 

Not all classes have to be hard and challenging.  Sometimes they just provide simple education opportunities.  This class is one of those.
This semester was a break from shooting.  The program strongly suggests that you don’t do this.  For me, it was a welcome pause.  I did not stop working on the project – which might be what the department is actually saying.  Spending time in another medium and doing analysis in film is different from reading about theories and ideas surrounding Sense of Place.
This semester is over.  The holidays are here and I have a couple more classes left.
Whew…almost done.

The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men Gang aft agley.

October 27th, 2013 by David Weaver 2 comments »
How you get there is as important as to where you are going.

How you get there is as important as to where you are going.

The title is from the Robert Burns poem “To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough” written in 1785.

I’m so behind on this blog but that’s okay.

There are a few changes to life and that impacts what I can do.  It’s great to have a plan.  Don’t stick it it.  

Rather, treat the plan as a working document.  Adjust it as needed and it will serve you well.  There are so many things that we have no or little control over that impact what we do that when those things in life happen it’s just part of life.  Life happens.

The original plans for classes were fine and robust.  Because I took 2 (or crazily enough) 3 classes each semester I had a good plan in place for finishing sometime this year.  A few things happened.  I decided to take a couple months off from shooting and reevaluated my life and work again.  I’m shifting my product mix which means going after different customers. This in turn requires more and different marketing.  The studio I’m building is getting more attention and I’m making a lot less money.

Just before the beginning of the semester I reevaluated my school-work-life mix.  I needed 3 more classes to graduate.  Two of them are electives and then there is the thesis prep class.  Thesis prep is only taught in the long semesters (fall and spring).  I could take two classes in the fall then my final class in spring of 2014. I turned this option down as I was and am reinventing my business so two classes on top of a heavier business requirements was too much work to anything well.

Another option would have me taking one class in the fall and then two in the spring.  Springtime in Austin brings us SXSW, I’ve almost committed to volunteering as a photographer to the festival (in prior years I was being paid to cover it for various media outlets), so between teaching a couple of classes, taking out a lot of time for SXSW and taking an elective class plus my thesis preparation and presentation is a recipe for disaster.

Still another option is to take one class each semester with my thesis work completed in Fall of 2014. The problem with this option: If (big IF) I am looking for a full-time tenured-track teaching position most of these positions open up about now and applications are due around the start of 2014 for a Fall 2014 appointment. These positions typically require that the applicant have a completed MFA before they start teaching.  I won’t qualify. 

Then, Fall 2014 is a year away and there is a lot of life to live.  The last option is the current plan.

“And forward, though I cannot see,
I guess and fear!” – R. Burns.

The Electives

October 11th, 2013 by David Weaver No comments »

A while back I talked about waiving a couple classes.  I still need to take the credit hours but I also get to take a couple electives.

Hmmm…what to take?

I’ve found many of my group directed studies classes to be similar because they integrate the work that I’m doing for my thesis into a rough framework of what the class is focused upon.  If I had taken the courses I waived then I would only need my final thesis prep class. 

Instead of taking more directed study I thought I would reach beyond the photography department and checkout courses in the related Motion Picture/ Television (MPT) area.

The other reason to take a class outside of my major is to get outside of my major.  The photo department preaches that you must always work on your project.  It’s sage advice.  It is important to keep moving forward with your work.  I have lots of work. I’ve got four different personal projects that I can think of at this moment (there are probably more) on top of my MFA thesis work.  Moving my thesis to the side for a couple months is a good thing.  It allows me to go back and revisit other projects and work on those and taking an elective in MPT gets me to think about things that are related to photography yet have their own domain of characteristics.

Another reason for taking an MPT department course is that it builds some credits for me in an area that I believe will merge or collide with photography curriculum.  There is a lot of talk about convergence of still and motion pictures.  Camera makers have been putting both technologies into a single device.  Our smart phones, pads and tablets can also do this.  Some still photographers have little or no desire for video while others take to it like ducks to water.

Taking MPT electives gives me some image making skills I would not be developing inside the photo department.  It also puts takes me part way towards my ability to teach some MPT courses in the future.  Typically, you can teach courses in your Master’s area and you can teach courses if you have a Master’s degree plus 18 hours in the other subject matter.  Finishing a couple MPT classes would put me one-third of the way there.  I feel it’s a win-win for me, for my educational experience, and for my future career opportunities.

The first MPT class is MPT 663 – Aesthetics of Editing.  I’ll write about this class after I’ve had it for a few weeks.

Complaints work both ways. (AKA: Roxanne Farrar, thanks for noticing this blog.)

August 12th, 2013 by David Weaver No comments »



Unconstructive complaints should roll off your back.


Typically and with great intention I don’t include the instructor’s name from a class I’m reviewing.  I’m relating my experiences about how I felt about a course along with challenges, issues, and other concerns I faced in a class.  Early on in each semester, I  will often post a class description along with some information about the instructor.  These posts seem benign enough.  Frequently I’m impressed with the biography of the professor – which speaks highly to AAU and the university’s hiring process.

 In all my time at AAU I have only had two issues with professors.  Of those two, I’ve only really ramped up complaints about a single instructor – which many of my fellow classmates also did.  That instructor is not Roxanne Farrar.

I understand what it can be like to be a college instructor.  I’ve had students apply themselves in various degrees.  I’ve seen students deal with issues that impacted or modified their performance.  As a student, I’ve had instructors that have had to miss classes.  Life happens and it happens to everyone.

Yesterday afternoon I was greeted with a long comment to a blog post from former AAU instructor Roxanne Farrar. As she posted to the blog I’m placing her post at the bottom.

Roxanne Farrar is upset at me.  Her primary complaint (from follow up emails) is that a blog post about a class I was preparing to take, that she was teaching, ranked near the top of a Google search.  Indeed as of writing, that blog post I  wrote in 2011 comes up fifth.   The page in question is this one: http://weaver.net/MFA/2011/03/spring-2011-lineup/

If you read it, I’ve not said anything bad about her, and I actually praised her bio.

If you link to the class she taught then there is another blog post which is a review of the class.   Roxanne Farrar believes I was attacking her as a terrible teacher, which I was not.  For that complaint  I have updated that particular post to better communicate the original intent.  You can read that blog entry here: http://weaver.net/MFA/2011/05/not-masters-enough/

She’s upset and it is well communicated below.

Complaints work both ways.  I verified the post is from that former AAU instructor.  

This blog is about documenting some of my experiences and thoughts about taking an online MFA program in photography at AAU.  This is a part of that experience!


Submitted on 2013/08/11 at 12:13 pm

Just thought you’d like to know that the “terrible teacher” you dissed so bad is no longer teaching at AAU.
It never ceases to amaze me students who complain that a course is “too easy” when a class (even one inspired by “grumpy old European men — I did not design the course or choose the content nor the structure, btw) can be what you make it… Especially true of online classes.
I also never will understand people (not just students!) who won’t say a word and act so meek & mild to a person they’ve got an issue with, and then blast them behind their back, as you did to me.
“Archive for the ‘GS 602: Art & Ideology’ category
Not Master’s Enough – Review of GS 602: Art & Ideology
May 10th, 2011
AAU does student evaluations but I don’t know if they do anything with them.  I and a number of other students bitterly complained about a instructor in a course and I see that horrible instructor is teaching that subject again.  I don’t know…  (it is NOT this class)
I’m finishing up a painfully easy and expensive class titled “The Art & Ideology of the 20th Century”
Here is an excerpt from my evaluation of this course:
This is a Master’s level class.  Instead of reading a couple modules about some philosopher we should be deeply engaged in reading about him.  (Where are the female philosophers).
If this was a real Master’s class there would be a couple hundred pages of reading each week followed by critical analytical writing and individual reviews by the instructor and by peers.
Where are the Americans? Asians? Hispanics?  Everything we study is grumpy old European, Eastern European and Russian guys.
You get the idea.
I’m here to learn and you failed to teach.”
I was there to help and to teach you and you failed to learn. But for some people, complaining is much more satisfying than learning…
So I’m sure you must be very pleased to see that your “review” of me is one of the top hits for my name on Google. Nice touch…
Anyone with any common sense of course will recognize that your very personal, public, and mean post about me speaks far more about you and your lack of professionalism and lack of character or personal integrity than mine.
Have a wonderful life, I wish you no harm. Karma takes care of that for me. Just wanted to let you know how deeply your comments wounded me in my heart… Mission accomplished, job well-done!

SXSW, No Spring Break, Pneumonia, and AAU

April 20th, 2013 by David Weaver No comments »
Last Night of SXSW2013 with the Smashing Pumpkins and a few thousand of my closest friends.

Last Night of SXSW2013 with the Smashing Pumpkins and a few thousand of my closest friends.

What the heck happened to Spring Break 2013 at AAU?  We had it in the past.  But it vanished for some odd reason.  It looks like it is back on for 2014.   Between AAU adding a large amount of audio work in classes (there is another post on this)  which severely inflated the time I spend on classwork but not the time I spend on research and actual productive work, the pressure of SXSW which contributed to me contracting pneumonia, and the downtime I had being realy really sick with said illness, I’m suffering through the worst semester at AAU.

One instuctor was immediately wonderful in allowing me to successfully suffer my illness then return to assignments, where another instructor contradicted the terms of the class syllabus in how the instructor was going to grade late work.  The policy stated at one place said tha late work was given a grade drop for every week late and another one description said late work was accepted at the discretion of the instructor.  Sheesh…get your story straight.  Anyway, that instructor claimed an ‘open door’ policy and I reminded the instructor (again) that I was still very sick and incapable fo doing some work, but would do so when I was physically able.   Yada, yada, yada…

This was the worst semester at AAU.  Between teacher conflict in one class and getting sick, adn having the workload increase (for the sake of audio/slide production) I was always playing catchup and turning work in late on a rather consistent basis.


It showed in my grades.  I earned a B and a B+.  I don’t recall which class got which.  This is a stunning loss for someone with a 3.9 something GPA.  I’m probably being too anal about my GPA.  I have three classes to go.   I don’t know if I should care about my GPA but it seems to be  strong point of personal pride for me.

Actually,  being super sick for a few weeks, finishing SXSW, and finishing the semester without dropping a class seems to be an accomplishment in itself.