A Lecture With A GoPro On My Head

This is an experiment in coordination with my son Jordan. Inspired by his All Over Perception Travel Series, I wanted to find out how a lecture from various perceptions and points of view would work. We are going to do another one in a few weeks and we think with this trial run it could be much more polished. Enjoy. His expertise only cost me .31 bitcoin!

Club Rush at Crafton Hills: The Podcast!


Please join Jimmy at the February 12, 2014 student club rush in which he is able to interview faculty members, student club presidents, and directors as they discuss their very exciting clubs from dance and art to health and science.  Enjoy the centerpiece interview with new CHC Philosophy professor Jeff Cervantez , who discusses some of the most pressing questions life has to offer. Enjoy!

Rate My Professor? Rate THIS: A Psycho-Analytical Look at Adagogical Evaluation through Social Media

 RateMyProfessor_LogoLast Thursday, while eating breakfast with some students who were set to graduate that evening, several asked me if I ever looked at the website, “Rate my professor” -designed to assist students in choosing good (easy?) professors- to find out what students were saying about me. This is not the first time I have been asked this question and my response is generally along the lines of, “No, what is the point? In fact, please go on and talk shit about me so my classes will stay smaller.”  Yet this is the short answer. This blog entry will provide you with the long one and you will know why I believe such a site should be taken with a grain of salt at best. In the end, feel free to rate this blogger.


Human beings are fascinating creatures. We are likely the only ones that are capable of both great acts of selfless altruism (think Mother Theresa and Ghandi) as well as great acts of atrocities (think Boston marathon bombers and Hitler, not necessarily in that order). We are the species that will sacrifice our lives to help others while also being capable of killing innocent children for no good reason –yet I cannot think a good reason to ever kill a child, our species has groups, extreme Islamic fundamentalists and psychotics, that may argue otherwise.

A scary and mysterious breed we are indeed.

I believe there are two concepts that are great predictors as to whether our collective altruistic side OR our dark side will manifest itself. The first is the idea of ACCOUNTABILITY. When we are held accountable to our ideas and actions we tend to think through them with much greater scrutiny and accountability-1consideration. With few exceptions (Nazi Germany being a main one) when we must share our plans and opinions, such sharing will bring about critical analysis and with this analysis comes a greater accountability and likelihood of an effective outcome.

You know, like if I decide to share my plan of action to shoot up the local elementary school with my recovery group, someone will likely opine that this is a really, really bad idea.

Study after study (see Social Facilitation Theory) demonstrates the improved performance of collaborative over individual decision-making. Question: If one wants to improve a performance in ANY given area imagesof life? It’s easy…have an audience. We do better when others are watching.

As far as we know, the Unabomber, Boston marathon bombers, Timothy MacVeigh or Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro did not work by democratic committee. Such atrocious acts are usually the result of an individual or small group of like-minded individuals, spending too much time in their isolated own head(s) conjuring up schemes without having to express said schemes to any opposing entities for an alternative opinion.

What does this have to do with rate my professor? Patience dear reader.

Likewise, when one is held accountable and their plans and ideas are revealed to the masses, plans tend to flow in the opposite direction. Professional athletes hire publicists to ensure img_30001_matt-kemp-gives-jersey-and-shoes-to-kid-with-cancertheir plans to donate thousands of dollars are well documented while reporters are conveniently available when acts of kindness are performed.

Strong accountability continues to be both the strongest deterrent to really bad ideas as well as the greatest motivator for really great ideas; namely ones of kindness and altruism.

The second idea is the opposite to the first and that is ANONYMITY.  When human beings are able to work anonymously, the threat of very dangerous results looms ever so strongly. Yes, we do hear of the occasional very generous donor who gave anonymously to a cause, RARELY. In the great majority of cases of large generous donations, for example, not only is the person known, the building is also named after them. Conversely, when one is able to act under the guise of “anonymous,” our darker sides tend to rise to the top.  Studies suggest that anonymity can be a real problem insofar as deviant behavior is concerned.

Perhaps the single greatest predictor of effective decision-making and ethical behavior is accountability. Conversely the greatest predictor in poor decision-making and unethical behavior is under the condition of anonymity.

anonymous behind barsQuite frankly, I am not interested in hearing the opinions of those who hide under the veil of anonymity. In my blogs I am not shy in offering my opinions, insights and beliefs and I will stand by them because I am accountable to them. You know who I am. Hell, my little cute picture of me with my handlebar mustache is right up there at the top right for your enjoyment. I will defend my words. Sometimes my words will be right; sometimes they will be wrong. Sometimes my words are well stated; sometimes they are, uh, how can I say it? Uhm, ah…NOT well stated.

In any case, these are my words and I stand by them and am held accountable to them. I care as much about anonymous people’s opinions as I do about eating or drinking something of unknown content that came in plain white packaging with no label of ingredients. It could be absolutely delightful or it could be poisonous and insidious; though, in either case, I am just NOT interested.

Hence, the very long road to “rate my professor” and my ponderings. Back when I was in college we had our version of “rate my professor” and that was sharing our opinions face to face with others.  Unless we heard of a professor through the grapevine, we knew the source of the information and often we considered the source of the information before we considered the information itself…after all, the medium is the message.

You know, if it was the screw-off complaining of a prof you would ignore her -yet if it was a solid and trustworthy student, you listened very carefully.

To be blunt, people who act anonymously and are not held accountable drive me nuts. I love those who disagree with me on something I may have said or done, though have the decency AND THE BALLS to stand behind it and express disagreement!  I love honesty. Anonymity has the tendency to turn fairly nice people rather mean, rather fast.

And feel free to disagree with me…yet you must provide your identity and email address. I would not have it any other way.

Oh, and my students said I apparently have a chili pepper after my name indicating I am hot. I suppose “rate my professor” may not be such a bad site after all. Wink.

My Love Letter to West Ranch High School

Dear Mr. Vincent…I just had to write this and get it out.  Please share as you can. I feel the need to share my gratitude with the world, particularly my “blogosphere.”

westranchMarch 10, 2013

Dear West Ranch Educators, Coaches and Administrators:

This is just a short letter to send my (our) deepest gratitude, sentiments and earnest appreciation for your overwhelming acceptance and kindness you have displayed continually toward my son Stevie over the past two years—through both stern discipline when needed, and positive motivation when appropriate.

As some of you know, Stevie transferred to West Ranch from Saugus High School in the winter of 2011. At this time he as was very scared and insecure, transferring from a very dark and problematic situation at SHS. I could go on and on about this troubling scenario though it would provide no point. Let it be said that at the time Stevie needed love, acceptance and some respect—West Ranch provided it to him in abundance.  As a result, my heart overflows with appreciation.

You have all contributed to restoring some semblance of respect toward adult authority figures in his life. At a time when he believed all adult authority concerned themselves only with “looking good” and not “being good” you have all exemplified for him what it means to be a good person; a cheersectionconfident person; a leader. I cannot thank you all enough for this…you, as an institution, have earned my deepest respect and highest regards. Thank you.

As most of you know, Stevie is a very good person though he is also a risk-taker who likes to live life a bit on the edge. As his parent, I have earnestly worked with him to learn the values of wisdom and discernment WITHOUT losing this cutting edge of risk-taking behavior… after all, the world needs risk-takers. Striking this balance is not easy and Stevie has Stevieinhospitalfrequently both reaped the benefit AND paid a hefty price for this risk-taking behavior.  I thank all of you for recognizing this quality in Stevie and not thwarting it out of fear, not threatened by his supreme confidence, rather shaping it out of love. Thank you.

I specifically want to thank coaches Shant Bickaki and Sean Mckillop for taking in Stevie not only as a basketball player, though as a person. Even after he decided to no longer play basketball, they continued to take him out to lunch and send encouraging texts…he shares them with me. I feel Sterbsinplayforever indebted to them both. Administrators Ms. Manfredi, Mr. Necessary (come back!!) and, of course you, Principal Vincent for taking such great care of Stevie and leading not just with the rod, but with the heart as well. In addition I would like to personally thank his counselor Ms. Van Amberg who was always there for him and Ms. Overdevest for accepting Sterbs into West Ranch TV -sight unseen- as she understood the situation from which he was coming from, THANK YOU.

Ms. Banks, Ms. Frame, Mr. Von Busch, Mr. Ippolito, and all of his teachers (please forgive me for not knowing all your names!) you are in the front line trenches of Stevie’s life and he shares with me the stories he learns from all of you.  As an educator myself, please know of the profound effect you are having on these lives and you have all changed Stevie for the better.

Stevie even comes home with wonderful stories from the friendly custodians and front gate workers…the entire culture of West Ranch, top to bottom, is exemplary.

meandsterbswrtvStevie is our youngest child and we are now in the process of saying goodbye to the Hart District. Thank you all so much for sending us, and Stevie, out with such a great taste in our mouths after having a rather dismal one. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Jimmy Urbanovich

Speech Class: It’s more than just Pole Dance lessons

I am not old, rather very experienced. And just when you think you heard it all…

Today I did something I have not done in over 20 years of teaching.  As a professor of Communication Studies with hundreds of students every year, I am certain you can only imagine how many speeches, arguments, and debates I have heard during this tenure.  If my terrible math mind figures correctly—and it probably does not—it must be well over 45,000 speeches and counting—covering the wildest sphere of topics imaginable…you name it, I probably have heard a speech, or 20, about it.

Today the unthinkable happened.

I discuss in all my classes the practice of ethical speechmaking, that nearly any topic is appropriate if delivered with an ethical objective and in an appropriate manner. Even a speech on how to build a bomb can be ethical if presented as necessary in the event of being taken over by a foreign or 2008_05_bombdomestic threat (ok…it’s a stretch though you get the idea). I have heard speeches on issues of Sexy pole dancerrace, war, sexuality, politics…even pole dancing and S&M. Granted, some have walked a fine line, yet have never been a problem. Pole dancing is GREAT exercise you know.

Then today happened.

The speech was “How to Discipline One’s Children.” It began on the edge, discussing the necessity to both “smack” and “beat” your child in the age of “hippie parents,” which was fine; as a self-confessed hippie parent (who did happen to spank his children, thank you very much) I can take it. However, when the speech entered its third and final point on techniques to control your child, including a slap across the face, a surprise punch, a yard stick, a 2×4 “heavy duty” pvc pipe, kicks and “skull thumps,” I felt my stomach begin to turn and my mind overcome with a surge of impassioned anger over what I was hearing. I could take no more. I simply clapped and said, “Stop!”

I was angry. Pissed.

We then, as a class, discussed what was just said and the implications therein. It was a tense, though I believe fruitful discussion. The tension produced a wonderful teachable moment. After all, we all learn only while in tension.anger-quotes

It was a first.

Now you may think this blog is headed in the direction of discussing the appropriateness of topics, perhaps the subject of child abuse, the effective use of humor (apparently it was supposed to be funny) or perhaps even an old man rant about what is wrong with our youth today; none of the above.

What intrigued me most about the entire episode was the surge of impassioned anger that came over me. Where the hell did that come from? Why? Perhaps one can understand the objection over the student’s speech though why such a deep and “angsty” passionate response? I could have just waited for the speech to end and then make gentle though pointed observations and analysis. After all, no one was actually being beaten.

Was it because I absolutely love children? Was I beaten as a child and just forgot about it and some kind of Freudian trigger was pulled? Was it because I had just read that in 2008 alone the CDC reported that over 1700 children died from abuse or neglect in this country? Was it just TOFTS? FI?

I am not sure where the surge of angry passion came from though, bottom line, it came and it surged as if from out of nowhere, like a bat out of hell; I can certainly theorize, but I may likely never know for certain. And what is important is that I keep asking the question and examining my own emotional life. Why?

Whenever we have a strong, emotional and visceral response to something that happens in our life it is not just about what happened. There are some repressed pressurized issues deep within us that seek welcome release when provided opportunity.  When the right trigger is pulled, an emotional portal is opened up and the hidden becomes manifested in what can take many forms.

It can be realized when the reaction is disproportionate to the action. It’s called overreaction.

Perhaps not unlike some other various times in my life—when I wept uncontrollably like a baby for hours upon dropping my then 10 year-old son at the airport after a road trip together or when I told off the boss’s mom after she simply questioned me about a transaction.

What happened in class was not about a young student making a poor decision with a woefully misguided attempt at humor (which I have been known to do a time or two) it was about the experienced professor and the revelation of some deep shit he needs to work through as well. And the beauty is that we can all learn from each other.

Yet, I must say, I would be happy to wait another 20 years for it to happen again.

(Epilogue: This was written a week ago though I waited until today to publish it as I wanted to discuss the incident with the student. He felt unfairly victimized and targeted by my anger. I apologized to him for my reaction (that he described as “primal”) I further explained it and asked forgiveness; as he apologized for his insensitivity in this sensitive matter. It was an awesome 5 minute private discussion as we discussed our feelings. He’s a good kid, a REALLY good SMART kid. Tension is awesome.)

The California Community Collage (get it? collage? it took me all night!) System

(Warning: This blog pertains to the nature of the community college and is directed toward students and colleagues. May I suggest some other bullshit to read if not interested?)

Recently a student emailed me with the following request (some details have been changed to protect identity):

Hello Professor Urbanovich, My name is “Jane Doe” and am enrolled at Crafton Mountain Community craftonCollege. Currently, I am taking English 101; I have been cleared by the admissions office to speak with you about adding Speech 125 to my course schedule. When I tried to register for your class, I found it was closed. Will you consider adding me to your Speech 125 Critical Thinking Through Argumentation and Debate?  As you consider my request, please note that I have been involved in a national speech and debate league. I have competed throughout the western states for the past three years, qualifying for nationals two of those three years in both speech and debate. Furthermore, I have been accepted to the University of Southern California and plan to compete on their forensics team. I believe your class will help prepare me for that level of competition. If you care to learn more about my record, please visit www.speechranks.com and enter “Jane Doe” in the upper left search field.  I look forward to a favorable response. In any case, thank you for your time and your consideration of my request.

A wonderful, thoughtful, respectful request to be sure (you should see some I get….yikes!) yet it has me thinking.failure-success

Why is the basic assumption of this student, along with many other students (AND many faculty members), that we community college professors are more inclined, or at the very least, SHOULD be more inclined to enroll a student in our courses if the student demonstrates that they are a top performing and excellent student? That is why we have the four year University.

Isn’t that kind of like begging for admittance to the hospital as you adamantly argue how healthy you are?

This email has me in tension over the nature and role of the community college professor. Do we cater to the educationally healthy or help cure the educationally sick? Both? I like to think it’s the latter.

My oldest daughter has frequently encouraged me to teach at the four-year university level. “You would be so good!” she would say. At times I have felt she is right; it would be awesome to academically wrestle with bright and prepared students and then I would ponder back to my days as a lost, floundering 18 year old at Los Angeles Valley College in Van Nuys (The University of Van Nuys at Fulton Street, we jokingly called it) -as unprepared for college as one unprepared for college could possibly get. No one in my family history ever graduated college. I was lost. No direction from anyone.LAVC

Then came the instructors. Instructors that showed me respect. Encouraged me. I will never forget my Public Speaking professor, Dr. Edler, a then new USC grad. He was so nice and kind not to mention smart as hell and he made the classroom fun. The first day he sat in class like a student (no one knew who he was) and a few minutes later jumped out of his chair and said, “Well someone has to teach this class, it may as well be me!” He offered direction and gave encouragement. He said that I was good…imagine that! Outside of my high school speech teacher (now a colleague at Glendale Community College…love you Ira!) I had not heard that one.

Then my Critical Thinking professor, Jim Marteney, who was always there for assistance and treated a young man who had no business in school with respect and dignity. He helped build a student. He constantly challenged my work ethic as he made me laugh, and more importantly, taught me how to critically think.  I would sit in his course and be mezmorized by theories I had never heard before -it was clicking; the two-hour class seemed like all of five minutes.

Sure, I had my fair share of loser profs as well. The (usually) tenured profs who did not give a shit…yet they were few and far between. The instructors I encountered at Los Angeles Valley CommunityCollege were as good, and many better, as any I have ever had while earning two Master’s degrees from both public and private Universities.

I recall sitting in a Small Group communication class and looking around at the students. Many students just sat there because they did not want to work at the gas station down the street or simply had nowhere else to go. Some motivated, some not. Yet no one HAD to be there. Anyone was free to get up and leave anytime. I freaking loved it and in the back of my mind I knew that this is where I eventually wanted to end up, the educational hospital of the community college.

I now realize when I teach I am not just teaching, I am giving back. And when the lost and unprepared 18 year-old bro with the crooked cap with the round size sticker still on the bill wearing an inappropriate-for-public t-shirt comes in and sits down, I tell myself, “Patience Jimmy, there I am. That was me.”

I then crack a joke or three and earnestly hope, deep within my heart, it all eventually clicks.

I frequently have to listen to my colleagues complain about “today’s student” -sure technology has produced many new issues, though I do not think today’s student has gotten more disrespectful or unmotivated; I believe most professors suffer from long term memory loss and forgetting their own life as a student.

They are not changing as much as some are just getting older and crustier.

Don’t get me wrong, I love having the overachieving “top shelf” students in class, if nothing else other than to serve as role models for the unprepared. Though I know my work: it is to educate and inspire all, which includes healing the academically wounded. It is certainly a collage.


Jimmy be Pimpin

In the classes I teach we always (yes, always) discuss the evolution of language. The evolution of words fascinates me. One word I find particularly intriguing is the word “pimp.”

What once meant a misogynistic and sadistic man involved in prostitution management, has evolved into many definitions, though a common one is “the art of selling something effectively.”

Thus today, I pimp education. And fully pimped you shall be.

Many years ago I used to believe that a college education was pretty much bullshit; a racket just to get society to pay for something that we could get for free simply by reading some books. While theoretically this may be true –we all have the capacity to be self taught (autodidact) -very few possess the needed characteristics to do so. In this sense, education is somewhat like masturbation, you can get the job done alone, though it is a much deeper and satisfying experience when engaged with another person.

I have 3 good reasons to get a higher education, regardless of your age.

1. Relationships: Yes, relationships. Think about the skills and characteristics that are needed in order to successfully complete college: Problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, dedication, perseverance, sacrifice, patience…all the same character qualities needed to sustain successful relationship. Don’t believe me? I will support this though it is worthy to be contained within the blog. “The figures are quite striking: College-educated Americans have seen their divorce rates drop by about 30% since the early 1980s, whereas Americans without college degrees have seen their divorce rates increase by about 6%. Just under a quarter of college-educated couples who married in the early 1970s divorced in their first ten years of marriage, compared to 34% of their less-educated peers. Twenty years later, only 17% of college-­educated couples who married in the early 1990s divorced in their first ten years of marriage; 36% of less-educated couples who married in the early 1990s, however, divorced sometime in their first decade of marriage.” Want to be in successful relationship? Get educated.

2. Personal Achievement: I constantly tell my students that the value of many college degrees is not so much the results of the information learned, rather, the real power of a college degree is about what this degree says about you and your character. In other words, it is not WHAT you learned but a statement of WHO you are. Imagine having to submit to my stubborn ass for an entire semester and demanding things be done MY WAY? God bless you. Yes, you will learn a thing or two about public speaking and critical thinking, although to succeed it says that – you know how to show up, finish what you start, and accomplish something the majority of Americans have not. It separates the talkers from the doers. A degree just feels good, really good. It’s pimp.

3. Financial: “Well I have a friend who has her degree and she is still waiting tables.” Maybe true, though the implication of a degree not helping one financially or occupationally is just flat out bullshit.  My favorite Freakonomics guy, Steven Leavitt, an accomplished economist, has this to say (BTW, I highly recommend this podcast): “Of all the topics that economists have studied, I would say one we are most certain about are the returns to education. And the numbers that people have come up with over and over are that every extra year of education that you get will translate into an 8 percent increase in earnings over your lifetime. So someone who graduated from college will earn about 30 percent more on average than someone who only graduated from high school. And if anything, the returns to education have gotten larger over time. They’re as big as they have ever been.”

I am a huge believer in the “never too late theory.” Whether 18, 28 or 68, a solid education is always (yes, always) a good thing at any stage of life. Perhaps this is why I love the Community College system -as the same class can have a retired medical doctor going back for a new degree along with a recent high school grad whose family never went to college…with EVERYTHING in between. A recent lecturer came to our school and asked our faculty if we were capable of teaching a class at USC. Not only could we, in some ways it would be a fantasy to teach pampered and prepared students – we could reach for the intellectual top shelf in every class. Then he observed that he guaranteed a USC professor would be ill-equipped to teach at a Community College. So pimp.

Not sure what degree to get? That is an easy one if you’re not sure: A Communication Studies degree. This study suggests that a degree in Communication is one of the most loved by employers, falling second only to Health Care Administration. Not to mention that we Communication College Professors are the fifth most satisfied profession in the country….and I get paid for doiiiing thiiiiiiis.

I may be no Huggy Bear though you most certainly have been pimped. How was it for you?