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Real-World Experience

Working as Professionals, Faculty Bring Lessons to Life

Aug. 5, 2013

Young Asian woman in a white lab coat talks to another woman.

Assistant professor Katherine Tong shares real-world experiences with her nursing students.

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Bringing current, cutting-edge industry information into the classroom, a significant number of Cal State Fullerton faculty members work in their professions while teaching at the University. Here's a look at several CSUF faculty members who hone their expertise on the front lines, and enhance student learning through sharing their firsthand experiences and leveraging their network of professional contacts.


In 2000, a studio fire destroyed more than 10 years of Cliff Cramp's art. The fire pushed him to switch from traditional illustration to digital painting.

The benefactors of that decision are the hundreds of students that Cramp '92, '98 (M.A., M.F.A.) has taught, as well as the many clients he serves as a freelancer in the entertainment industry. Cramp is area coordinator for the illustration program and instructs traditional and digital media.

His clients have included LucasFilms, 20th Century Fox, United Artists and Disney Entertainment. So when he started working at Cal State Fullerton in 2000, he knew he wanted to remain active in the entertainment industry.

"It's important for your students to know that you are bringing real-world experiences into the classroom," he said. "Really everything that I do professionally is relevant to the classroom because I am training professionals."

Cramp is able to invite industry leaders to class or team up with studios like DreamWorks so students can meet and be critiqued by working artists.

He brings in his own studio contracts and explains the art of negotiation, including pricing freelance jobs. He teaches new illustration technologies, styles, concepts and trends he has experienced. His professional work is invaluable when it comes to helping students hone their own craft.

"The students see that you are working in the industry and that you understand how things work," he said. "You're giving them the tools to succeed."


Dennis Gaschen believes in a good mix of textbook and real-life experience.

A lecturer since 1994, Gaschen '80 (M.A. communications) has been actively involved in the public relations field for more than 30 years and believes life experiences enhance course work.

"What you bring to the classroom are your experiences that hopefully bring the textbook to life.''

In 2010, Gaschen was selected to the Public Relations Society of America's College of Fellows, the profession's highest honor. Among his clients are nonprofit organizations, hospitals and public agencies.

The practical, work-related experience Gaschen shares include the ways he pitches stories to the media, how he networks with other professionals and the experiences of other professional mentors, who help student teams with their capstone public relations projects.

Having the opportunity to share his experiences in the classroom is something that he never considered would develop into a career.

"I never thought that I could teach.... It is a wonderful blessing," Gaschen said. "It's made me a better professional."


Nursing came to Katherine Tong at an early age. When the assistant professor was a child, her mother gave her a toy blood pressure kit – determining her life's work.

Over the past 26 years, Tong has worked as a nurse and board-certified nurse practitioner and is in her seventh year at CSUF teaching courses and labs in health assessment and concepts using evidence-based practices. She also works two half-days a week in a family practice, where she sees pediatric and women's health patients. She says the experience helps keep her current in the fast-changing world of medicine.

"I love doing what I do," Tong said.

Like many of the nursing faculty who keep their skills current, Tong is able to pass her vast experience along to her students, enhancing what they learn in class and giving them the benefit of her hands-on experiences. "If you can put into practice what you are saying to them, then it validates what you are teaching,"' she said.

When Tong is working with students in a lab she is able to illustrate the lessons through her past cases, such as determining a woman was pregnant when she insisted she wasn't. "She broke down crying because culturally it was taboo for her to be pregnant," Tong said. "Thank God I didn't just send her home."

Tong says the best part of teaching in the nursing program is that many of the students are working in the medical field, and they are able to share their own experiences and put into practice what is being taught. "I used to do a straight lecture when I first started out," Tong said. "Now we have a discussion and share experiences, cases. The students love it."


Lecturer Stan Breckenridge is a recording artist, composer, performer and author, holding a doctorate in musicology. Now Breckenridge '75 (B.A. music) is a Fulbright Scholar lecturing and performing in Poland.

So when he stands in front of a class to discuss musical history, performance and composition, students know he brings a wealth of professional experience to back up what he is teaching.

"In general, students want to know if we as teachers practice what we preach," Breckenridge said. "Students are indeed impressed by their professor's attainment of a doctorate degree. Still, adding the ability to not only sing and play an instrument, but also to do so at the performance level, is even more stimulating."

For Breckenridge, the process of preparing for a performance is akin to the preparation he makes to teach.

Students have the added bonus of being able to purchase one of his eight albums or see him perform. "Because of these accomplishments, students seem self-assured in my ability to furnish them with applicable skills and knowledge," he said.

Enriching students' lives and discovering new talent are among the many elements he loves about teaching. He is working with a young violinist and vocalist in Poland that he discovered in one of his music workshops. They have released an album and have performed in two concerts with more to come.

"To be able to share my experiences, inspire and motivate and, subsequently, witness the growth of young people is what I love most about teaching," Breckenridge said.

More Faculty Leaders in Their Professions

A host of CSUF faculty members are leaders in their professions. Here is a sampling:

  • Mark Boster, communications lecturer, is the Communications Department's 2013 Distinguished Communicator and a Pulitzer Prize winner. Boster, a photojournalist for more than three decades, has been a Los Angeles Times staff photographer since 1983.
  • Bill Cunliffe, music professor and performer, in 2010 won a Grammy for his arrangement of "West Side Story Medley." Cunliffe was nominated in 2012 for Best Instrumental Composition, "Overture, Waltz and Rondo."
  • Ken Ravizza, professor emeritus of kinesiology, is an authority on performance enhancement, stress management skills and coping strategies. As a consultant, Ravizza has worked with Olympians, Major League Baseball teams including the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and professional athletes and teams.
  • Wayne Pinnell, accounting lecturer in the Mihaylo College of Business and Economics, is managing partner of Haskell & White LLP, one of the largest locally owned CPA firms in Southern California.
  • Al Gorski, who teaches courses in risk management at Mihaylo College, is the chief risk officer with the Orange County Transportation Authority.
  • Jule Selbo, associate professor of radio-TV-film, writes screenplays professionally and completed a low-budget horror film last fall.
  • Ari Posner, assistant professor of radio-TV-film, took a leave of absence last fall to work on the Toronto writing staffs of two Nickelodeon shows.

By: Michael Mahi, 657-278-5143

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