Professor Roberto Pomo is a dramatic classroom presence who has engaged and inspired college students for decades. It comes naturally to him – his father was an accomplished actor and radio personality in Argentina.
Pomo, who directs Sac State’s Honors Program, recently confronted a challenging audience of 80 middle-school students. This was the youngsters’ only encounter with a bona fide professor during their weeklong stay at Sac State as participants in the College Assistance Migrant Program, geared toward children of migrant and seasonal workers. It was also Pomo’s first encounter with students this young.
He not only kept their attention for 50 minutes, they gave him several rounds of applause.
The peripatetic professor continually paced the lecture hall, ascending the stairs, asking the students questions, parlaying their answers into additional queries that elicited still more responses. The young men and women responded to his prodding, particularly his sense of humor, whenever the discussion slowed.
“Why do you go to the movies?” Pomo asked, then immediately picked up on their answers to make a larger point about how Hollywood films are designed not only to make millions of dollars but to create perceptions about people who look different. The Other was a theme he used to explain how minorities have been routinely cast as bad guys to be feared. And he noted how those minority characters were frequently portrayed by Anglo-Saxon actors.
“Think about what you are seeing,” he challenged the CAMP students before showing a film clip. When the lights came back, he asked them to explain what the clip was saying to them. When one student gave an especially perceptive answer, the class gave him a spontaneous round of applause. As a young lady was quick to pick up on the stereotyping of characters, Pomo paused to praise her answer.
When the session ended, the gracious professor thanked them for being such a great audience, and they responded with spirited applause. They left Mendocino Hall with much to think about the next movie they see. He, in turn, was grateful for the chance to show them an aspect of filmmaking that may change their perspective.
– Alan Miller