After a 35-year career teaching at MSU’s College of Communication Arts and Sciences in the Department of Media and Information, Senior Video Specialist Bob Albers will retire after the current spring semester.
Albers teaches one of the Communication Arts and Sciences classes that many ComArtSci students choose to take as a part of their degree programs. The course is called Story, Sound and Motion, which explores the central role of storytelling, sound and editing in media communication. That being said, the number of students that have had the opportunity to learn from Albers reaches into the thousands. He has had a particular impact on students who have taken his documentary capstone class. In fact, last year, a film produced by students in Albers’ class, From Flint: Voices of a Poisoned City, earned entrance into several film festivals and even won a Student Academy Award.
Before he retires, Albers has been able to cherish the relationships and connections made during his time at the college. The department recently celebrated the sixth Albies Awards, an Oscar-like awards ceremony recognizing students for their work in production and film. It simultaneously commemorates Albers and his name for the impact he has had on the program.
At this year’s Albies, Albers was celebrated with a plaque from the students, “It was one of those bittersweet things. I think, ‘Why am I leaving? I’ve got this group that I’m a part of that I am still connected with and I can tell they care about me’ ... So, I’ll miss that.”
Celebrating His Craft and Most Recent Film
You have likely experienced that moment when you’re doing the thing you love and you enter this state of being where you’re absorbed in the action or performance, commonly referred to as being “in the zone.” Albers’ recent documentary film, Chasing the Moment, follows 11 individuals who have experienced those moments and continue to seek them out in their lives every day.
The film features a chef, a marine sniper, a pulitzer prize-winning photographer, dancers, an Olympic Silver Medalist and more. It recently premiered at the Capital City Film Festival in Lansing on April 8.
"(The film is) about how do you get to that place where everything goes away and you're not thinking about anything, you're just being whatever it is that you do," said Albers.
Like the people in his film, Albers said he has experienced this sensation, too. Before entering the classroom, he was a college basketball player at Ballarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky, where he studied psychology. He said the feeling was present as an athlete, but it also happened later when he picked up the classical guitar and when he went to art school to study sculpture and photography, too.
Throughout the course of his life, he's been a teacher of various subjects and crafts, including teaching science to junior high school students, giving guitars lessons and, today, mentoring and educating future directors, editors and other industry professionals about all aspects of film and documentaries.
Albers' teaching went beyond the classroom during the 4.5 years of production for Chasing the Moment. He selected a handful of MSU students and two faculty members to assist him.
"Some of them were involved in the shooting (process) and so I feel as if that's a window into the professional world for those people," said Albers. "They get to do classes, but then they get to work on a big project."
Leaving a Legacy
Albers' ability to connect with his students dates back to the 90s when Bob Gould, a professor in the School of Journalism, was a student of Albers'. When Gould later returned to ComArtSci as a professor, he said Albers was a friendly face to see walking the halls.
"The first semester teaching here, I leaned on him a little to get some professional advice, but every time I would see him in the ComArtSci building, I would smile and was a bit nostalgic. In fact, even today, 10 years later, I still feel that way when I see him or talk to him," said Gould. "He had that kind of impact on me and so many other students. His kind soul and quiet demeanor always creates a calming effect when stress levels are high. I'm sad to see him retire, but it is so well deserved."
Gould said one of the last things he did as a student at ComArtSci was create a small documentary as an independent study with Albers. Now, 30 years later, Gould's daughter, Ilene, a freshman media and information student at MSU, is doing the exact same thing.
"He knows how to teach creative, out-of-the-box thinking and I've definitely learned better ways to approach storytelling," said Ilene. "He's just a genuine and kind person and show a lot of care for his craft, but most importantly for his students."
His daughter's work with Albers has impressed Gould and he is happy to know she had the chance to learn from one of the greats.
"When I heard Bob might be retiring, I told my daughter that she should take an independent study with him and learn as much as she can from him. I thought it would be a really cool thing for two generations to share that special mentorship," said Gould.
Just as Gould and his daughter have enjoyed learning from him, Albers has taken equal joy from teaching. "I really do like teaching a lot and I enjoy being around young people. You know they say it keeps you young, but I don't think that's true, maybe a little bit younger than you would be if you weren't involved with young people. They see the world differently than I do, maybe clearer in some ways than someone like me does. That's a thrill."
Albers, a Kentucky native, looks forward to moving back to his home state after 37 years away to build a home with his wife and "get to know Louisville again," especially through his photography.