College of Southern Maryland Professor Josh Pachter agrees with many when he lists “It's A Wonderful Life” as one of his favorite films of all time, but the movie is more than just a personal favorite it can be seen as a theme throughout Pachter's life and career. “It may seem like a corny choice, but it illustrates the value of individuals and the choices we make that can have such extraordinary and unseen consequences,” said Pachter.
As an author and educator, Pachter believes in self-determination, motivation and personal responsibility, but he is quick to point out that there is nothing wrong with asking for help. “So many of us have been led to believe in the discourse of the self-help movement, which claims that there's nothing in our lives that's not within our personal ability to change, but we can't be experts on everything. When you ask someone else for assistance you not only may receive useful information but you're empowering others by allowing them to share their knowledge,” said Pachter, who encourages his students to step out of their comfort zone and try new things.
Pachter is himself well-versed in adventure. He has authored more than 70 short crime stories, edited a dozen short-story anthologies, worked as a translator and taught film history and communications, among other subjects, to students, incarcerated felons, and to military personnel and their families in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Holland, Germany, England, Italy, Spain, Greece, Bahrain, Pakistan, and Kuwait. Currently, he teaches communication courses for both CSM and the University of Maryland University College, and offers lectures to local community groups and businesses as a member of CSM's speakers bureau.
“My favorite students are the ones who have a real desire to workthe ones who've made a serious decision to change their lives or careers. It takes courage and determination to change courses, to embark on a new way of living, and do it successfully,””said Pachter.
“In the communication classes I teach, there's a strong interpersonal communication component. What's rewarding and exciting is seeing my students applying what they have learned in the classroom to their own lives, whether it's learning how to speak more effectively in public or reconnecting with a family member because they now have better communication skills,” said Pachter.
Pachter theorizes that students never know what or from whom their greatest life lessons will come and he encourages his students to think outside the box when it comes to their education. “I give my students the oddball challenge of encouraging them to creatively validate their own learning. Instead of a traditional paper, I ask them to show me what they've learned and how they've learned it,” said Pachter, who recalled some of those assignments with a laugh. “So far this semester, I've had 11 students turn in homework assignments iced onto cakes. I grade their homework, and then the class eats it,” said Pachter, who confirmed that despite the calories, the classroom creativity and openness to new ideas made has made for a wonderful teaching life.
As a member of CSM's speaker's bureau, Pachter offers the following presentations: “The Seven C's of Communication,” “The Early History of the Movies” and “Writing for Publication.” The CSM Speaker's Bureau is designed to provide expert speakers to non-profit community groups, organizations and schools. For information on the speaker's bureau or to request a speaker, visit http://www.csmd.edu/CommunityResources/SpeakersBureau/.