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Slovak Studies Program

Slovak, Czech, and Central European Cinema

Comments in anonymous student surveys:


Made it a great environment for participating in discussions. Helped me properly format my papers and analyze information from multiple lenses and multiple levels. Professor Votruba makes a lot of jokes, which keeps the atmosphere light. He is also well-versed in his subject and knows how to teach it. The feedback that he gives on every homework assignment is very on point and constructive. It does more than show that he acknowledges that he received the homework; it shows that he wants to grow the ideas that students have.
He gave very clear examples and explained things very well. Also, he was very entertaining. Sometimes he talked too fast and rambled a bit, but I usually got what he was trying to say. I enjoyed watching the films and learning about Central Europe in this manner. I also found the tips on writing very practical and helpful. Good balance of lecture–[illegible]. Encyclopedic knowledge of all things scholarly. Fluent, nice tune. Loved subject, etc.
Knowledge of subject, availability, passion. Fair, reasoned, unpretentious. Improve: fewer pages a week. I learned very much from the professor after viewing films. Encouraged by professor. Gave time to reflect about films. Great discussions, professor showed interest in subject material and encouraged learning of topics. Great teaching style, handouts to correspond w/ the films.
Stimulated students' thinking by asking many questions and giving a lot of useful examples. Sometimes talks a little fast. Being able to view and interpret films from other countries that may not have been viewed outside of class. Utilize a few more classes on writing. Very beneficial. Great film choices, especially Kolya and Daisies. Knowledge of Central Europe and Martin's taste in good films. This course has made me become a better writer.
Very prepared for discussions and selections of films; allowed for interesting assignments. Tries to interact with class as much as possible. Some of the films were a little "out there" for interpretation. Good communication. Very enthusiastic, able to present background info. Professor Votruba's major strengths are:
+ He knows the material inside and out.
+ He has a great understanding of film analysis.
+ He always gives great feedback.
+ He really listens to the questions students pose, rather than using the questions as segues to his predetermined material.
+ He is very fair.
+ His notes for the movies he posts are very informative.
Professor Votruba is very charismatic and has an interesting speaking style that makes people want to listen to what he has to say. I can't think of any weaknesses. Great professor. I really like that we had practice on the writing style the professor wanted us to use throughout the course. He spent the first two weeks or so explaining to us exactly what he was looking for, and I really appreciated that approach, as opposed to one where the professor gives you poor grades until you get it right, without explaining in detail beforehand what the expectations are. Provided clear outlines and historical background to give students a context through which to view the films. Weekly writing assignments & discussion were beneficial in requiring us to produce a sustained analysis of films. As someone who has not taken a film class before, the class sessions on writing were very helpful.
Prof. Votruba does well explaining contexts of movies. He makes the class laugh and leads discussions well. Having Prof. Votruba explain history. I would add 1 more movie. Dr. Votruba was very entertaining and always had purposeful conversation before and after each weekly film. He is understanding and accommodating and provided us with useful information when we were preparing for our weekly assignments and midterm/final papers. The grading was fair and he made sure that we understood the guidelines, instructions, due dates etc... He is definitely my favorite professor this semester.
Always well prepared, facilitates discussion well, constructive criticism of work. Gave ample historical background to help understand the films, films most enjoyable. Always accessible, is attentive to student responses and criticism of film. I was glad that toward the end of the course I was able to discuss a topic in a 3 page paper without specific questions. Simply well prepared to discuss topics/themes, history, etc. Very welcoming to questions & understanding of one's unfamiliarity w/ certain themes. Personally he has gone out of his way to be of help. Very intense & involved.
Offers excellent background in Slovak history. Everyone was involved during class discussions. Encouraged further reading about the subject. Most beneficial: learning about Central European history. He constantly works to provoke thoughts from his students, to teach them not just to learn, but begin to inherently understand the subject matter. He also makes the material accessible to people taking the class who may not have a background in film, but also keeps it stimulating for those who do. I feel that through our discussions of the film I have developed much better understanding of film audiences and the thought behind filmmaking process. I also think he has helped a lot to improve the thought process in my writing with his constructive criticism.
His ability to clarify concepts extremely well and present course material & lectures in a way that is pedagogically effective. His comments on papers are also very useful. The amount of papers that I had to write and the instructor's focus on improving writing were very useful I already write better halfway through the course. I also enjoyed interpreting the films in their historical contexts and feel much more capable of analyzing film in general. Very friendly and open to further discussion. A great deal of knowledge on subject matter. Weakness: perhaps not going into more detail during class time about historical context necessary for the weekly papers.
Strong knowledge of Central European history & film. Maintains a stimulating educational environment. Very good at explaining issues pertaining to writing. I liked how we sent in assignments electronically and he made comments on the document – then sending that paper back electronically. It was a very effective way of critiquing papers. Overall my writing seems to be developing a stronger presence. Improve: maybe he would require 1 on 1 meetings to talk about papers. That way if they are mandatory, we will get more info on the critiques of our papers.
Very knowledgeable about the subject, he made the class very interesting and posed good questions that led to good debates. Very good at focusing on how to write & analyze in this particular field. Sometimes talked fast. The writing practice and the in-class discussions regarding the movies. The amount of time spent on learning to write for the course was appropriate. Perhaps an additional class to focus on writing the longer midterm & final papers? Communicated points of films and how they relate to society & everyday life very effectively. Improve: for discussions, get the class in a circle, force us to make a comment about the film or issues every class. Most beneficial: culture issues/learning about life in Central Europe/communism and being able to compare it to life in the States.
Very relaxed, agreeable style. New ideas. Continue as it is. Good sense of humor/personality, highly knowledgeable about subjects, accessible to students. No breaks, occasionally prolonging material for the sake of finishing the class period. Good selection of films, historical context.
Enthusiastic, clearly desired opinions of students. Improve: slightly unclear sequencing of class, more concentrated content (geographically). Most beneficial: making clear distinction between geographic/ethnic groups. Choice of films, presentation of them. Helps students if needed. Improve: more discussion, have to participate. Most beneficial: Learning about film & diff. cultures.
Humorous, appreciable. Writing a paper every week stimulated my thoughts and I often considered things I normally wouldn't. He was very informed on his subject and the history. He encouraged conversation and ideas. Improve: not so many papers, we have written a book. Most beneficial: learning about another culture through cinema and other types of cinema in light of communism.
Very knowledgeable and approachable teaching methods. Excellent films chosen. Wonderful professor. Exposure to films that I would've never seen. Fair and helpful with grading papers. Provided useful background material on the subjects. My critical writing skills have improved during the course.
He was very knowledgeable about subject matter. He was very helpful & open to questions. Course organized well. Too many papers. Most beneficial: Learning about the history of Central Europe along with the films. Gave good background on the films, lots of discussion, positive feedback in the papers. Improve: papers every week was a bit demanding. Most beneficial: Learning about Central European culture, watched films in a different way.
His handouts were very helpful in understanding the different films and time periods in Central Europe. Having the opportunity to view many different types of Central European films and learning more about the history of the area. Good use of class time. Good use of examples. Good feedback.
Explains what he wants out of assignments very well. Returns papers incredibly fast and with a great amount of comments. Professor Votruba has given me a lot of useful advice with regards to my writing. I have fun, his comments incredibly beneficial. Discussions good, has ability to take opposing view point seriously, which I feel is admirable trait. Picked good films applicable to discussion. Fine discussions. Enjoyed class. Was very good not just because I learned about Central Europe, but also because I was able to write about a wide variety of topics.
Did a very good job of not judging anyone's opinions, not intimidating students from talking in class. Maybe break students up in groups to discuss films sometimes? Excellent course, very interesting, I liked the papers, learned more about film. Very knowledgeable about material. Improve: not real good at encouraging discussion, talks too fast, lower the amount of writing.
Wide variety of topics that related to Central European history and film making. Very informative. Gave everyone a chance to speak on topics. Well prepared. Very knowledgeable. The weekly handouts were in depth and very helpful, time was used well. The variety of films showed major aspects of Central European filmmaking throughout the years. Also gave a good overview of the history and culture. Improve: maybe not show The Sun in a Net next time. Strengths/weaknesses: Very nice, not intimidating, brought out answers from students, a good moderator. An enjoyable class.
He was very knowledgeable about the subject and was able to explain the issues we dealt with in a comprehensive manner. The background handouts were very helpful as well as the lectures. Infinite knowledge on topics at hand. Very friendly & easy to talk to. Very accessible. Improve: replace 1000 Year Old Bee w/ something else, please!
Great knowledge, always presents in an organized fashion, great handouts. Improve: papers could have been shorter, it is really a lot more than my other classes. Strengths/weaknesses: it's great to hear from someone who knows the topic. Keeps it lively & focused. The papers we received on the movies' background & directors, actors, etc., helped me a great deal. Improve: Keep the break, it is a long class; perhaps more dates when we look at Czechoslovakia's past. Improve: maybe an explicit grading system. Strengths/weaknesses: He used a lot of examples to demonstrate how filmmaking evolved in Central Europe and the way which information was given was easy to comprehend. Very good communication with students, the class discussions are always a high point. I liked the course.
Due to the social climate of C. Europe, the films had a political bent which forced the class to be more political than most film classes – not really a weakness, though. A very good flow/time. No real weakness, a very open, constructive dialogue between students & instructor. Knows material well. I decided that I don't like foreign films.
Great comments on papers. Not enough time discussing the films. Most beneficial: writing assignments. Very enthusiastic about subject matter. Improve: more workable feedback on the papers, did not present enough about the implications and history of communism.
Efficient preparations and good use of class time. Improve: use more varied assignments. Strengths/weaknesses: made things simple with good examples. Great communication, and feedback on assignments. Great class for film majors who want to study foreign films. Knew material, interested in students, accessible. Raised interesting questions. Should present something on what was going on in film elsewhere, e.g., Russia, W. Europe. Could call on specific students for response.
He seemed to be there to help the student. Improve: class extremely long, maybe shorten the midterm & final a little bit. Strengths/weaknesses: his teaching style was good, there's not a whole you can do with a movie class and I thought he did well. Very good with interacting w/ students. Open to students' ideas, fun to listen to, much knowledge about the subject. If this particular teacher wasn't leading the course, I probably would not have enjoyed it. I have a good idea about subject matter now. Good variety of movies. Open to all of students' needs, understands students sometimes have lapses.
Highly knowledgeable, interesting, funny and challenging to the right degree. I usually have issues with writing enough for papers and essays but since we had to write a 3 page paper weekly, it forced me to write in small amounts regularly and now I feel that I am a better writer overall. Well organized. Well presented. Allowed everyone to voice their own opinion. Improve: maybe put 2 or 3 intermissions in during film screening, I had a hard time staying focused when I had to read subtitles uninterrupted for 2 hours.
Encouraging discussion and challenging students' opinions to encourage new opinions. Most beneficial: the writing assignments and the discussions. The instructor is very knowledgeable about the history behind the films. This course was more than just a film course, it was also a good way to learn history. At the beginning of the course we were given a chart w/ a time frame of historical events so we could see where the films fit in and why they were done in that particular style.
The instructor holds a great deal of knowledge about the subject. He listens to student concerns. Always ready for class and has a very structured syllabus. Improve: perhaps watch movie first, then talk about it immediately after – stimulates paper ideas. Strengths/weaknesses: the films seemed to be a strong representation of Slovak film & surrounding countries, very understanding of students' needs. I love these films! Knows a great deal about the material, fair and helpful. Choice of films contextualized.
A great communicator of aspects of film, history of Central Europe and a great analysis of the transition from communism to free-market society. Very enthusiastic about the course subject and easy to talk to. Great comments on the papers. Very helpful. Information about Europe and communist control. Very fascinating info to know. More time to write the papers. A week would be great. Papers should be due a week after watching the film.
Stimulated thinking. Made me realize there is much more to films than just plot and actors/actresses (e.g., cinematography, how it reflects the society, etc.). Increased my interest in Central/Eastern European movies, which I knew nothing about before this class. Very knowledgeable regarding the material. Kept the films interesting and explained quite thoroughly & effectively the background. The historical & cultural aspects of the course were very interesting & useful to know especially when further studying these areas in other courses.
He was extremely knowledgeable in the background of the films & was excellent at speaking in front of the class about his knowledge while maintaining a distance so as not to impose his thoughts on the students. He also made himself readily accessible for questions. The class was long & I zoned out a bit. Though that's not his fault, it's my own. I have a much greater knowledge into Central European history in the 20th century & how it in turn affected the film. This is also my first film class so it helped me learn how to criticize work effectively. Very organized time schedule and good class discussions. Improve: Try to see the students' point and recognize that there is more than one answer to every question. I learned more in this class than I have in any other this semester, I'm very glad I had the opportunity to do so.
Knowledgeable about the subject. Most beneficial: learning why people made films the way they did. Improve: less papers, once every other week would be better. He gave very helpful and positive feedback for the weekly assignments. He talks very fast and sometimes it was hard for me to understand him. The weekly assignments were helpful in understanding the topics discussed in lecture.
One of my favorite professors at Pitt! Really knowledgeable, good-humored, and entertaining lecturer. He and the program in general are real gems for Pitt. Exhaustively pursued every nook and cranny or even the most minor detail. Weekly writing w/ feedback.
Feedback, explanation, translation, class feedback – good. Most beneficial: foreign language, writing, cultural education. Give this class a better classroom with better A/V equipment and seating. Handouts organized, handouts and teacher lecture.
He is very enthusiastic about the material and presents it well. Very personable and polite. Most beneficial: learning more about the history of the region through the visual aids of the films. Give more time between the viewing of the film and the essay due date. He was well prepared for the day of class. Improve: make sure he doesn't go past the time the class is over, tell a little more of what is expected in the papers. Strengths/weaknesses: good in letting us figure stuff out through our class discussions, help discussion along a little more. Got our assignments back w/ good comments.
Very friendly, very good at weaving student participation over all discussion. Adaptable, willing to move past film discussion toward student concerns. The course covers a huge range of film & cultural history forcing some generalizations concerning communism, socialist realism, etc. Many excellent films. Opened a series of film, social & political histories of nations often neglected in college & otherwise. Add more reading about history, society & communism, otherwise an excellent survey of a vast, undertreated range of film studies. Very open, enthusiastic, positive. Lectures somewhat disjointed. Learning history & film in the same course is more interesting then just one or the other.
Good writing advice. Said what and what not to do to improve my writing. Was very clear and organized. Helped put things in historical context. Clear with expectations and helpful with corrections – upbeat. Access to interesting films I would otherwise not have seen.
He is very knowledgeable about the subject and the region. He is also very intent in his teaching, being sure to cover anything that he thinks we might not know, whether about writing or film. Sometimes our classroom discussion was a bit stilted because of the way that he will interrupt people for a moment to explain something. The thorough exposure to different aspects of Central European film history from someone who actually knows about the films and their context. I would have enjoyed more inter-student discussion in this class. Very knowledgeable on many related subjects; personal experience in the region being studied. Most beneficial: the background information that was given with each film. Improve: more time to discuss films.
Knowledgeable of the countries. Most beneficial: discussions & probing questions. Improve: better viewing. He kept the class moving forward during discussion by asking several questions pertaining to many thought provoking questions about the films. Learning about a culture I knew little about and engaging in class discussion more than usual.
+ Course outline/clarity.
+ Accessibility outside of class (office & email).
+ Instigated class conversation.
Syllabus. Film/contextual background.
Dedication to grading essays, helps improve student's writing & making course seem interesting. Learning about the culture, writing skills that differ from usual writing, new perception on films and movie. Add one more movie rather than having a writing day.
Very knowledgeable, good instructor, sometimes rambled a bit. Good in class discussion. Sometimes it is unclear what the homework assignment or prompt is. This is not a big issue because we can email him for suggestions. The handouts and write-ups, in addition to his lectures, were most beneficial to me. His comments on my weekly essays also helped me to become a better and more precise writer. He explains concepts very well and makes sure he does not move on without proper understanding. The instructor does not really have any major weakness. This course has taught me to interpret ideas with what is given. I feel both writing classes were beneficial.
Clarifying examples to help students understand cultural differences. More thought-provoking & unique questions. Room w/ different seating arrangements (screen is hard to see in some seats). Professor Votruba is very accessible to students and understanding of scheduling concerns. He presents an organized sheet with each unit and he is incredibly clear about his expectations on paper formatting. The textbook and the lectures were very cohesive.
Explaining course material clearly and helping student understand the films presented, especially in context. Sometimes it was unclear what to write for assignments. Being encouraged to think creatively and openly and learning about a culture that is very different from my own. Provided necessary information to accurately discuss films in our essays. Weird formatting rules – although I understood the point. Broadened my appreciation & knowledge of Central European films & history.
Encouragement of students to contribute their thoughts. Availability of background info on clips of film on CourseWeb. Maybe take a break before showing the film. Good. Could use a break sometimes, though. Good use of history. We learned about cultural differences. Good. Would've liked to've had grades. I don't think this room is that great.
Accessibility. Always explains the concepts well. The selection of films – I get to learn about many eccentric films. Maybe a presentation or something, or more assignments that encourage us to learn, other than papers. Very well organized, very intelligent and accessible. When Professor Votruba gets excited about an idea he talks really fast, so fast that it is difficult to take notes on what he is talking about.
The writing aspect has helped me greatly improve my writing skills, and learn to thoughtfully and coherently form an argument using evidence. Evaluations and comments improved my use of language. Dr. Votruba was clearly very knowledgeable about the topic of the class. He should randomly call on people to stimulate class discussion. His expertise in both film and history of Central Europe were very helpful in understanding some of the harder aspects of the films shown in class.
Very approachable and friendly. Does a good job of illustrating concepts through examples in the films. Discussing the movies after they are over was helpful. It gave us the chance to hear other students' opinions and clear up any lingering issues or matters of confusion from the films.