Dan Dinello

Dan Dinello’s activist past and creative mind are a perfect fit in Columbia’s Film & Video department.

“I marched and went to rallies as an anti-war demonstrator in Madison until the Vietnam War ended in 1975,” Dinello says, recalling his days as a student at the University of Wisconsin. During that time, he also did graduate work in philosophy and theater, worked as a janitor at a seniors’ community center and a sound person for a public television station, and became a father.

Equipped with an M.F.A. in film and video, he applied for a job at Columbia, a school much smaller than it is today, but equally devoted to its mission.

“The day I interviewed for the job was the first day I had seen the college. I loved that the department was as devoted to filmmaking as I was myself,” Dinello says. “At the time, I became the fourth full-time faculty member. I consider myself one of the department’s architects.”

Dinello cites Columbia’s ability to “uniquely interweave artistic, academic, technical, and practical career education” as one of its strengths, and also one of the characteristics of the college that make it a personally and creatively satisfying place to teach.

“I researched science fiction for a script, then developed a course in science fiction, then wrote a book, Technophobia! Science Fiction Visions of the Posthuman Technology, based on the class and my research,” Dinello says, offering an example of how his professional lives as artist, scholar, and teacher intersect at Columbia. “I have also directed episodes of a television show, Strangers With Candy, for Comedy Central and used my experience to inform classes in thesis development, screenwriting, directing, and post-production. I’ve taught at Columbia for 30 years and everything I’ve taught relates directly to my creative or research passions.”

Calmness, kindness, creativity, and persistence work wonders.Dinello was part of the original committee that created the interdisciplinary, interactive multimedia program in 1997, which eventually evolved into the Department of Interactive Arts and Media. “We debated the aesthetics and technology of multimedia, the politics and objectives of the curriculum, the cost, the language, and the meaning of it all,” he recalls. “Through lengthy, exciting, and sometimes frustrating discussions, we created a good program that resulted from an unholy combination of political compromise and budgetary concerns as well as an idealistic vision of serving the educational needs of a new media generation.” As both co-director and director for three years, Dinello did everything from hiring teachers and helping create syllabi to sweeping the floors before the first class.

“Calmness, kindness, creativity, and persistence work wonders,” he notes. So does astute scholarship. Dinello was recently recognized as the 2010 Columbia College Chicago Distinguished Faculty Scholar, an honor he well deserves.