Professor Matthew Herbertz, after spearheading the BFA film program at Florida Southern, has stepped down from his role as Program Director.
“There was a lot of pressure I was putting on myself, I had a lot of high hopes and aspirations and I like to move very quickly and sometimes the wheels of higher-ed don’t move that quickly. That creates a lot of tension,” Herbertz said.
Joining the faculty as a full-time professor of film in the fall of 2017, Herbertz viewed the position as a “stepping stone.” He saw the potential for film at Florida Southern to grow, he said. When Herbertz started at Florida Southern, he was only six months out of grad school.
“Fast forward to me stepping down and I think a lot of the pressure I put on myself was a big reason why I wasn’t in a place to continue,” Herbertz said.
The film program at Florida Southern expanded from a concentration within the communication department to a Bachelor of Fine Arts program in less than four years.
Associate Professor of Digital Media William Allen was on the search committee that hired Herbertz over three years ago. Allen spoke of the friendship that he developed with Herbertz and they were able to work together to build the program to what it is today.
“I had the opportunity to write every word of curriculum with the help of Professor Allen,” Herbertz said. “My goal was to create a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree program which is that pre-professional degree so it would be rigorous, intense and hands-on.”
Allen has added a few more courses to his schedule, picking up some of the slack from the absence of Herbertz. Intro to Digital Film is a course that Allen taught at his previous institution and is looking forward to getting back to the basics with the newer students in the program.
Allen is also the program contact for the new Interactive and Game Design BFA which is also within the Visual Arts and Design department. The two BFA programs work hand in hand, with some of the course requirements overlapping, so it has been manageable for Allen.
“Academics is based around transitions, students stay with us for four years and then leave, so I’ll just have to fill that gap while we wait to fill his [Herbertz’s] position,” Allen said. “
Chair of Visual Arts and Design William Otremsky has been a big encourager and supporter in the transition, according to Allen.
“It’s unusual, or a challenge, to have a professor leave mid-year, but I think the timing was right for Prof Herbertz,” Allen said.
Jesse Quales is a sophomore BFA Film major and was drawn to the hands-on approach that Herbertz brought into the classroom and out onto sets.
“The biggest reason I came here was the mentors, especially Matthew Herbertz, he’s the one who got me on board here because he showed that he actually cared and was genuine about his work,” Quales said.
Herbertz set up a meeting with the students of the film program to announce his transition out of his prominent role. Quales recalls being pretty disappointed in the news, but understood the reasoning behind the transition.
Dean of Arts and Sciences Dr. Sara Harding emphasized Herbertz’s hard work in building the film program from the ground up.
“He has done a terrific job framing that program out, connecting with students, recruiting and really getting that program off the ground,” Harding said. “We really owe him a debt of gratitude by getting it set up so very well.”
The visual arts and design department faculty, specifically Professor William Allen, has been working to make sure the film program is still being nurtured and the students are getting the education that they are guaranteed as students here.
“I don’t think we will skip a beat, quite frankly,” Harding said.
Harding stated that the art department, School of Arts and Sciences and the College as a whole are fully dedicated to the success of the BFA in Film program and its continued success.
“We are moving positively forward and have a high commitment for success,” Harding said. “I think it’s really demonstrated through the department—faculty have picked up advisees, it’s a team effort.”
Emphasizing the concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and hiring, the school is hopeful to fill the vacancy in the future. According to Herbertz, there will be a search within the next year in hopes of filling the role by the fall of 2022.
“As soon as we are in a position to do a search and hire, we will,” Harding said. “As far as the timing of that, it’s just not predictable as of now.”
After he is finished teaching part-time, Herbertz will no longer teach at Florida Southern after the completion of the spring 2021 semester.
“It’s the hardest decision I’ve made in my life so far, but I knew it was a decision I had to make for my mental health and my sanity at the time – I needed a break,” Herbertz said.