Yat-Long Sam Poon

General Education

Adjunct Faculty, General Education
The Art Institute of California—San Diego, a campus of Argosy University

Yat-Long Poon

From my experience, you don't want a group of people to come together and agree on everything. This leads to tunnel vision and a lack of creativity. Yat-Long Sam Poon , Adjunct Faculty, General Education , The Art Institute of California—San Diego, a campus of Argosy University

What would you say is the defining moment in your life when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

I currently teach environmental science at The Art Institute of California—San Diego. My love of the environment started in my early childhood and sparked from my infatuation of the outdoors and animals. Outside of teaching science, I am also a filmmaker. Every year in San Diego there is a 48-hour film project. In 2011, I participated in this festival on a whim. I ended up doing most of the post production work on the film and winning "Best Editor" that year. This was the defining moment in my transition to becoming a full-time creative professional and a part-time scientist.

How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience to provide an industry veteran’s sense of the realities / challenges / opportunities of the profession?

Everything in the environment is linked together. When I was an environmental consultant, I would see these results in every project or task that I was involved in. I use storytelling from these experiences to bring home the points of each lesson in the classroom. The stories from my personal experience link to the bigger concepts of what I am teaching and make each concept more relatable and relevant. We do a lot of field trips in my class and I love taking students outside.

Is there a class assignment that exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring? Similarly, how does your approach inspire each student to push themselves beyond their own perceived limits?

Every quarter in class I conduct a group activity where the students choose an endangered species to research from the United States. First the group researches the animal and then they create a large infographic poster. They draw a depiction of the organism and then write the information underneath it. Students use their research skills to figure out why the animal is endangered. In addition, they use their analytical skills to figure out if society should spend the time and money to keep the organism around. The students have usually never initially heard of their animals, however, they seem to grow a bond with them after their research. The project also taps into their creative skills and imagination. For example, a few groups of students drew their endangered species and turned them into Pokemon. The creative liberty allows them to enjoy the project, while also learning.

What role does collaboration contribute to students' success, especially when students from other programs contribute to the same project?

From my experience, you don't want a group of people to come together and agree on everything. This leads to tunnel vision and a lack of creativity. If you can work with a group of people who have different viewpoints, but who can agree to move forward by comparing and contrasting, that dynamic combination usually creates the best teams. Collaboration should bring together many different ideas and outlooks.

In your opinion, what is the single most important thing you impart to your students to help them succeed in your class and in the real world? Alternatively, what is the most critical advice you would offer any student as he / she embarks on a creative career?

At the end of my course, I always tell my students that they can change the world. You as an individual or you as a group of individuals can change the world. Don't limit yourself into thinking that changing the world has to be one of the larger concepts, like ending world hunger. Go forth in your life and remember the cause and effect of your actions and the small changes that can occur from them.

My critical advice would be just go for it, especially when you are young. Right now is the time to take those risks. If you want to make a movie or a game, go for it. If you screw up now, you have time to recover. The longer you wait to do the things you love, the less time you have to make it happen.