The Professor Is In: Chris Ramos
Lubin Arts and Entertainment Management student Christina Ruck sits down with Arts and Entertainment Management Professor Chris Ramos and finds out he's more than just a lecturer—he’s a dancer, an artist, and a Sherlock Holmes mega-fan.
Written by Arts and Entertainment Management student Christina Ruck
This interview has been condensed from its original format.
One of the most popular majors on Pace University’s New York City Campus is Arts and Entertainment Management. Professor Chris Ramos, a Pace alumnus himself, is one of the brains behind the operation, having been involved in elementary and high school-level arts education for years prior to attending and working at Pace. His interest and education in arts and entertainment nonprofits, management behavior, and performance are the perfect mix to educate Pace’s Arts and Entertainment majors of the ins and outs of today’s competitive industry. Furthermore, having earned a degree in accounting from Kipiolani Community College and a degree in dance theater from the University of Hawaii, Ramos is the perfect fit to teach and advise his students about a major that unifies business and the arts. Ramos connects with his students on a deep level, and engages with them every opportunity he can get.
What was one thing or person that made you passionate about your current career?
Engagement. I strongly believe in engagement. Engagement is an idea and thought that always comes to mind when it comes to my career because my background is not as normal as other professors. I started off in the theater with performing arts, and, as you know, in the performing arts—dance, theater, contemporary ballet—it’s all about engaging with the audience. When I moved to New York in 1989, I got very much involved with modern dance companies in New York City. Dancing with those companies I got exposed to a lot in arts education, and through arts education I’ve taught in elementary, middle, and high schools, and that’s all about engaging. I think when students are listening and asking questions they are engaging.
What quality do you most value in your students?
Always ask questions… engagement. Asking questions is about curiosity and when they ask questions, I know that they’re thinking about the ideas and the theories that I discuss in class. Questioning is curiosity. A person once told me about the “glass full of water” analogy of learning. In our process of learning, we listen and assimilate thoughts and ideas. Those thoughts, metaphorically speaking, represent the water being poured into a class. When that glass gets full, we tend to put it away and store it. That’s the end of our curiosity. We stopped asking questions and do no further research on that subject matter. So we get another glass, fill it with thoughts on another idea. We do this often and I’m guilty of it myself. The learning lesson, with all the distractions that surround us—especially with phones and internet and technology—we don’t take the time to empty out those glasses and refill them. We don’t do further research unless we have to. The reason? It takes a lot of effort to dig deeper. So when I hear students asking questions, I know that I’m getting through to them.
What’s your advice to students to make the most out of their time in college?
Oh, I have a good one for that one. Be nice to your fellow classmates, because you never know if they’re going to be your boss or coworker. You don’t throw people under the bus because you never know when the time will come when you need that person’s help…so be nice to them. Each industry is really not that big. In my world, of dance, it’s a small community because right now the dancer I danced with, the choreographer I’ve danced for, is now the Dean of Tisch School of the Arts. I used to dance for Seán Curran, who is now the head of the dance department at the Tisch School of the Arts. So you know how things work out, when you develop a good relationship, either by the way you engage or the way you build your network, be nice to them.
If you had to do it all over again and take another path, what profession would you choose? Which profession would you not choose?
I’m quite satisfied with my career path. I wouldn’t change any of it, but if I were to add another profession, I’d say politician. Oops, academia is a political environment. I like strategy. I like engaging with people and I’m a good listener.
What’s your favorite word and your least favorite word?
My favorite word… can I do a phrase? Just do it. Straight to the point. My least favorite word is procrastination.
What is your guilty pleasure TV show or mobile app?
Netflix, of course. TV show? I always watch Sherlock Holmes, any of the Sherlock Holmes. I’m fascinated with the process of elimination and strategy.
What was your favorite class as a student and your least favorite class?
I like history. I think history plays an important role, definitely for me because it does come back. History no matter what—American history, Egyptian history, all of that and especially in my field of dance, dance history—it does come back. They always say that you’re original when it comes to dance works, but nothing really is original; it’s how you maneuver around those specific ideas…but history is my favorite subject. My least favorite? Physical education. It’s so boring. The irony of the whole thing is that I ended up being a dancer, which is one of the most physical professions there is.
If you were a Pace student, what class would you like to take with another Pace professor?
I think photography is something that I would pursue because I’m very visual. Students who are majoring in my field should also look into that because of the little things that you could pick up from photography.
What would you do if you had an extra hour every day?
Yoga. Not just regular yoga, hot yoga. Every morning! I have 20 years plus of dancing and my back is a little screwy in the morning. It takes me a bit of time to get myself maneuvered, but the minute I get up I get myself on the floor and I start stretching. It would take me at least 45 minutes. If I have an hour, like I usually did over the summer, I would take hot yoga. Right on Fulton! You can also get a lot of creative ideas doing yoga. Concentration, meditation, breathing.
What is your favorite professional or personal journey or experience?
During my dancing days, I traveled a bit with dance companies and did a lot of arts education where we would work with children. Later on as an artist-in-residence in New Jersey, I found myself enjoying that type of work. It’s one of the most rewarding experiences, as an artist, to have. I remember teaching in Princeton at Johnson Park School and I assembled a showcase at the end of my residency where the children created dance, music, and costume for their performance. I distinctly remember the mother of a young boy who was in the class came up to me after the performance and asked how I made her son dance. I told her that I didn’t make him do it, but that I engaged him to do it.
What are you favorite words to live by?
What you give will come back 10 or 100 folds more. Give and you shall receive.
If you could have any five people living or dead, imagined or real, as guests at a dinner party, who would you choose?
First of all, I’m not much for dinner gatherings, but if I wanted to be a politician, I would have to deal with a lot of that. But, if I were to choose five, first I would pick my partner of 27 years. I think we are very comfortable with whatever we do, and, also, he would be curious about who would be the other three guests. Second, since I like politics, Hillary Clinton would be my next guest. I like her determination, wit, and strong beliefs. Third, I couldn’t get enough of mystery, so I would invite a fictional character, Sherlock Holmes. I like strategy especially, and the process of elimination is always the thing I looked into and I like his fast wit. I think it would be a good challenge to Hillary with whatever they have a conversation about. I like visual arts, so my fourth guest would be the abstract expressionist artist Mark Rothko. I love his bold color palette. He started off not doing that type of work, but his work is now worth about $25-30 million when they go to auction, but the foreground and the background of the colors are simple, solid colors. But if you look at life there’s always foreground and there is the background. We tend to see just the foreground…we don’t really see what’s going on behind the scene, which is your halo effect. Finally, since I’m a dancer, I admire a choreographer named Merce Cunningham. His creative process is something I have always admired, going back to strategy. He believed in the Eastern philosophy of I Ching, or “book of change.” I think with him, Hillary, Sherlock, Mark, and, of course, my partner—all smart people that believe in change, believe in theories, and believe in strategy—that would make a good dinner event, but it’s not an easy question to answer!
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