Dr. Diane BordenPhoto by Randall Gee

Diane Borden, Ph.D. teaches her Film Studies course, part of the Film Studies Program she launched at Pacific over 40 years ago.

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2013 Distinguished Faculty Honoree

Marnie SantoyoNov 12, 2013

Celebrating a Distinguished Career at Pacific

Whether the subject is Hitchcock, Freud or Joyce, Diane Borden is a passionate professor who inspires and challenges students to be thinkers.

Diane Borden, Ph.D., says her love of teaching is simply an extension of another love: learning. 

"It's an adventure to go into the classroom each day, and I love designing my courses," says Borden, a professor of English in the College of the Pacific and chair and director of the Film Studies program. "That's what teaching is all about, being a lifelong learner. We teach students how to think, to write and read a text carefully, to see what's there and find the pleasure that comes from asking questions." 

That pleasure is something she's been sharing with Pacific students for more than 40 years. Recently, she was honored with the 2013 Distinguished Faculty Award, which is given each year to a tenured faculty member for outstanding accomplishments in teaching, research and creative endeavors and service to the University. 

"Diane's talents as a teacher cannot be overstated," one of her colleagues wrote in the nomination letter. "She has had an immeasurable impact on her students' lives, changing the way they perceive the world around them and their place within it." 

Born Academic

Borden's curriculum vitae reveals a multifaceted journey across multiple disciplines: English literature, film and psychoanalysis. But long before her academic journey began, the seeds for her own appreciation of cinema were being nurtured. 

"Sometimes I look back and think what an unusual education I had," says Borden, a San Francisco native. "I remember as a child, my aunt took me three to four times a week to see foreign and American films. I would also stay with my aunt as she and her friends talked about the films afterwards. I was privileged to be part of those adult conversations." 

At the age of 6, she met the legendary Alfred Hitchcock when he was filming Vertigo across the street from her school.   

"He came to the school, and when I saw him, he looked down at me and said, 'Hello, little girl,'" she recalls. "I didn't know who Alfred Hitchcock was; I was just struck by this funny-looking man looking down at me. It wasn't until later that I found out who he was and the importance of that film. That experience grounded me in an odd kind of way." 

Today, Borden routinely teaches Hitchcock's films in her classes - among the other great masters of film - and last year, she published a chapter in a book about Vertigo

Teaching and Learning

In 1971, Borden earned her Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Cruz, in the History of Consciousness (literature, psychology and philosophy) - a program she developed herself. 

Later that year, she began teaching at Pacific, attracted to the university because of its focus on student-centered learning. Soon after she arrived, she founded the Film Studies program and later created the Gender Studies program as well. Today, Borden is a highly recognized scholar in the fields of literature, film, critical theory, and psychoanalysis.  She has numerous publications, including books, chapters, journal articles, and reviews. 

A specialist in the intersections of psychoanalysis in film and literature, she lectures at conferences around the world and has earned several prestigious national awards, including the Graves Award for innovative teaching and scholarship in the Humanities, the Mudd Memorial Award for excellence in applied psychoanalysis, and the Directors Guild of America Award for teaching and scholarship in film. 

At Pacific, she's earned the Spanos Teaching Award and the University of the Pacific Research Lecture Award. 

The awards underscore Borden's passion for teaching, say her students. 

"Thanks to Dr. Borden, when I read a book, listen to a song or watch a film, I think about what I've learned in my English classes, and I further appreciate the creativity and depth of the arts," says Euzcil Castaneto '13. 

"Professor Borden taught me to appreciate a medium whose capacity to speak in the language of images and grapple with themes that cut to the heart of the human condition rests upon the magical interplay of vision and light," adds Ann-Marie Cook, '97, now an academic herself. "I continue to be inspired by her fierce intellect, professionalism, integrity, generosity and the delight she takes in the life of the mind."

Over the years, Borden has also mentored faculty as they explore their own paths. 

"When I began to move into research on French cinema, she was an invaluable mentor," says Katie Golsan, Ph.D., professor of French and Film Studies in the College of the Pacific. "She encouraged me to create a course in French cinema that laid the groundwork for all of my current research."

Like her aunt all those years ago fostered Borden's love for learning, she hopes to pay it forward to others, sharing her knowledge and enthusiasm for literature and film with her students.

"James Joyce, the great Irish writer, once said that the way you learn about things is by thinking," Borden says. "For me, the classroom provides a cozy place for all to think through a text, a puzzle, an image, a question or the Big Picture. Whether we are discussing a sequence from a Hitchcock film or a poem about the experience of space and time, or doing a psychoanalytic interpretation of a myth, my students and I share what I hope is a kind of illumination."

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