Paul Oren, M.S.
Class of 2002 & 2009
Lecturer in the Department of Communication
Professor Paul Oren, lecturer of communication, say his teaching philosophy is linked directly to his favorite move, Good Will Hunting. In Oren’s favorite scene, the self-taught genius Will Hunting confronts a Harvard graduate student at a bar. After an intellectual jousting match, Hunting informs his embarrassed opponent, “You dropped $150 grand on an education you coulda got for $1.50 in late charges at the public library.”
While Professor Oren loves books and words, he says his role as a teacher is to provide students with an educational experience that they couldn’t get on their own. Students can expect Professor Oren to teach about ongoing news stories, invite local journalists into the classroom, and share his own ongoing experience as a sports reporter.
“Bringing in guest speakers, talking about real-world issues, and igniting their passion — that’s where my value is,” he says.
This approach engages students with news stories as they unfold. When a northern Indiana high school basketball game ended in a brawl, the story made it from local newspapers to national media, including ESPN’s Sports Center. Professor Oren contacted the local reporter who covered the game and invited him to speak to one of his classes.
“This is a big story that happened here in my backyard, so of course I need to bring this to my students,” Professor Oren says.
Students learned about the reporter’s experience and approach and also got to connect with him as an individual. As Professor Oren points out, meeting local professionals gives students a chance to expand their vision of what a journalist looks like.
Professor Oren is himself a sports reporter with the Northwest Indiana Times. He says that work is deeply tied to his ability to teach well. For one, reporting continually gives him new lessons to share. He recently told his class about an unusual story angle he was pursuing. Because Valpo’s men’s basketball team had their best record since 1945, Professor Oren planned to write a story on the exceptional team from 70 years earlier. He started making phone inquiries, only to learn that the last surviving player had died just the night before.
Professor Oren spent the next two weeks calling family members and researching.
“I’ve never done a story like that before, where everyone I would want to interview is dead. There’s not a textbook in the world that will teach you exactly how to do this,” he says.
Professor Oren says he continues to learn because he is passionate about telling stories and willing to do the work required to tell those stories well.
“At the end of the day, I am a storyteller. Anyone can look at a press release and write a story, but I ask students, ‘What kind of unique stories do you want to tell?’” he says.
The answer to that question, of course, can’t be found in any library book.