“When I am traveling in places, I follow the opportunities. Recognize that you don’t know when opportunities will present themselves. I invite people to go and get lost in a city; don’t fret about getting lost. It takes some courage. Have faith that most people you encounter will want to help you.” – Oren Kosansky
Above all Oren Kosansky is a teacher. Teaching is his passion. “It is a joy to share my own interest and enthusiasm and have folks take it up. For example, in Fez, a medieval city, waking up early in the morning before and just as shops are starting to open, just as the world is awakening, is an example of the kind of passion I’m talking about, the deep seated joy of walking through that city and seeing it come to life in a way that is a little different than what a tourist would see in a museum or in the regular sites, that passion for exploring off the beaten path.”
He has a master’s degree in teaching and taught high school before he was a professor at Lewis & Clark. “I was a teacher before I was an academic. When I went back to graduate school to become an anthropologist, my vision was to continue having teaching be central to what I do.” When asked his favorite course to teach he can’t choose. “It’s like asking to choose favorite children. I like the course I am teaching that day; I like the course I am about to go to. There’s such an opportunity to take anything and make it interesting.”
Since bringing his expertise to Lewis & Clark, he has not been disappointed. “LC students are just great. Teaching is about creating an environment where students are sincerely interested about something. Unless they are sincerely interested, you’re just spinning your wheels. You have to figure out what in this context is going to create that sincere interest. The joy of teaching at Lewis & Clark is that it doesn’t take much to do that for Lewis & Clark students.”
In addition to being a teacher and traveler, he is a gardener, a pickup basketball player, an ultimate frisbee player, a recorder player, a backpacker. He is a polyglot, and has been a linguist from a very young age. “As a regular part of my school day, I studied four languages: English, French, Yiddish and Hebrew. It helped me to have not just an interest but an affection for the different languages and an appreciation for the ascetic in the different languages. They use different scripts and they move in different directions.” Since his school days, he has added Arabic to his linguistic repertoire.
When people ask him where he was raised he hesitates. “I lived in enough places so when people ask me where I am from, I don’t have a sense of that. I was born in New York, lived in Montreal for about eight years, and have lived abroad for at least five years.” Eight years of his childhood spent in Montreal instilled in him an interest in global issues. It informs his life and teaching. “Travel has been very important in my life, both personally and professionally.”
“Traveling with alumni we are more at ease; there is the pure joy of traveling, a pure joy of the process, no grades. There is a joy in seeing how quickly and easily people express friendship and care for one another. It takes the best part of the overseas programs, and brings out all the best of the LC experience.”