Each Friday this summer, the Daniels Newsroom is telling the stories of the behind-the-scenes staff who empower students, faculty and the College at large.

Since 1997, Patrick Orr has been pushing the boundaries of academic curricula

Portrait of Patrick Orr, seated in director's chair behind camera

School wasn’t yet in session, but Patrick Orr was about to teach the first “class” at the newly built Daniels College of Business. He walked into room 140, strolled up to the podium and held up a rectangular prop.

“‘This is a laptop, for those of you who don’t know,’” Orr remembers saying. “We didn’t have laptops. We had desktops. And my job was to teach faculty how to use a laptop with new classroom technology.”

The year was 1999. Orr was, to that point, a multimedia specialist at Daniels, who had just been asked to research, purchase and launch the technology that would make the College a cutting-edge institution.

Each seat in each learning space was equipped with two ethernet ports for high-speed internet, part of smart classrooms that “allow[ed] students to tap into the vast resources on the World Wide Web,” as the Daniels website put it at the time. Students were asked to come to campus with a laptop equipped with Windows 2000, a CD-ROM drive, a 10-gigabyte hard drive and—at a minimum—128 megabytes of memory. In classes, they logged on to WebCT, a predecessor to Blackboard.

It feels almost ancient in comparison to the office in Margery Reed Hall, where Orr, the director of experiential operations, spends a lot of his time creating multimedia that help the College shine.

The Daniels website and its tech specs in 2001.

“Things have not changed from the standpoint of taking content and making it a teaching and learning vehicle for students,” Orr said. Camera, light and sound quality have improved, he added, but are largely the same technology. “What’s changed is the distribution methodology. The way you produce learning outcomes and putting images and graphics and text to help tell the story.”

Orr’s job, broadly speaking, is to enhance the teaching and learning experience for faculty, students and staff. Most of the time, what he creates is designed for a non-physical space.

He works with faculty to script and produce engaging videos and lectures. He built the recording studio that houses the Daniels Voices of Experience podcast. When the in-person Voices of Experience event needed a concise, snappy overview of the metaverse, he created it.

“Consider this: I’ve been doing multimedia my whole life. I started by cutting videotape with a razor blade,” he said. “I now have infinite possibilities that I can quickly make creative decisions through the non-linear editing process. And that is probably the biggest shift in the industry that I’ve seen that has made life easy.”

Orr’s days of literally slicing film started at Western State College (now known as Western Colorado University). A “Maine-iac” with a love of skiing (and, specifically, ski jumping) couldn’t resist the call of the Rocky Mountains. In the studio at Gunnison’s KVLE radio, Orr felt limited by the audio medium. Videography was his true calling—and he had an eye for the camera.

Before long, he was producing commercials and shooting plenty of frames of outdoor wildlife and recreation. Orr graduated with degrees in communications (to stoke his passion) and business (to appease his father), but returned to Maine to work at what he calls one of the state’s major industries: L.L. Bean.

Patrick Orr flies off an 80-meter ski jump in 1980 in Berlin, New Hampshire. Growing up, Orr dreamed of competing in the Olympics. Skiing brought him to Western State College.

After years of producing internal communications material, Colorado pulled Orr and his wife west once more. Eventually, he landed at Daniels, where he built the College’s first website and helped faculty load CDs of content to send to their students.

It wasn’t exactly what he expected, but, “It led me down a path that, to this day, I love and has kept me here,” he said.

The path has been anything but straight—but that’s by choice. With an Executive MBA (2005) in hand, Orr transitioned into an operations role. He helped run the College’s graduate programs, coordinating logistics for the signature “Leading at the Edge” programming, while expanding global travel for students.

Along the way, he collaborated with faculty to build an international experience that allowed students to evaluate the effectiveness of microloans in developing nations; used federal grant money to train Afghan faculty to build an MBA program; and helped students tackle real business problems with real companies in 36 countries.

“This stuff is cool?” Orr asks, rhetorically, gesturing to the cameras and green screen in his office. “That was cool. That was life changing. I still have friends in Afghanistan struggling to improve their country’s current situation.”

When travel ceased during the COVID pandemic, Orr was asked to return to the multimedia space. There was a need to quickly move classes online and produce content for students and faculty who could not gather in person. 

“At first I didn’t want to do it because it felt like going backwards,” he said. “And then I embraced it and said, ‘Not only am I going to do it, I’m going to do it in a big way.’”

The proof is in the podcast studio. In his Meta Quest virtual reality headset. In the iPhone Animojis he’s used to bring content to life.

Not that he necessarily considers himself an expert in any of these new media. But internet resources have complemented his innate desire to learn and understand the world around him, no matter how much it changes.

“‘Be curious’ has been my motto my whole life,” Orr said. “I am constantly being self-taught, using YouTube, asking the question: How can I? And it’s been good for my career because it’s kept me from being stagnant and always looking for the next thing that’s coming out in the world.”

Orr admits his next step is on the horizon—a few more years in his career before he “calls it a day.” The University of Denver has been good to him: Both of his kids have DU degrees; his wife holds a job at the Graduate School of Professional Psychology.

Not to mention, he’s had a winding, wildly interesting, wonderfully fulfilling career for 26 years and counting.

“Working with students has always kept me here,” he said. “I love that.”