Kelly O'Brien, Past UMCF Chair (2011-12)
Public Relations/Communications Consultant in the College of Liberal Arts
Started at the University of Minnesota in 2003
UMCF member since 2003
Kelly was nominated by Rebecca Noran who had this to say: Kelly is a
highly skilled communicator and engaged community leader. She has
provided exceptional service to the Communicators Forum over the years:
as chair in 2011-12, serving 5 years on the board (at large director,
co-chair of programs, chair-elect, chair, chair emerita), and prior to
that serving 3 years on committees (2 on conference, 1 on programs).
Photo: Kelly O'Brien in the Governor's office at the Minnesota Capitol. Photo by Lisa Miller, CLA Connect with Kelly online:http://www.linkedin.com/in/kellymobrien What brought you to your current job?
My professional background is in arts administration, particularly marketing and communications. I initially came to the College of Liberal Arts (CLA) to do marketing and PR for the West Bank Arts Quarter
. It was really fun to work to raise the profile of our fantastic arts departments here, and to collaborate with stellar communications professionals, whom many of you may remember (Jen Keavy, Justin Christy, Christopher James). Alas, after a few years the project was unfunded and my efforts were folded into the greater efforts for CLA, which has turned out to be really amazing too. What excites you about working at the University and the College of Liberal Arts?
I love to learn and I want my work to support a greater good. I get both of those working in CLA. My work brings me into contact with faculty who are making remarkable discoveries, publishing fascinating work, and teaching surprising ideas. I learn something new all the time. We have centers in CLA that are doing important work about human rights, so when I have an effort to work with them I feel I am also helping to make the world a slightly better place. And the students are just humbling. Really. I am an alumna of the U and I wonder if I would be able to get into college here if I applied today.Tell us about one of the coolest projects you've worked on for your job at the U?
Sometimes I think if I could do only one kind of project it would be building remodels. I love historic architecture, political campaigns, and the smell of fresh lumber, and that's the space where they all converge. I was lucky to get to do one of these for Folwell Hall
I have experience working on political campaigns and doing advocacy work with Minnesota Citizens for the Arts
(an amazing organization). So when it was time for Folwell Hall to be fully remodeled, in 2008, CLA called on me to use my experience to design a grassroots advocacy campaign to get the Minnesota Legislature and Governor Tim Pawlenty to support bonding money for the project. I worked with the team in the U's Government Relations office and rallied students, faculty, and alumni to contact their legislators and the governor to support the project. Things were going well, but due to some political maneuvering (duh), Folwell got dropped from the University's request that year. But in 2010, the project was back as the top building project in the U's request. We worked just as hard, if not harder, that year; in fact, more contacts to legislators were made on behalf of Folwell than for the University request as a whole.
The project was funded that year and gutting and remodeling commenced over the next 15 months or so. I was allowed to visit the building many times while it was under construction, and I documented the project on Facebook
and the campaign web site. I cannot even begin to describe how much I love going into buildings under construction. So this was a dream project for me! And of course, we reopened in September 2011 with a beautiful, historic classroom building that better serves student needs and the four language/culture departments housed there.What do you do for fun
Bar trivia (my team is called Gorilla Panic); DFL politics; normal girl-things like cooking, gardening, knitting; visiting outsider art environments like the Forevertron
; hiking and snowshoeing.What is your motto or personal mantra?
"The road to hell is paved with good intentions." I use this to remind myself that it's not enough that you meant to do well--you have to actually make it happen.What are some of your favorites
?Favorite book/author and paper vs. e-book
Paper, absolutely. I love Ian McEwan, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Maira Kalman, Etgar Keret (met him on campus last year!!), so many others. I am reading Louise Erdrich's The Round House
right now because it is CLA's common reading for our first-year students this year, and it is, I think, her best novel ever. I can't believe how much I am loving this book.
If I could recommend two books for all UMCF members to read, they would be Content Strategy for the Web
(2nd ed.) by Kristina Halvorson and Melissa Rach, and Content Everywhere: Strategy and Structure for Future-Ready Content
by Sarah Boettcher-Wachter.Favorite source of inspiration
If I'm at work and need to clear my head and refresh my thinking, I either walk to the Weisman and pick a gallery, or walk across the river on the #9 Bridge
behind Educational Sciences. I look at the Mississippi River every day. I can't believe I work next to it! If I'm at home, I might just look at Pinterest for 10 minutes. Favorite food and drink?
Smoked salmon, caviar, Irish whisky, bubbly water. I love this Swedish fish roe spread in a tube, Kalles
. IKEA sells their own generic version, you should try it.