Erin O'Brien

Erin K. O’Brien (image by Tom Wolf)

Published October 31, 2018

Each month, we'll introduce you to an interesting member of the Professional Staff Senate. This month's featured member is Erin O'Brien, assistant dean and director of graduate programs in the School of Management.

How long have you worked at UB?

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As of this September, I have worked at UB for five years as assistant dean and director of graduate programs in the School of Management, but I've been on campus in some capacity since 1994. I've been an undergrad, a graduate student (twice), a very engaged alumna, an alumni board member, an employer and, as of 2013, a professional.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Every day, I'm in the business of putting good in the world. My whole job revolves around getting students in, through and out of our graduate business programs, helping them to transform their lives and careers, and reaching their goals. I have the best job in the entire world, even on its worst day.

What's the most difficult part about your job?

Our programs operate in a hyper-competitive, dynamic market and we have a reputation to maintain, in order to sustain enrollment, faculty and funding. Balancing that every day, against the success of our program and our school and our university is exhausting and exhilarating at the same time. We need to maintain our viability as an educational program of choice and deal with the many (many, many) levels of complexity in the actual operation of achieving that. But, I go back to my previous answer...even in the face of the impossible, which is most days, when I have just one student come into my office and say, "Thank you" or "I got the job I wanted" or "I did it," it's all worth it.

What would you say is your biggest achievement at UB?

This year, 20 years post-MBA, I matriculated as a full-time PhD student. I'm writing this response at 8:27 p.m., after having had a full day of assistant dean work and a 3-hour 700-level Research Methods Seminar. My biggest achievement is, at this very moment, I'm still awake! 

Tell us something about your department that isn't well known.

We're pretty well known on campus, and if you don't know us, stop by 203 Alfiero (after you've picked up your Tim Horton's in our building...we know you do!) and say hi. But this is an opportunity to give my team a shout-out. We have a great team of people working in graduate programs in the School of Management. There's no way we'd have any of this success without them, their dedication, and the amazing work they do for our prospective and current students.

If you were to share some advice for other professional staff, what would it be?

When your work is built on passion, there's almost no problem you can't tackle or solve. And you have to celebrate the small things, like making it halfway through the semester. Also, chocolate soothes the soul like nothing else. I'm a fan.

Do you have any hobbies? What do you do for fun?

If I'm on vacation, you'll find me in one of two places, either (snow) skiing or at the beach. I love to ski and coach kids during the winter ski season. During the summer, you'll usually find my family and me in Canada, on a lakeshore somewhere.

Do you have a favorite meal you like to prepare?

I'm half Italian. I am genetically required to make sauce and a lot of it. Last year I canned my own tomatoes...72 quarts. We had a lot of sauce in 2017-2018.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

My other half is Irish. I have been to Ireland numerous times. I checked Italy off my list this year, but I need to go back; I have a genealogy bucket list trip of spending extended time in Sicily, in the land of my ancestors.

Any other fun facts about you?

I'm a sometimes backing vocalist. I've been singing in some form or another my entire life. I don't get to do it often but love it when I do.