Kathleen O’Brien to fill U services VP position

by Brad Unangst

Interim University President Robert Bruininks named former Minneapolis city coordinator Kathleen O’Brien vice president for University services Thursday.

She will take the position Sept. 15 – pending Board of Regents approval – and will earn $160,000 annually.

As vice president, O’Brien will oversee University services including Facilities Management, Campus Health and Safety, Public Safety and Northrop Auditorium. She will supervise more than 3,000 employees and a $1 billion budget.

Bruininks said O’Brien’s experience in managing complex projects for the city, including the Minneapolis Convention Center, and her commitment to public accountability were reasons he selected her.

“I think she has all the right instincts … that I believe the vice president for University services needs to represent,” Bruininks said.

Bruininks said O’Brien will pay close attention to Facilities Management. Recent University audits identified cost overruns and corner cutting in construction projects, and Bruininks said he wants O’Brien to help implement new institutional structures and controls to alleviate those issues.

“The audits present to us a work plan to improve our current processes, and Facilities Management – and me as head of University Services – will take that work plan seriously and get to it,” O’Brien said.

Besides strengthening leadership in Facilities Management, O’Brien said, she plans to focus on keeping the campus clean, preparing the community for emergencies and enhancing services for the students, staff and faculty.

As city coordinator, she developed Human Resources, Finance and Information System services for all city departments. She also managed several city operations including emergency communications, licenses and inspections.

This is O’Brien’s second stint as a University administrator. From 1989-94, she was chief of staff under former University President Nils Hasselmo.

O’Brien was a graduate student in history at the University in the early 1970s and taught Minnesota history in the late 1970s. She served as a Minneapolis City Council member from 1982-89 where she represented the 2nd Ward, which includes the University.

“It feels like I’m coming home,” she said.

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