Sean O'Connor '16 '21MBA

Alumni Spotlight

Sean O'ConnorDegree(s):
Bachelor of Arts, Psychology
Bachelor of Business Administration, Finance
Master of Business Administration, Management

Current Position Title and Affiliation: Program Manager, University of Michigan

Summary of Position:
I'm currently the Program Manager for the University of Michigan's Bold Challenges Initiative. In this role, I lead the strategic planning and execution of research development activities that build the universities capacity to produce transformative research projects and drive interdisciplinary collaborations between faculty and partnering organizations. This work involves managing internal research funding awards, hosting events and workshops, and showcasing the impact that research teams can have on individuals, communities, and society.

What do you love most about this career path?
I'm passionate about driving positive change and addressing critical global issues through innovative research and collaboration. I love the opportunity to work closely with researchers and external stakeholders on exciting research projects. Working in research development, I have the opportunity to constantly be exposed to a diverse field of intellectual thought, topics, and research approaches that I otherwise would not have been able to engage with or learn about.

Future Goals:
I'm committed to further advancing research development opportunities and driving transformative initiatives within the Bold Challenges program at the University of Michigan. I aspire to expand the program's reach, tackling more complex global challenges and fostering even stronger collaborations. We hope that through our programs and with the dedicated support that we provide, our work will be able to make a lasting impact on society, continuing to create research opportunities and collaborative research teams that would not have otherwise formed without us.

How did the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences help prepare you?
The research experiences in Psychological and Brain Sciences provided me with a strong foundation in critical thinking, problem-solving, and keenness towards intentionally advancing research knowledge. Specifically, working with Dr. Rebecca Spencer, in at the time the Cognition and Action Lab, fostered a robust understanding of not only how to conduct and disseminate research but also how to think about the research process and enterprise more broadly. Working with Dr. Spencer, she emphasized the importance of engaging the community with your research and collectively growing knowledge by communicating in different modalities. I was incredibly fortunate to complete my undergraduate honors thesis under Dr. Spencer's guidance, which ultimately led to my first co-authored peer-reviewed publication. Within the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences there are a wealth of opportunities for students and the supportive faculty do an amazing job inspiring a passion for research, collaboration, and making a positive impact.

Advice for Current Students:
Engage and create. The most important thing is to engage and expose yourself to as many opportunities as possible. That can be working within a research lab, joining a club, working as a teaching assistant or so on. Additionally, a lot of your classes might have you give presentations or produce writings. You can use those as opportunities to work on things that you want to create, get feedback on, and continuously improve on to use in the future. The things that you work on in college don't have to be just for class, and you can keep developing those ideas for future opportunities and begin adding to a personal toolbox of skills and portfolio of products (maybe a presentation you can give, a workshop you can lead, an article you can publish, etc).

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