Bookmark and Share
Campus Events, Faculty & Staff Focus, General Information, Lectures & Seminars

LSU Provost & Executive Vice Chancellor Candidate Michael J. O’Brien Gives Presentation

03/08/2012 11:35 AM

BATON ROUGE – LSU welcomed the third of four candidates for the position of executive vice chancellor & provost to campus for an open forum on Wednesday, March 7. Michael J. O’Brien, dean of the College of Arts and Science at the University of Missouri, met with members of LSU’s faculty and staff in Room 143 of Charles E. Coates Hall.


O’Brien holds an undergraduate degree in anthropology from Rice University, and earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas in 1977. He has spent 35 years working in the various levels of academia, from starting as a research assistant to becoming an associate dean in the College of Arts and Science at Missouri in 2006. His current positions there also include senior research investigator, professor of anthropology and director of the university’s Museum of Anthropology. He also has ties to southeast Louisiana and the Baton Rouge area through is mother’s family.


During his presentation, O’Brien noted that he sees the job of provost as a faculty position, and that one must adjust oneself to fit a particular university environment, rather than trying to change it to fit one’s own views.


“The last thing you should do is walk into somebody else’s home and tell them what it is they should be doing,” he explained.


Through a series of PowerPoint slides, O’Brien outlined his views on a provost’s duties and what skillset is needed to be successful. Among his central themes were matching the needs and enthusiasm of the campus with administrative support; helping schools and colleges work together and foster interdisciplinary research; keeping administrative decision making as transparent as possible; and adjusting goals and policies to a university’s faculty and students, and not vice-versa.


“That doesn’t mean you can’t have your own ideas and direction,” O’Brien said. “But everything can’t come from the top down.”


He noted that being a provost is about having some understanding of as many facets of a university’s mission and meaning as possible. At LSU, he noted, that means understanding the value of things like agriculture, forestry, engineering, research, having a veterinary school and the various museums that the university manages.


“What we do here is good for not only Louisiana, but for the country and the entire world,” said O’Brien.


Additionally, he pointed out that a provost must also understand things like master planning, economic development, a university’s particular traditions, budgets and operating costs, and, of course, students and alumni.


“As a provost or dean you have to be intimately attached to your alumni,” he said.


Among the questions from faculty in attendance, O’Brien was asked about how his background as an anthropologist has affected his leadership style.


“It teaches you respect for other people’s viewpoints and culture,” he explained, noting that he feels his background gives him an eye for diversity as well.


When asked about what his vision for international education at LSU would be, O’Brien said that he views it as a tool for both diversity and economic development at a university.


“Schools that are not reaching out to universities overseas really are missing the boat,” he said.


More information on O’Brien is available at


O’Brien was the third of four candidates to be interviewed and give a presentation to the LSU faculty and staff. The other candidates for executive vice chancellor & provost include:



To learn more about the LSU executive vice chancellor & provost search, visit

LSU Media Relations