Kellogg Magazine  |  Fall/Winter 2015



Shane O'Brien
Engaging the alumni

Shane O’Brien ’05 looks to strengthen Alumni Relations as its new Senior Director.

For many schools, alumni engagement is relegated to quarterly updates and reminders to register for Reunion. Not so at Kellogg. Here, the alumni are a key part of Kellogg’s endeavors, from being the engine of the school’s recruiting and top-of-class job-placement efforts to providing key financial support.

Shane O’Brien should know. As both an alumnus and Kellogg’s former senior director of financial planning and analysis, O’Brien oversaw the financial aspects of Kellogg’s strategic plan — the new building in particular. He plans to use this total Kellogg strategic perspective in shaping the alumni engagement plan.

O’Brien spoke with Kellogg about is new role and his plans to bolster the school’s alumni network.

K: You came over last March from Kellogg’s financial planning department.
How have you adjusted to the new role?
SO: With a grossly overdue wardrobe update. Surprisingly, Alumni Relations involves a wider spectrum of events than Finance. Much of my initial time has been spent getting to know my team and key internal partners. They did a fantastic job acclimating me to the environment and current situation.
K: What’s been your main focus since joining the Alumni Relations team?
SO: Listening. Not just to alumni, but to the faculty, students, and long list of Kellogg departments who partner with alumni to achieve their objectives. While I have a strong team, we will need the help of that entire community to achieve our goals. Along the way, I have collected a long and varied list of definitions for the word engagement. For some it is connecting regularly with classmates. For others, it is having access to Kellogg faculty research and the latest thought leadership. We need to find ways for these varied engagement definitions to happen efficiently and routinely.
K: Why is alumni engagement so important to Kellogg’s present and future?
SO: Alumni are involved in almost every aspect of the Kellogg model. Their active, collaborative participation is critical to Kellogg achieving its short- and long-term goals. As an alumnus, I want the community I worked to join and of which I am proud to be a member, to thrive. It is that sense of commitment to the community that makes the Kellogg model work. As long as that exists, new students will want to be a part of it, faculty will have a place to create and disseminate research, and alumni will have access to a population of people with an interest in helping each other out.
K: What’s next for Alumni Relations?
SO: Working with our partners across Kellogg and in the alumni community to focus our efforts. The possibilities for projects are as numerous and varied as the definitions of engagement, so we have some work to do to pick where and when we play. As we execute, we will continue to listen. We will need this constant flow of feedback to evolve, adapt and stay humble.