John O’Brien

What Got Us Here Won’t Get Us There:  IT as a Strategic Asset

In his keynote address, EDUCAUSE president John O’Brien will reflect on the critical role of higher education technology in 2018, the twentieth anniversary year of the founding of EDUCAUSE.

While some of the conversations we have had about IT at colleges and universities around the world may sound the same as they did twenty years ago, he argues that the strategic role of IT has changed remarkably. Far from being a utility whose presence is only appreciated when something stops working, IT now plays an integral part in higher education in crucial areas from operational efficiency to research to student success.

The legacy utility mindset that has brought us this far will no longer suffice in 2018 and beyond.  Instead, colleges and universities must consider the role and placement of IT in the strategic fabric of the institution. Looking to the EDUCAUSE 2018 Top 10 IT Issues and other EDUCAUSE research, Dr. O’Brien will make the case for strategic IT and suggest strategies for fully realizing the value of IT as the strategic asset it is.

(Please contact John O’Brien ( for a PDF copy of John’s slides.)


John O’Brien
President and CEO of EDUCAUSE

John O’Brien is President and CEO of EDUCAUSE, a nonprofit association whose mission is to advance higher education through the use of information technology. The current membership comprises 1,800 colleges, universities, and education organizations and over 300 corporations. He began his role as president on June 1, 2015.

Throughout his 25-year career in higher education, John has deeply engaged with the IT and educational technology sectors. Most recently, John served as senior vice chancellor for academic and student affairs at Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU), the fifth largest higher education system in the country. In this position, he is dedicated to ensuring student success and implementing strategic changes to help MnSCU adapt to the changing needs of higher education.

Prior to this role, John served as president of North Hennepin Community College (NHCC) from 2010 to 2013. Before joining NHCC, he was director of MnSCU’s “Students First” initiative, a system-wide effort that redesigned online systems to better meet students’ needs related to searching for a college or university, program or course, as well as applying for admission, registering for courses, and viewing or paying tuition bills. John’s past experience also includes four years at Century College serving as chief academic officer and subsequently as acting president. O’Brien also served as associate vice chancellor of instructional technology at the MnSCU system office.

In addition to his experience as a higher education executive, John is an award-winning teacher at the college and university level. He was a faculty member at Normandale Community College, Augsburg College, the University of Minnesota, the University of St. Thomas, and Augustana College (SD). John was on the EDUCAUSE Quarterly editorial board for four years, has published in EDUCAUSE publications, was the MnSCU system contact for EDUCAUSE Center for Analysis and Research (ECAR), and coordinated and promoted the system’s participation in the Core Data Service (CDS).

Deeply committed to serving the community, John recently served or is a member of the Boards of the Brooklyn Bridge Alliance for Youth, the NorthStar STEM Alliance, the HealthForce Minnesota Executive Alliance, the Learning Network of Minnesota, the ARC of Minnesota, the Lutheran Social Services Foundation, and Minnesota Campus Compact. John holds a bachelor’s degree in English and English education from Augustana College, a master’s degree in Anglo-Irish Literature from the University of Dublin (Trinity College), and a doctorate in English from the University of Minnesota.


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