April 1, 2019

In Their Own Words - Get to know NDMU's Dr. Pam O'Brien

Communication Arts is one of Notre Dame of Maryland University’s most popular majors, offering a variety of specializations. From digital media, to journalism, to public relations and graphics, there are a lot of options. Many of the classes are taught by department chair and associate dean of the School of Arts, Sciences, and Business, Dr. Pam O'Brien. In her own words, Dr. O'Brien tells us what NDMU means to her and the 65 things that keep her busy when she isn't teaching.

Communication Arts is one of Notre Dame of Maryland University’s (NDMU) most popular majors. Our graduates go on to work in digital media, design firms, TV stations, advertising agencies and corporate communications.

NDMU offers a variety of specializations within the major. From digital media, to journalism, to public relations and graphics, there are a lot of options.

Dr. Pam O’Brien, who serves as both the department chair and associate dean of the School of Arts, Sciences, and Business, teaches many of those classes. She is a strong believer in the empowerment of women and believes in the University’s Mission of challenging women to “strive for intellectual and professional excellence.”

In her own words, Professor O’Brien explains what Notre Dame means to her, her hopes for students, her connection to Nevada’s Hoover Dam, and her love of animals (it runs in the family).

What brought you to Notre Dame?

I was looking for a University that was committed to its mission and that believed in the importance of teaching. I loved the community feel of the University.

What does Notre Dame mean to you?

I think that the University’s Mission comes down to an environment where strong women are encouraged and supported, trusted, and dared. When I started in production, I was the only woman on most of the TV crews I worked on. It was not easy and often not pleasant, but I was committed to what I loved. I see NDMU as an institution that has been instilling the love of learning and passion to overcome all obstacles since its inception.

What do you hope your students take/learn from you?

I hope that they learn to think critically and not accept something as fact just because it was on the news, or social media, or because it is in a textbook. Think for yourself, look at multiple sources, and make your own decisions based on fact, not emotion. That t is my media/journalism side coming through. I also hope that they love learning. Nothing makes me more excited as a teacher than when you see a student have that “light bulb” moment of understanding and a whole world of new ideas are opened.

If you could share a meal with anyone from any point in time, who would it be?

There are so many people I would love to talk to, but it would be my grandfather, Charles Colby I. I never got to meet him. He was the Chair of the geography department at the University of Chicago and I have heard so many stories about him from his students. He was seen as this tough as nails professor, but he also cried when watching “Lassie” every week. He was involved in so many things like planning the Hoover Dam, and I would love to know more about that history.

What’s the best advice anyone ever gave you and who gave it?

This is going to sound like such a let-down, but it was from my sister-in-law and she gave it to me before I got married. She said, “Do your hair and makeup the way you always do it so that you look like yourself in the pictures.” It really spoke to me, because it is about being yourself and in these larger moments or events in life we often get pushed to not be true to who we are; we always need to be our true self.

What is the most exciting thing happening in your life right now?

Probably my daughter’s riding progress. She is an equestrian and has been going to larger and larger shows and doing very well. She used to be afraid to go over a tiny jump and now to see her going over big jumps is really exciting as I know how hard she has worked.

Besides your family, what makes you happy?

I would say my animals. If I could, I would love to open a rescue for animals that are hard to place in traditional rescue facilities.

I have seven dogs. All but one are rescues. I have four barn cats who are all rescues from working cat shelters. We have three horses. They are all hunter/jumpers, though one started as a race horse and was rescued when she could no longer race.

We also have eight chickens, 15 Kois in our pond (they often have babies that we do not see until Spring), and finally 28 indoor birds. Our newest rescue is an umbrella cockatoo who likes to play fetch.

My mother is a former biology teacher and she always brought home animals, especially baby birds that people found and thought she could take care of. So, I grew up learning how to take care of birds (my mom used to have a wildlife license) and once you know how to care for birds and start working with a rescue you get a lot of calls to take more.

About Dr. O’Brien

Dr. O’Brien earned her undergraduate degree from Southern Methodist University, received her master’s in telecommunications and Ph.D. in mass communications from Indiana University-Bloomington. To learn more about NDMU’s communications arts department, check out the website. (include url)