A lifelong journey of learning

May 31, 2017
Michael O'Connor


Of all the words Michael O’Connor uses to describe himself—author, consultant, trainer, academic, practitioner—perhaps the most fitting is pracademic, which is defined as someone who is both an academic and a practitioner in his or her subject area.

O'Connor’s passion for learning is one that would rival most, and one that has fueled the 25-plus years he has spent studying and practicing project management, primarily in the medical device industry. In addition to the Master of Science in Project Management he earned from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville in 2006, he holds a Master of Science in Technology Management, a Master of Business Administration, and a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering, with a major in project management.

“I believe that learning is a lifelong journey and one that will most likely never end for me,” O’Connor said.

“I believe that learning is a lifelong journey and one that will most likely never end for me,” O’Connor said. “I truly believe that I need to continue to grow and learn in project management and other areas to move this profession further ahead of where it is now. The educational process has been a great journey and I have learned a great deal of practical and theoretical concepts in a short period.”

O’Connor currently serves as the Director Strategy and Project Management at Medtronic. He acts not only as project, program, and PMO leader, he also acts as a chief of staff, strategist, and go-to person with any project needs or questions. Throughout his career, O’Connor has helped to create and commercialize over 21 medical devices.

O’Connor also volunteers his time with several organizations—including Project Management Institute, the Product Development and Management Association, the International Project Management Association, Boy Scouts of America, Minnesota Youth Soccer Association, Can do Canines, and his local City Park Board—and encourages others to continue their educational journeys as well. In addition to teaching project management courses, he has been a guest panelist and speaker at PMI-MN events, and it’s no surprise that he views sharing information as an opportunity to learn something himself. “I will continue to learn as my lifelong journey. This will be in many forms at work, home, and school. I will continue to teach at the university level and learn from my students. I will also continue to give back and volunteer in various roles and organizations. The future is bright and there are many new things to learn, try, and witness.”

O’Connor joined the Distance Education Alumni Board in February of 2016. Read why he wanted to give back below.

Q: What made you want to join the Alumni Board?
A: I wanted to give back to the university and better understand what is currently happening with the institution and how I can apply my skills to improve the initiatives that the Alumni Board has each year.

Q: Are there specific initiatives you like to help with?
A: I like the individual messages that are written to the new distance learning students at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. This is an area I would like to focus on, and help provide a new student with some good solid advice to creating a successful experience at the university.

Q: What do you want the board to accomplish in the next year?
A: I would like to see the board accomplish the goals that they have set forth for the year. It would be great if we could get the scholarship dollars even higher to create more opportunities for students. Graduation cards are another area that many of the board members have participated in and it has been very successful. I would also like to engage more alumni through the various ways that they currently have and think of new ways to reach out to busy alumni.

Q: Why do you feel it’s important to stay involved and connected as an alumnus?
A: I think that it is a great way to help other current and former students. It is also a great way to network with other alumni. We are all caught up in a busy, digital world and you need to have outlets to connect with others that have some of the same experiences.

Q: How would you encourage distance students and alumni to get involved and stay connected to UW-Platteville?
A: I agree that the first item on your list should be to become an Alumni Association member. It is easy and it is not expensive. Reach out to others on LinkedIn that have graduated from UW-Platteville and if they have some common ground, connect with them and start a conversation.

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