The Dorothy A. O’Brien Professorship in Human Ecology is a joint gift given in 2015 by O’Brien (BS ’70 Home Economics Journalism) and her husband, Richard Antoine, to the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Human Ecology (SoHE). For O’Brien, the professorship is an investment in researching long-term solutions to the current issues facing individuals, communities and beyond. “With this professorship, I was able to focus on the family and community,” states O’Brien. “In fact, I feel that mindfulness is a powerful approach to improving a child’s readiness for kindergarten.”
O’Brien’s interest in mindfulness stems from her experiences, including living in various locations such as Chicago, New York City and Kobe, Japan. During her professional career she consulted with major corporations, using various frameworks based on a mindful approach that helped women find their voice in the workplace. In addition, she has practiced yoga and meditation for close to 20 years.
“One of the things mindfulness helps to do is focus internally and then provide value-based responses,” explains O’Brien.
“The work done by SoHE in mindfulness helps youngsters build pro-social characteristics early in life allowing them to develop more fully,” states O’Brien who has an interest in not only the mindfulness work of SoHE but also the school’s 4W and financial well-being initiatives.
“We are grateful for Dorothy’s visionary endowment, which recognizes applied research in mindfulness as well as our outstanding faculty,” states Soyeon Shim, School of Human Ecology Dean. The professorship is part of SoHE’s larger contemplative Mind-body and Family Well-being initiative. This new collaborative includes coursework, applied research, and activities within the school and in the community that focus on mindfulness, a practice that scholars and health care practitioners increasingly agree can be used to improve the lives of individuals, families, and communities.
Poehlmann-Tynan Receives O’Brien Professorship
Specializing in contemplative practices for children, Dr. Julie Poehlmann-Tynan is the first to receive the O’Brien professorship, a five-year faculty appointment nominated by the dean and confirmed by the SoHE Endowed Professorship Chair Review Committee. As part of the Human Development and Family Studies department Poehlmann-Tynan’s research focuses on the role of family relationships in the development of resilience in high-risk infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. “Julie is an excellent choice for the position,” says O’Brien.” She is a great researcher who takes risks.”
About Dorothy O’Brien
O’Brien is a member of the School’s Board of Visitors, chaired the board in 2010, and is part of the Human Ecology 100 Women philanthropy group. She has worked in the areas of benefits, compensation, human resources, and public relations with multiple corporations, including The American Furniture Mart, Charles Spencer & Associates, Coopers and Lybrand, and Lazarus. O’Brien has held positions in nonprofit organizations including the American Dental Association and the Chicago office of the National Organization for Women. She was one of the founding members of the organizational change and personal development consulting business, Women in Process. She has served on the boards of Asian Community Alliance, Ohio Asian American Health Coalition, Athena Progressive Giving Circle and is a member of Impact 100.