It seems the "middle man" is always getting a bad rap. He’s always being eliminated. The middle man is the guy that needs to be removed for keeping costs up, who provides a roadblock between the person who wants something and the person who’s offering it. This dislike toward the middle man, though, is not a stigma in the political realm, where he can bring two opposing sides together, no matter how long-standing or vehement the disagreement might be, and encourage the right parties to talk. And through the discussion, a middle ground is often struck, solutions start to take shape and the answers begin to come.
Greg O’Brien wants to be the middle man on the Career College Association’s Board of Directors. O’Brien, who is Chief Financial Officer of the CollegeBound Network, is running for the open Allied Member seat on CCA’s board. CCA members will cast ballots when the final election is held next week.
For more than 10 years, O’Brien has been involved with CCA at various levels of membership. And in that time, he’s gradually developed relationships with key executives in career colleges and four-year institutions, while also earning the respect of his peers in the educational marketing field. But it’s been in the last two years that he’s joined the board of CCA’s PAC (political action committee) that brought about what he sees as another role for himself.
During the recent negotiated rulemaking discussions on Capitol Hill, which seemingly pitted four-year institutions against career colleges on a host of issues including the payment of recruiters and gainful employment, O’Brien discovered another way he could benefit the sector.
“I was a listener at the negotiated rulemaking sessions,” O’Brien said, “not a negotiator or panelist. However, I was able to collaborate with key negotiators and help them at times identify a platform from that would help advance our common cause. Over the past 10 years, I’ve formed relationships with schools such as Cornell, Boston University, the University of Florida, and Indiana University.
“The negotiated rulemaking sessions often seemed structured as a for-profit schools vs. non-profit sort of platform. Thankfully, I was able to introduce several non-profit stakeholders – deans, presidents and provosts – to key negotiators, and unite them so they could speak their minds together. In doing so, it seems I was able to help make several topics a school issue, not a for-profit school issue.”
O’Brien’s background is predominantly in higher education. His CollegeBound Network is an innovator in providing interactive and recruitment marketing services to all types of colleges and universities. O’Brien also manages CBN’s Enrollment Management products and services.
Prior to joining CBN, O’Brien spent 10 years in investment banking, focusing on mergers & acquisitions across the education and media industries. O’Brien managed the sale of Boston University’s Corporate Education Center to TechSkills and OCA Ventures. O’Brien also spent several years as an officer with The College Network, which publishes test preparation materials and provides of enrollment management services to higher education. O’Brien holds a BS from Cornell University and an MBA from New York University. He is also a founding member of the DMA’s Education Marketing Council.
The motivation to run for the CCA Board came from professionals he met throughout his career, O’Brien said. Current Board Members and Allied Members encouraged him to run, as well as career college executives who saw him working at the negotiated rulemaking sessions.
In addition to his own accomplishments, O’Brien has earned the respect of many Allied Members and others within the education marketing field.
Greg has already shown a strong work ethic and a passion for our sector of higher education, I can’t think of a better representative of the Allied Members for the CCA board. Greg brings experience, knowledge and a balanced perspective. As an Allied Member, I am confident that Greg will represent the interests of my company and the sector as a whole.
As far as style, O’Brien describes his as collaborative, and his best asset to the CCA Board would be his ability to unite people.
“I like connecting people,” O’Brien said. “I may not be the smartest guy in the room, but I’ve been able to form relationships with key stakeholders across higher education, and an approach I find productive is not lending my own advice, but rather connecting people to facilitate discussion on right issues. I know there are a lot of Allied Members who would like a channel to the CCA Board. As opposed to me being the talker, my approach as the middle man is to open up that channel.”
Should O’Brien win election to the Board, he said he would like to continue helping with legislative reform and making sure allied members are represented within various legislative issues. He said he sees further actions to bridge the gap between career colleges and four-year schools as critical to career education moving forward.
‘There’s a belief that they don’t, but many leading traditional schools care about marketing, and I’ve had a chance to help them,” O’Brien said. “There’s no doubt that there seems to be some divide between CCA and traditional schools that often gets broadcasted most loudly. There are several ways to bridge the gap that can help all of us.”