O'Brien, who served as deputy dean at Harvard for two years before she was fired from her post, will oversee the school's administrative and financial operations, according to a press release. She will assume her new job on July 23.
As deputy to Dean of the College Benedict H. Gross '71, O'Brien spearheaded a number of student-life initiatives including the creation of two cafés and a campus pub. Emphasizing the importance of student satisfaction data, O'Brien pushed for changes in areas that students identified as problematic, a strategy that drew criticism from some former College administrators who feared that satisfying students might sometimes be different from educating them. O'Brien and other College administrators were also criticized for what some professors called a growing “corporate” culture inside University Hall.
She was hired because Gross found his position—created in 2003 with the consolidation of the separate offices of the dean of the College and dean of undergraduate education—to be too much work for one person.
Gross and then-Interim Dean of the Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles fired O'Brien last summer after she lost Knowles' support. A deputy dean has not been appointed since, though last September Gross created the post of senior adviser, which he asked Ford Professor of Human Evolution David Pilbeam to fill.
O'Brien served as co-master of Currier from 2003 to 2007 along with her husband Joseph L. Badaracco, Jr. the Shad professor of business ethics at the Business School. The couple announced their decision to step down as House masters in February.
Gross declined to comment for this story, and O'Brien did not respond to an e-mail request for comment.
—Staff writer Brittney L. Moraski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.