KINGSTON, R.I. – August 15, 2019 – Michael O’Brien ’20, president of the University of Rhode Island’s Student Alumni Association (SAA), received a national Outstanding Student Leader Award from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) at the ASAP Network Convention in Baltimore on August 3 and 4. The award is given to a dedicated student who has significantly improved the organization by inspiring growth, cultivating collaboration, and developing meaningful relationships.
O’Brien was one of three students to win the national award from a field of 21 students who had won in districts from across the country. He also was one of three students to win the Outstanding Student Leader Award at the district 1 conference in February. He was nominated by a fellow SAA member, Chloe Warren ’20, and McKayla Stubbs, program manager for the URI Foundation & Alumni Engagement and advisor to the SAA.
“We greatly appreciate Michael’s dedication, creativity, and enthusiasm for everything he does, and we are delighted that his talents received national recognition from CASE,” said Lil Breul O’Rourke, URI Foundation & Alumni Engagement President.
Warren, who serves as the administration and finance chair for the Student Alumni Association, described O’Brien as putting “his heart and soul into everything he does.” She listed examples of his leadership, caring, and collaboration within and outside the association.
“Having a leader who is supportive of every event no matter how big or small really motivates the rest of the organization to participate,” said Warren. “Michael leads by example brilliantly and is the epitome of practicing what he preaches.”
O’Brien, from North Kingstown, is a Psychology major with a minor in Sports Media and Communication. He has been active in URI’s Student Alumni Association since he came to the University in September 2016, and was elected to the executive board three times. In his first position as director of kits (an annual fundraiser where families buy stress-reliever kits for students during test periods), he helped lower the cost per kit, increase the number of kits sold, and increase profits. He has also served as a student ambassador, Rhody the Ram, and Rhody’s handler throughout his tenure.
“I am passionate about this organization (SAA) because of the people I get to work with every day and the people I get to meet through networking and other opportunities,” said O’Brien. “Winning the CASE ASAP outstanding student leader award is such an honor and has really lit a fire under me to improve not only myself but also SAA, and to do more to help others here at URI.”
The nomination also demonstrated O’Brien’s involvement and leadership beyond the association. He has been a player on the club tennis team, as well as its fundraising chair; a student representative on the College of Health Sciences Advisory Board; a teacher’s assistant for health psychology; and worked in the URI Foundation Athletic Development office.
Stubbs noted O’Brien’s inclusive leadership style. “Over the past year, Michael has worked diligently to enhance the culture of SAA. This October, we opened the organization to all students, so Michael worked hard to make sure that new members were integrated into the organization and involved,” said Stubbs.
He changed the meeting structures to make them more meaningful to all members. At their weekly general meeting, he has added an introductory activity where everyone comes together to discuss a topic, including new ideas for the group to pursue. “He strives to make sure all members feel included and an integral part of the organization,” said Stubbs.
In addition, O’Brien is responsible for overseeing all aspects of the URI Student Alumni Association organization, managing all committees, rewriting its Constitution and Bylaws, and running all executive board and general meetings.
O’Brien plans to remain involved with URI when he graduates in 2020.