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Jonathan O'Brien

Assistant Professor

Jonathan O'Brien Ed.D.

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Dr. Jonathan O'Brien teaches courses in the master's and doctoral programs such as Law and Ethics, Leadership and Management, and Counseling the Adult Student. He also teaches courses in Research Epistemologies and Methodologies, Professional Seminars, and Qualitative Research Methods.
Dr. O'Brien has held leadership positions in student affairs administration at public and private universities in Missouri, Kentucky, and California. His professional experience includes advising students and supervising professional staff in student activities, leadership development, student media, career services, health and counseling center, student conduct, and academic advising. He provides expertise and leadership in external program evaluation teams. His consulting and conference presentations focus on moral development and dispositional competencies in student affairs practice.


Ed.D. Educational Leadership, UC Irvine & CSU Long Beach
MS College Student Personnel Administration, Central Missouri State University
BA English, California State University, Long Beach

Representative Publications

O’Brien, J. J. (in press). An emerging typology of moral positionality for educational leaders. Journal of College and Character.
O’Brien, J. J. (2016). Toward an ethic of becoming. About Campus, 21(1), 4-11.
O’Brien, J. J. (2016, Winter). Ethical Perspectives on the ACPA/NASPA Professional Competencies. Developments 13(4), 39-43. Retrieved from www.myacpa.org/developments 
Ortiz, A. M., O’Brien, J. J., & Martinez, C. R. (2015). Developing a professional ethic. In M. A. Amey & L. Ressor, Beginning your journey. Washington D. C.: National Association of Student Personnel Administrators. 
O’Brien, J. J. (2014, Winter). A model for ethical professional practice and leadership. Developments, 12(4). Retrieved from www.myacpa.org/developments 

Recent Conference Presentations

Conflict, character, and context: Opportunities for dialogue in ethical practice. NASPA Annual Conference. New Orleans, LA (March, 2015).

Advising and helping students using queer theory. ACPA Annual meeting. Tampa, FL (March, 2015).

Beyond the binary: Queer theory and moral development. Research in progress presentation at the National Symposium on LGBTQ Research in Higher Education. Lansing, MI (October, 2014). 

An interpretive approach to advising men in postsecondary contexts. Scholarly paper presented at ACPA Annual meeting. Indianapolis, IN (April, 2014).

Student Affairs preparation programs & ACPA/NASPA professional competencies:  Context and strategies for implementation. NASPA Annual Conference. Baltimore, MD (March, 2014).

What’s the story? Understanding men’s motivations to engage in higher education. NASPA Conference on College Men. Oxford, OH (May, 2013).

Conceptualizing the intersection of graduate student dispositions in a cross-cultural service-learning experience. AERA Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA (April, 2013).

Leadership in Professional Associations

Co-Chair, ACPA/NASPA Professional Competencies Rubric Task Force

Current Projects

  • Dispositions in Student Affairs professional practice. Data analysis underway for an exploratory study of a diverse sample of practitioners (n=73) to define and explore dispositional competency in postsecondary counselors and educators.
  • "Queering" moral maturity.  An exploratory study of moral maturity in student leaders who identify as non-heterosexual to critique the post-positivist, normative, and sex-based theories currently used in student affairs practice.
  • Teaching ethical dispositions in student affairs graduate preparation. A study on the impact and efficacy of a pedagogical model for teaching professional dispositions for ethical leadership.