Dr. Barbara O'Connor
Professor of Communications
Director, the Institute for the Study of Politics and Media
Dr. O'Connor is a nationally recognized expert in the fields of political communication and telecommunications policy and applications. She is the author of numerous publications in both of these areas. She served eight years, by appointment of the Governor, the California Legislature, and the Superintendent of Public Instruction as chair of the California Educational Technology Committee. The committee had an annual budget of $16 million and was charged with infusing technology in California's K-12 schools. She also served for the 9 years as the elected chair of the Alliance for Public Technology, a Washington, DC, non-profit organization with over 250 members and an annual budget of $1 million, devoted to building constituencies on information age issues. Dr. O’Connor and five other consumer leaders founded the Alliance in 1989. She is the former chair of the California Public Broadcasting Commission by appointment of the Governor and founder of KXPR-FM, Sacramento's Public Radio Station. Dr. O'Connor was appointed by FCC chairman Al Sikes and reappointed twice by Chairman Reed Hundt to represent consumers on the Network Reliability and Interoperability Council. She served as one of eleven persons on Bellcore's Advisory Board and is one of 15 consumer leaders on Pacific Telesis’ Consumer Advisory Panel. During her sabbatical in the Spring of 1996, she co-chaired California Superintendent of Pubic Instruction Delaine Eastin’s California Educational Technology Industry Task Force which has developed and is building support with the Business Roundtable of California and the California Chamber of Commerce to deploy an ambitious technology plan for K-12 schools.
Dr. O'Connor has served as an expert consultant to McClatchy Newspapers, the Boston Globe Media Properties, the Tribune Company, The Washington Bureau of the Associated Press, The California Legislature, the Congress of the United States, The Federal Communications Commission, The Office of Technology Assessment, The U.S. Department of Commerce, National Public Radio, Time Inc. Cable Systems, Cablevision Systems Inc., Scripps Howard Cable, Pacific Bell, NYNEX, Ameritech, Bell Atlantic, G.T.E., Verizon, Pacific Gas and Electric, , The State Bar of California , the Soviet/American Journalists' Exchange Program, the Bay Area Telecommuting Development Partnership, Pennsylvania’ Center for Rural Networking, and Stentor Communications of Canada. Dr. O'Connor received her Ph.D. in Communications from the University of Southern California in 1974. She was featured in Newsweek’s 1995 “50 for the Future” a feature on the fifty people who will set policy and direction for global communications.
She was honored with an outstanding teaching award by California State University in 1990 and received the California State University Alumni Distinguished Professor Award in 1994. In October 1996, Dr. O’Connor received the Computer Using Educator’s highest recognition when they presented her with their Technology Leadership award at their annual conference in Santa Clara. In Feb. 1998 she received the Technology Pioneer Award for her 15 years of public advocacy in telecommunications policy.
Dr. O’Connor has always blended her teaching, research and community service into a consistent commitment to explain the role of media in society and its impact on citizens, institutions and the democratic process.
She continues to teach a full load and direct the programs of the Institute which currently include administering a research grant from Verizon, Ten Telecommunications Graduate Fellowships funded by the California Public Utilities Commission, and the recently completed Sacramento County Communications Audit and Web Portal development project. She is chairing an international effort by ETS, to develop a framework for ICT literacy measurement.