AARP Affiliated Foundation board member
Barbara O’Connor, Ph.D., of Sacramento, Calif., was elected to the AARP Board in 2010. She serves on the Audit and Finance Committee and is on the Insurance Trust.
She is a former professor of communication studies and director of the Institute for the Study of Politics and Media, California State University, Sacramento. Previously, she was assistant director of debate, University of Southern California, a summer debate instructor, Georgetown University, and a design consultant, Cablevision Systems, New Jersey. She has been chairperson and founding board member of the Alliance for Public Technology; a board member and officer, California Emerging Technology Fund; a member of the Bellcore Advisory Board; and a member of the Federal Communication Commission’s Network Reliability Council. She chaired the California Educational Technology Commission, the California Public Broadcasting Commission, the CEO Task Force on Digital Literacy and the International Council on Information Communication Technology.
AARP Leadership Profile:
“I grew up in West Texas, raised by a single mother. I was a first-generation college graduate. So I’ve lived through lots of what our members are living through.
“Communications and politics have really been my longstanding interests, including technology access and equity, disabled rights, communication strategies and social movement building. I have a political background, and I started a public radio station in Sacramento and ran it for a while. We now have six radio stations there, the Capital Public Radio Network.
“I have taught mostly technology policy and technology evolution — the hardware stuff. I also teach political communications and the impact of messaging on social movement formation.
“I was fortunate enough to go to the Annenberg School at the University of Southern California, which is very geeky, so I was able to keep up with technology as it evolved. I chaired the California Public Broadcasting Commission, and I’m now an officer and director of the California Emerging Technology Fund.
“AARP provides me an opportunity to do tele-health, to deal with issues of getting the 50-plus generation online. I get to help people who are unemployed at 50, using the Web. So being part of the AARP board is really a wonderful synergy of my interests and the organization’s interests….”
“It’s getting more and more difficult to find a center in American politics. Part of it is the media’s fault. The news hole, in both broadcast and in print, has really been reduced. The downsizing and the mergers and acquisitions that have gone on in the media world have really done a disservice to public policy discussion. It’s made the media more event- and scandal-chasing — the lowest common denominator.
“In political campaigns, it’s 30-second spots. So it’s no surprise that the public has fatigue about dealing with politicians. Every poll in America shows that they are held in very low esteem.
“We can’t return to retail politics because we have the technology and everyone is used to using it. But longer formats, discussions, call-ins, coherent talk would be welcome. Certainly, AARP’s members would welcome that to address their concerns about big things such as Social Security.
“AARP is nonpartisan, and ours is a trusted voice. We have to provide the voice of reason in these debates, so that it’s not a partisan political discussion, but really a rational, practical discussion.
“People really do care about the issues that we work on. They’re central to their lives. We have to find a coherent solution to intractable problems.
“We need to be very heavily data-driven. I think we do that, by the way. I think staff and our board are the best. And our volunteers are terrific. So I’m optimistic, actually.
“A big part of our job as board members is to listen. You don’t let your own biases govern what you do. I have to listen to what the data says and to what members are telling me.
“So if you’re data-driven and you really do listen to the members tell you what their issues are — and we have very good organs of information that help us with that, by the way, in the organization — then you can find consensus.”
Politics, communications, debate, telecommunications policy, digital divide, senior health, tele-health, digital literacy, education technology.
Ph.D., communications, University of Southern California, Annenberg School of Communications; M.A., communications, California State University, Northridge; B.A., communications, California State University, Northridge; A.A., history, Los Angeles Valley College.
Currently, professor of communication and director of the Institute for the Study of Politics and Media, California State University, Sacramento. Previously, assistant director of debate, University of Southern California; summer debate instructor, Georgetown University; design consultant, Cablevision Systems, New Jersey.
Boards: Serves on AARP Board’s Audit and Finance Committee and the AARP Insurance Trust. Formerly, chairperson and founding board member, The Alliance for Public Technology; board member and officer, California Emerging Technology Fund; member, Bellcore Advisory Board.
Other: Formerly, presidential debate judge, Washington Bureau, Associated Press; chair and commission member, California Public Broadcasting Commission (governor’s appointee); commission member, Federal Communication Commission, Network Reliability Council; chair, California Educational technology commission; chair, CEO Task Force on Digital Literacy; chair, International Council on Information Communication Technology; among many others.
Received a Lifetime Community Service Award, an outstanding teaching award, and the Alumni Association’s Distinguished Professor Award from California State University, Sacramento. Received a Technology Pioneer Award from the Alliance for Public Technology; a Technology Leadership Award from Computer Using Educators. Named among 50 for the Future by Newsweek magazine.
Lucas Public Affairs is a California-based strategic consulting, public relations, and communications firm. Located in Sacramento, C.A., Lucas Public Affairs was founded in 2006 by Donna Lucas, who is the firm’s CEO and President. The firm’s clients come from a myriad of industries including energy, sports and entertainment, transportation, natural resources, health care, business and finance, tourism and education. The firm also offers services in the following practice areas: Strategic Communications, Crisis Communications, Issue & Reputation Management, Government Relations, Media, and Social Media
Barbara O’Connor, a longtime Sacramento college professor and expert in political communications, has joined Lucas Public Affairs, the firm announced today.
O’Connor will provide strategic guidance for the Sacramento-based public relations firm, which serves clients in the fields of energy, sports, entertainment, insurance, local government, education, health care and other fields. Her title will be senior counsel.
“Barbara’s ongoing relationships with the California press corps, academic community, and national and statewide opinion leaders and policymakers make her a major asset to our team,” said Donna Lucas, president and chief executive officer, in a written statement.
O’Connor also released a statement, saying, “I’m excited about partnering with everyone at Lucas Public Affairs. The issues are interesting and challenging. I’m looking forward to adding to the mix. I know I’m going to learn a lot.”
SACRAMENTO, CA – Lucas Public Affairs, one of California’s top strategic communications firms, today announced the addition of Dr. Barbara O’Connor, Emeritus Professor at Sacramento State University, to its growing team.
“Dr. O’Connor will be serving as senior counsel to the firm, offering her experience and expertise on some of the firm’s top clients.
A nationally recognized expert in the field of political communications, Dr. O’Connor will provide strategic guidance on some of the most complex issues that Lucas Public Affairs’ clients face.
“I am thrilled that Barbara is joining our team. She is results-based and has a respected reputation – qualities that make her a perfect addition to the firm,” said Donna Lucas, CEO and President of Lucas Public Affairs. “Her years of experience and knowledge of California and her continued role in providing strategic counsel to many national organizations and media outlets will be of tremendous value as we help our clients navigate through challenges and achieve their business goals.”
O’Connor — formerly a professor at Sacramento State University and director of the university’s Institute for the Study of Politics and Media — has over 43 years of experience teaching and in research.
Besides Sacramento State, she has taught at Georgetown and USC where she was the assistant director of debate. She currently sits on the National Board of the American Association of Retired Persons. O’Connor has previously served as a consultant to McClatchy Newspapers, the Boston Globe Media Properties, the Tribune Company, the Washington Bureau of the Associated Press, the California Legislature, the United States Congress and the Federal Communications Commission.
“I’m excited about partnering with everyone at Lucas Public Affairs. The issues are interesting and challenging,” O’Connor said. “I’m looking forward to adding to the mix. I know I’m going to learn a lot.”
“Barbara’s ongoing relationships with the California press corps, academic community and national and statewide opinion leaders and policymakers make her a major asset to our team,” said Lucas.
Last year, the firm announced the promotions of Justin Knighten, Rachel Huberman and Annie Han and the addition of seasoned media strategist Beth Willon.
Led by Lucas, founder of the firm and one of the nation’s foremost public affairs strategists, Lucas Public Affairs’ existing team includes: public affairs experts Julie Marengo, Senior Vice President, and Jessica Spitz Biller, Vice President—who together have a combined 30+ years of experience managing complex and multi-faceted communications programs for a host of clients and issues; Beth Willon, Senior Account Supervisor & Media Specialist; Justin Knighten, Account Executive; Emilie Cameron, Account Coordinator; Rachel Huberman, Account Coordinator; and Annie Han, Executive Assistant.