Norm O’Reilly: New Dean of the Graduate School of Business

Dr. Norm O’Reilly, a professor and former assistant dean at the University of Guelph, joins the Maine Business School’s Graduate School of Business as dean on July 1, 2021. Dr. O’Reilly is a leading scholar in the business of sports. As a professor and CPA, he teaches courses in sport management and accounting. You can find the official announcement of his hire here. Read on to learn a bit more about our new dean in his own words…

Where are you from? 

I was born in Orillia, Ontario, and raised in Lindsay, Ontario, Canada. Both are small towns north of Toronto, Canada’s largest city.

Tell us a bit about your family.

My wife, Nadège, is also a professor and is coming to UMaine with me. Her area is strategy and management information systems. We have four amazing kids–Emma is 18, Kian 15, and 12-year old twin boys, Thomas and Leland. We also have a dog, Lilly. My parents and close family are still in Lindsay, Ontario, where I grew up, and Nadège’s family is in France. Her parents live near Auxerre, a small city southeast of Paris.

What books or podcasts are on your reading/listening list? 

During COVID, I spent much more time writing than reading/listening and, with co-authors, completed five books in the past year. 

How did you become interested in teaching as a profession? 

It was not my plan. Shortly after my MBA, I worked and got the chance to teach a class part-time at my alma mater, the University of Ottawa, and really enjoyed it. I did that for a few years before moving to academia full-time. Why did I change my plan? Quite simply, I loved it. Being a professor is a platform to do so many great things, teaching and working with students at the top of the list. It is a most fulfilling experience. 

During your collegiate years, did you have a favorite professor? What made them stand out? 

I have had many great professors over my four degrees and CPA. Many. But my favorite for many reasons is the late Dr. Sean Egan, who was a professor, then my boss (I was his research and teaching assistant), my mentor, and a fellow adventurer. He was an inspiration for me and took a significant role in convincing me that there are no barriers one cannot overcome and no challenge too great to tackle. Sean passed away, sadly, deep into his summit attempt to become (at the time) the 2nd oldest person to climb Mount Everest.

What sorts of activities are you looking forward to experiencing during your first year in Maine? 

This may sound a bit boring, but I’m looking forward to integrating into the state, the University, the city of Portland, my kids’ school (sports and otherwise), the community, and getting to know the area. My main hobbies are triathlon and hockey. I look forward to checking out the spectacular state on foot and bike, finding places to play and swim, and signing up for events and races.

What about this role at UMaine piqued your interest? 

Perhaps of interest is that this was the second time I applied for this job. It caught my eye five years ago and again this past year. Just this time, I was so fortunate as to have been successful! I see myself as bringing value in the external and entrepreneurial aspects of the role, which from what I’ve learned so far, is what is needed. I have been teaching and working with MBA and professional graduate programs and executive education for more than 20 years and feel that I’m ready for the challenge, excited for it!

What are your first impressions of Maine and UMaine? 

In two words, very positive. The state is appealing (ocean, nature, outdoors, people, and more), and the University has a wonderful and successful history and is poised for growth, expansion, and a very positive future. I think it is a great time to join, and I hope to be here for a long time. 

What are your priorities for the MaineMBA next year? 

I can tell you my first goal is to get to know everyone–our internal team, our partners, our students, our professors, our alumni, our corporate partners, and our friends. As a second point, the MBA is on a great trajectory, and I want to accelerate that. 

What are you most excited about? 

There is a long list! But, let me give you a few: the downtown Portland location (and vibe), the new building, the Alfond grant, the strength of our faculty at the Maine Business School and Graduate School of Business, and the potential. 

Why do you think it’s important to earn a Master of Business Administration? 

For me, an MBA is the right choice for a professional who is either stuck in their current job or wanting to transition their career. It can be the credential, learning, and networking that can lead to that promotion or new job. Of course, if you are thriving in your career, moving up, getting promoted, and learning, then there is no need to get off the train and do your MBA. But if the train is stalled or if you want to change tracks, it is–in my mind–unquestionably the best way to do that. 

What role do you see the Graduate School of Business playing in the State of Maine? 

A vibrant, leading, and innovative MBA can attract new talent to Maine, keep great people in the state, support the success of new and existing organizations. In addition, it can drive advanced business thinking specific to our context and lead efforts related to diversity, innovation, entrepreneurship, and resource generation. 

What is the best advice you’ve ever received? 

Great question. I’ve been so fortunate to have had many great mentors throughout my career. I have benefited from their advice many times over. But a couple of ‘pearls’ do come to mind that I’ve really adopted in my career. First, “take the time to plan.” It sounds so simple, but I can tell you from experience that having a plan–whether for your career, personal life, or even a specific goal (e.g., qualify for the Boston marathon)–works. If you don’t plan, you’re not likely to succeed, but the odds go up a great deal if you do. Second, one mentor stressed with me the idea to “drop fear from your vocabulary.” If you want something, don’t let anything detract from that–a person, a challenge, a barrier, or a competitor. And, finally, “invest in yourself.” If you’re a driven career person like I am, investing your time, money, and energy into yourself will pay off and should not be viewed as a cost but an investment. It’s a subtle but important difference.