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Psychology Professor James O’Brien chosen for prestigious title

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (Nov. 18, 2010) – Tidewater Community College proudly shares the news of Professor James P. O’Brien’s selection as the 2010 Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching Virginia Professor of the Year.

The Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), which launched the U.S. Professors of the Year program in 1981, announced the national and state winners on Nov. 18 at an awards luncheon and congressional reception in Washington, D.C. (Event Photos) The Carnegie Foundation has sponsored the Professors of the Year program since 1982. (For program information, visit

Judges rated the nominees for extraordinary work in undergraduate teaching based on impact and involvement with students; scholarly approach to teaching and learning; contributions to education in the institution, community and profession; and support from colleagues and past and present students.

“This high honor couldn’t go to a more deserving, dedicated professor and scholar than Jim O’Brien,” says TCC President Deborah M. DiCroce. “Indeed, the prestige of the Carnegie recognition constitutes a powerful affirmation of his rightful place on academe’s national stage.

“Dr. O’Brien has devoted himself for more than 35 years to reaching students who take his psychology classes with disparate levels of expectation. Jim serves them all. Students can begin one of his courses with little more than curiosity about psychology, and soon find themselves embracing research and even scientific publication.”

Professor O’Brien’s infectious enthusiasm for psychology has enriched colleagues and students alike. His avid interest in research has carried over to students, who work collaboratively with him to conduct experiments and publish their findings. More than 80 of O’Brien’s students have co-authored over 40 research papers, and some of them have gone on to become professors, researchers and academic leaders.

“When I realize the remarkable talent and dedication that characterize the professoriate in Virginia’s colleges and universities,” O’Brien says, “it’s both humbling and exhilarating to be chosen for this recognition. I owe a lot to TCC where I’m surrounded by students, fellow faculty, and leaders who are committed to excellence in undergraduate education.

“Psychology and my students have given me a life full of transforming experiences,” adds O’Brien. “It never ceases to amaze me and make me happy; I always hope my students feel the same.”

O’Brien has served as president of the Virginia Academy of Science, was named an Academy Fellow in 1997 and is currently its delegate to the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Association of Academies of Science. He is a member of Old Dominion University’s Darden College of Education Advisory Board and Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine appointed him to the Board of Trustees of the Science Museum of Virginia where he chairs the Science Education Committee. O’Brien also received the inaugural Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence from the Virginia Community College System in 2007 and was twice named a Chancellor’s Commonwealth Professor. He is listed in Who’s Who in America 2011.

Professor O’Brien holds a B.A. in psychology from the University of Richmond, an M.S. in general-applied psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University and a Ph.D. in human factors psychology with a minor concentration in systems design and engineering from the Catholic University of America.

O’Brien resides in Norfolk with his wife, Mary Louise; they have three sons – Christopher, Andrew and Marquis.  

News Coverage:


Laurie White

Tidewater Community College - the largest provider of higher education and Workforce Solutions services in Hampton Roads - topped 45,000 students in 2009-10. The 16th highest associate-degree producer in the nation, TCC offers more than 150 programs including business administration, culinary arts, general studies, modeling & simulation, network security, nursing, and automotive technology. Among the fastest-growing two-year institutions in the United States, TCC was founded in 1968 as a part of the Virginia Community College System. The college serves the South Hampton Roads region with campuses in Chesapeake, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Virginia Beach as well as the TCC Jeanne and George Roper Performing Arts Center in Norfolk’s theater district, the Visual Arts Center in Olde Towne Portsmouth, the Regional Automotive Center in Chesapeake, and the Advanced Technology Center in Virginia Beach. Forty-six percent of the region’s residents attending a college or university in Virginia last fall were enrolled at TCC. For more information, visit