Checking in with Dean Kevin O’Connor 

Photo of dean Kevin O’Connor, edited by Lizeth Tello.  Cindy Luher | Saddleback College

O’Connor reflects on his time at Saddleback before he retires this year

Inside an office with white walls, one desk and one computer at Saddleback College in the LRC building sits Kevin O’Connor, the dean of the Liberal Arts division. He is responsible for many different duties and is dedicated to providing the best classes and a great campus environment for students.

He works with about six different departments, such as English, ESL, humanities, reading departments, international languages and lastly philosophy. O’Connor said that all the students are offered the right courses and certain introductions.

With the pandemic panic over, he wonders whether students want to come back to campus or do online classes. A lot of changes have occured but, overall, it depends on what the students prefer and where they think they fit in and can complete their courses.

Before COVID, the college campus used to be so lively and robust and many students were doing school clubs and activities. O’Connor called it “campus life” because he would always like to see a busy campus and people all talking and gathering, especially with around 2,500 students a semester taking classes at IVC and Saddleback.

O’Connor visits classrooms either in person or virtually in order to observe teachers. He also writes evaluations, works with faculty and provides the right education and needs for students.

O’Connor started his career by teaching English at San Diego State and then USC where he completed his Ph.D in philosophy, linguistics and literature. During his time there, he also did persuasion and debate and studied forensics. Then he also went to Loyola Marymount University for 14 years he taught at public and private universities. It was later when he moved to Saddleback.

“It is very open here and everyone is accepted such as equity and diversity and terms of social change and access,” O’Connor said.

O’Connor’s biggest memory would be when the Liberal Arts building was built in the 1970s. He said was not a student friendly building since it was so dim and did not identify what the building was.

He loves architecture. O’Connor spent 11 years working with the district and college to be able to secure a grant and paid for half the cost to renovate the whole building. The classes held there had to be temporarily moved into the portables until they finished in 2013. He is very proud of this accomplishment.

O’Connor said before COVID-19, the Student Center used to be filled with students studying and it would always be so busy. Students would use that area for computer work, if they could not use or have one at home. But since the pandemic, it is not being well used and not a lot of students are using it. He said college experience is everything and he is worried about the new incoming students and how they see the college life.

He hopes to see his college life alive again and more busy. 

Kevin O’Connor hopes for all students to get together again and have a good college experience like his years at Saddleback College. He is very apprehensive about retiring because he always worked all his life. His challenge in retiring is in what to do now with no work and no reason to get ready in the morning. He aims to find structure and he wants to feel productive and find something to do to feel engaged.