Sean O’Brien
Executive Vice President & COO, The Montpelier Foundation

Sean T. O’Brien, Ph.D. is the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at James Madison’s Montpelier. As EVP/COO Sean leads the annual budget creation process, supports key committees of the Board, works closely with Montpelier’s major donors, and is member of senior management team that defines vision and direction of organization. Sean is also in charge of new business development and was a key member of the strategic planning process.

Previously Sean was the Executive Director of the Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution at Montpelier where he oversaw the expansion of programs from teachers to include elected officials, law enforcement, and international visitors. At the Center, Sean established an ongoing relationship with the Brookings Institute that resulted in the publication of several books, including What So Proudly We Hailed: Essays on the Contemporary Meaning of the war of 1812, and Madisonian Thought in Contemporary Public Policy.

Before Montpelier, Sean was the Executive Director of the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership at the University of Virginia. At Sorensen Sean led the friendly takeover of another nonprofit that doubled Sorensen’s programing options to include leadership and ethics programs for high school and college students, as well as the established programs for mid-career public-service minded Virginians, and candidates for public office. 

While at Montpelier and Sorensen Sean served on the Governor’s Commission on Civics Education, being appointed by three governors, both Democrats and Republicans. He was also a member of the Governor’s Commission on Redistricting Reform.

Sean graduated from the University of Virginia with a Ph.D. in Environmental Science in 1994 conducting research in Costa Rica and Panama. After leaving UVa he worked at Princeton University on temperate and tropical forest ecology. Sean worked as the Finance Director of the Rush Holt for Congress campaign in central New Jersey (12th CD) in 1996 and 1998 and is a co-author on peer-reviewed papers in Science, Ecology, and Climatic Change among other publications.