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Matt O'Keefe Named to Head UM Center for Manufacturing Excellence

Matthew J. O’Keefe has been hired as the executive director of UM’s Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence. Submitted photo by Sam Okeefe/Missouri S&T
With decades of professional and research experience, Matthew J. O’Keefe has been named the new executive director of the Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence at the University of Mississippi.
A native of Rolla, Missouri, O’Keefe assumes his duties Jan. 1. Besides administrative oversight of personnel, facilities and operations, he is responsible for leading the center’s academic unit, including curriculum development; providing leadership and strategic guidance for the center; and developing relationships with industry and within the university to enhance opportunities for students and faculty.
“I was very honored and grateful for the opportunity to be associated with such an outstanding program and university,” said O’Keefe, who earned his bachelor’s and doctoral degrees, both in metallurgical engineering, from Missouri University of Science and Technology and the University of Illinois, respectively.
William Nicholas, assistant director of the university’s Insight Park who chaired the search committee, shared how important it was to find someone of O’Keefe’s caliber to lead the center.
“Matt O’Keefe brings exceptional experience and skills to ensure that the CME continues developing synergies with the business community resulting in long-term economic impact,” Nicholas said.
O’Keefe began his career as a manufacturing engineer at AT&T Microelectronics. He transferred to AT&T Bell Laboratories, where he conducted applied research and development for manufacturing locations.
He earned his doctorate while working for the Air Force Research Laboratory and continued in-house research and program management before taking a faculty position at his undergraduate alma mater.
Before joining UM, O’Keefe was an academic department chair, a research center director and the assistant vice chancellor supervising the campus distance education program at Missouri S&T.
“In many ways, each of these positions have prepared me to lead CME,” O’Keefe said. “I applied for the position for many reasons, but the main one was that it is a unique program that provides an opportunity for students in accountancy, business and engineering to learn and work together in an area of national need: manufacturing.
“The curriculum that CME students experience provides a breadth to their major degree program that prepares them to have successful careers and enhance the manufacturing industry.”
O’Keefe’s goals include augmenting the existing program by increasing undergraduate student participation and developing a graduate program focused on helping develop the local, state and national manufacturing professional workforce.
“People are the most important asset of any organization, and for educational institutions it is the success of students that is paramount,” he said. “To achieve student success and grow the undergraduate program, as well as initiate a graduate program, will take additional staff and faculty along with keeping the facilities state-of-the-art.”
UM administrators are pleased to welcome O’Keefe to the university.
“Dr. O’Keefe is an accomplished engineering faculty member and administrator who brings valuable perspectives to the Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence,” said Noel Wilkin, provost and executive vice chancellor for academics. “We are fortunate to have him as the leader of this center, which has outstanding faculty and staff. We look forward to the CME reaching the next level of success under his leadership.”
A recognized asset for the growth of advanced manufacturing in Mississippi, the CME was established in June 2008 to provide unique opportunities for students interested in manufacturing. The opportunities developed are considered distinctive to the center and are not available to undergraduate students at other universities.
The CME is developing interdisciplinary educational opportunities within an innovative academic learning model that provides students with the practical experiences, fundamental knowledge and creative skill sets needed to lead the world of modern manufacturing.


By Edwin B. Smith
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