COO Scott Kunselman reflects on time at OU ahead of retirement


Courtesy of Oakland University

Chief Operating Officer Scott Kunselman plans to stay involved with OU after retirement.

Katie Valley, Content Editor

After more than 30 years serving southeast Michigan at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) and spending the last four-and-a-half as chief operating officer (COO) of Oakland University, Scott Kunselman is retiring from his position, effective June 1.

Kunselman’s responsibilities include overseeing Facilities Management, finance and administration, Meadow Brook Estate, the OU Golf and Learning Center, university technical services (IT), purchasing, University Human Resources (UHR), the OU Police Department and the strategic growth of the university.

The decision to retire was a tough one for Kunselman — he already had to leave one work family when taking on the COO position, and now he is leaving another one, though he said the timing is right.

“It’s a shift that I think many of us go through our whole lives hoping for in some respects,” he said. “I have a lot of the same feelings that are happening now that occurred when I left FCA, the most important one being that your work family is a real family. You spend so much time with the people you work with, and it’s very fulfilling. All work has frustrations, but you develop a relationship with this family, and it’s very hard to make a decision to retire because in one way you feel like you’re leaving a family.”

At OU, Kunselman and his team pushed to encourage interaction by establishing a cross-functional movement among departments, which was enforced by encouraging diverse teams to meet often. From a human resources perspective, UHR leader Ron Watson helped Kunselman promote the Leadership Academy, a program that brings together campus leaders, and Kunselman also pushed to help departments balance their pay scales and establish flexible work arrangements.

Some of Kunselman’s most fulfilling accomplishments involved project development, where he could best utilize his engineering background. From his time on the Board of Trustees to today, campus has expanded with the construction of the Engineering Center, Oak View Hall, Hillcrest Hall, the OC expansion, the Upper Fields, the addition of over 700 parking spots and the shifting of traffic patterns. The upcoming South Foundation and Wilson Hall expansions will continue that progress.

After serving as a member of the Board of Trustees for three years, Kunselman was appointed to COO in October 2015 by then-President George W. Hynd. He came to OU from FCA, where his engineering background included being senior vice president of FCA’s Purchasing and Supplier Quality, Engineering and Product Development, and Regulatory Affairs departments.

At FCA, he achieved his career goals. He had complete ownership of a vehicle program when he was the chief engineer for Dodge RAM trucks from 2004-2008. During that period, Kunselman designed and launched a successful product and improved aspects of the Dodge product line. 

Once Chrysler merged with Fiat after the 2008 recession, Kunselman and his colleagues rebuilt the company, restructuring engineering to create one global engineering department. When recovering from bankruptcy, Kunselman hired 2,000 people in an 18-month period. He then moved to the purchasing department, where he got to know suppliers, and then made the final switch to the regulatory arena, where the rising number of automotive recalls and Obama-era fuel economy changes prompted Kunselman to restructure the company’s safety and emissions practices.

The difference between FCA and OU: FCA was a competitive environment, OU is a collaborative one. Kunselman said OU has untapped potential to enhance the campus location by developing property, upgrading current facilities and engaging with the community by appealing to student life through leveraging athletics, creating a bigger performing arts center and further cementing the Meadow Brook brand.

“More than anything else is the recognition of the existing quality level that Oakland still deserves … I would love to see the culture continue to evolve to be more cross-functional and collaborative because I’ve seen some great success with that in the current commission,” he said.

President Ora Hirsch Pescovitz said Kunselman will be missed as a valuable member of OU’s staff.

“I have greatly appreciated Scott’s analytical, careful and thorough approach to problem-solving and the way he always tries to make our institution a better place,” she said in the Wednesday, March 4 email announcement.

According to Kunselman, his retirement will allow Pescovitz to have more flexibility to make structural changes in her organization and cabinet, which will be strengthened with the beginning of the “Reimagine OU” initiative.

Kunselman said he would like to see OU continue its current momentum and increase awareness of the university’s quality level. He also plans to maintain his relationship with the campus community, along with his FCA past.

Kunselman will be spending time with his family, especially his youngest son who will be a senior in high school this September, and he plans to visit his three other children, who do not live at home, more often. Overall, Kunselman plans to keep busy as an active, outdoor person.

There are two words Kunselman wants to make sure his colleagues hear from him: thank you.

“I think people were great to work with,” he said. “I got to know a lot of people, not everybody, but the way the Oakland employees embrace you is tremendous. For the four-and-a-half years of opportunity I had to be there, I want to thank everybody for how welcoming they were, and how much they embraced the idea of content change and evolution, all for the better.”