Marie O'Neil (MEd 2021)
Picture a moth winging its nightly flight to find the moon and you have captured the soul of Marie O’Neil. Drawing upon this poetic symbol, Marie weaves an image of a night moth to describe life’s trajectory as each of us stops to explore many small points of light on our personal journey. Musings about social justice, communication, and transformative experiences form a heady mix of self-reflection balanced by determination, passion, and strong family support blended with a healthy dose of humility.
O’Neil graduated from Emmanuel College cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in Writing, Editing & Publishing, and Psychology Counseling & Health. Inspired by her undergraduate experience, she accepted a position at the UNH Manchester campus as an Academic Student Services Assistant where she enjoys helping students across a range of ages achieve their education goals. The small campus size and low student-to-teacher ratio translate to highly individualized faculty attention during classes. “Our small size is a big plus.”
Desiring a career in higher education, O’Neil completed a master’s degree in Educational Studies from UNH Online in 2021. She loved the program, thriving on the combination of intellectual challenges, interactive communication, and the opportunity to crystallize her own values and aspirations.
"To establish a routine, I mapped out my weekly assignments on a whiteboard. Classes were divided into manageable 8-week chunks and, because the program is fully online, I was able to take two classes from another campus. My research study group doubled as a social bonding opportunity and the UNH Online Student Success Coaches helped me put together course schedules and services. For anyone who wishes to study with faculty who are committed and passionate about their work, I recommend the UNH Online MED program."
For the past ten years, Marie has volunteered at The Moore Center, a local non-profit organization that provides services to people suffering from acquired brain disorders. As the current Vice-President of Development, her mother founded their annual fundraising event where her daughter offers her time “to benefit people in our Manchester community”.
Underpinning Marie’s life path is a yearning to be a catalyst for transformative change. As Chair of the UNH Manchester Committee for Community Action and Awareness, she is committed to self-education and community growth in social justice issues related to student diversity. One of her initiatives includes podcasts that honor and celebrate students of marginalized identities. O’Neil’s student-centered job calls upon her to recognize the many forms of diversity and she has become increasingly aware that her own background has inherent advantages that others do not always share.
"Emotional intelligence is an awareness-building process aimed at dismantling inequities. To avoid contributing to the alienation of those who come from a different experience, I try to hone my communication style to foster an atmosphere of respect and acceptance."
Accepting the potential sting of unexpected twists in the road, Marie believes that every experience carries a unique value and she tries to honor these life lessons. Her flight towards her moon is that of an introvert discovering her voice as a leader, continuously seeking to push beyond her boundaries. With her recent studies behind her, the writer inside yearns to capture her journey on paper, and O’Neil glances at her calendar as if to note the available times when she can indulge this creative expression.
"I like to chart out my schedule in detail but wonder to what extent the whiteboard should really govern daily life. Every path encounters the unexpected and it’s important to realize that these uncharted steps carry their own currency. I often ponder how my own experiences have shaped who I am today. Reviewing life in terms of metaphors helps me organize my thoughts and gain perspective, which is why the night moth image works well."
As a counterweight to the energy of her flight path, Marie likes to use her hands to shape a piece of clay in her pottery class, play her saxophone in a jazz session or exult in the cool water flowing under her paddleboard.
With this balance of head, hands and heart, it is thinkers like Marie who encourage others to discover their own path.
Written by Gwendolyn Goguelet