As a college student in the 1970s, Martha O’Neill focused on a form of art, obtaining an associate degree in music performance at State University of New York at Onondaga Community College.
Decades later, O’Neill has completed a 180-degree turn in her education by earning a Bachelor of Technology in Construction Management degree. The Sparks resident was part of WNC’s graduating class last Monday.
O’Neill married, raised two children, dealt with unemployment and overcame the death of a loved one before finishing the bachelor’s degree.
“Completing the program has always been my vision,” O’Neill said. “I had taken a few drafting classes at WNC and really enjoyed them. When the Construction Management program was announced, I decided to go for it.
“It’s been important for me to impress upon my children that goals are achievable, even if they don’t seem possible. Along the way, I discovered that embracing the journey was equal to achieving the goal.”
A supportive husband who was a participating parent made O’Neill’s return to college smoother.
“Life takes unexpected turns. When I began at WNC in 1998, my oldest was 9 years old and my youngest was a toddler. My husband was my cheerleader. He eased the road for me, making it possible for me to return to school by being with our children when I was at school and financing my dream,” O’Neill said.
To minimize her time away from her family, O’Neill usually took 1-2 classes per semester.
“There have been times that the journey has been difficult logistically — getting time off from my job to make it to campus on time, leaving my children for the evening, focusing on anything after the loss of my husband,” she said. “In class, there have been times when I’ve had a ‘deer in the headlights’ stare about a topic or a term I knew nothing about. But I’ve learned volumes from my instructors and classmates, many of whom are in the trades and for whom I have great respect. Every one of these people has coached and encouraged me by explaining a process or a term. They don’t know it, but their collaboration helped me complete this program. I am grateful for every one of them.”
O’Neill plans to continue working in the resort industry and evolving as she resumes an interior design certification program.
“I plan to start my own interior design firm sometime in the future,” O’Neill said.