Name: Sean O'Neil
High school graduated from: Stephen F. Austin
Year of high school graduation: 2000
Hometown: Houston, TX
Academic Program at UAS: B.S. Mathematics, 2010
Class standing at UAS: Alumni
How do you think UAS is preparing you for your future?
UAS teaches problem solving and accountability. We learn that there are consequences for every action, sometimes those consequences are good, such as a better grade or better knowledge of an academic area, and sometimes those consequences are bad, such as a poor grade or failing overall. By teaching accountability as well as an academic regimen the students are better prepared for life.
Do you know what you might be thinking of for a career after college?
I plan on becoming a mathematics teacher.
Do you have a favorite class or professor?
Yes. Geometry was the most enlightening class I’ve ever taken, and both Chris Hay-Jahans and Brian Blitz (aka B²) both did wonders for my academic career. They’re both superb teachers, and Chris is a superb mentor.
Why? For a girl of course! My wife of four years was a student at UAS when we met, and I moved to Alaska to be with her. We married six months after I arrived, about a week after finals. The choice to move here has proven to be the wisest decision I’ve ever made.
What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself at UAS?
That I can have a home and be happy. UAS and Juneau have healed me more than I care to admit. The atmosphere of being laid back, and yet still holding the line to ensure that everyone is still accountable helped to heal me from my time in the military. When I came to UAS I didn’t know how to laugh or smile. Now, I’m always smiling. I’ve learned to look for the good things in life, because those are always the most important.
What surprised you the most once you arrived at UAS?
Snow. I’ve only seen snow once, and that was while serving in the nuclear power program in New York. I ended up not seeing very much as my work days were eighteen hours long, and by the time I finished the snow had melted.
What is the most fun you've had at any campus event?
There was a Japanese club where we did calligraphy and watched Danshen Otoko which translates as “Train man”, a romance that really hit home as the protagonist was nearly identical to me. I found the calligraphy writing to be invigorating, reminding me of the most pleasant times of my life prior to moving here, and learning more of Nippon (Japan) is always a pleasure.
What is the best thing about life at UAS?
Community. UAS is more than just a group of individuals. I felt like I was part of something, especially when people would stop me in the hall to tell me how much they loved listening to me practice Classical Guitar. I felt like I wasn’t just some number to the staff, but an actual person that they cared about, and joked with. I feel more at home at UAS than I now do at my parents’ houses.
What do you enjoy doing during your free time?
Practicing music, reading, watching anime, and hiking are some of my favorite activities. I also love taking my wife out on dates, especially when we can incorporate some of the other hobbies into the date!
If you could choose three words that signify UAS, what would they be?
Peace. Community. Evolve.
I've finally done what I set out to do, finishing what started 12 years ago in an English classroom at Port Charlotte High School. There I memorized Kerbochard’s speech:
"Up to a point a man’s life is shaped by heredity environment and the events of the world around him. But there comes a time in a man's life where it lies within his grasp to shape the clay of his life into the sort of thing he wishes to be. Only the weak blame their parents, their race, their times, the lack of good fortune or the quirks of fate. Everyone has it within him to say "This I am today, this I shall be tomorrow." The wish, however, must be implemented by deeds."
I've lived a full life in the last decade, having fought in two wars, had more than one career, and getting married to a truly wonderful woman, a true angel in disguise. If it wasn’t for the GI bill, and my wife’s perseverance I don’t think we would have made it. But because we knuckled down and did what we had to do I am now the first college graduate of my family in this generation.