Joyce O’Neill doesn’t have much spare time. The Montana Tech student life counselor and disability services coordinator keeps herself busy
working with students, whether she’s helping them get on track to
graduation, providing them with an accommodation for class, or calling them to remind them to complete the alcohol education program she helped implement at the campus.
When she’s not busy at Tech, she’s spending time with her family. Her two sons live in Helena, and her daughter is moving to Butte in the spring, which she’s excited about. She loves spending time with her grandchildren. She’s also involved with Butte Cares, and she’s the secretary for Safe Space.
See O’NEILL, Page 4C
O’Neill said though she started counseling when she was 36, she was always a natural go-between when it came to her large family.
“A part of growing up was understanding where people were coming from,” O’Neill said.
Her love of counseling, she said, comes from the desire to motivate people, to challenge their thinking.
Tech Career Services program coordinator Kathlene McNamee has known O’Neill for close to 10 years, and she said her friend is a spectacular listener and a compassionate person. But she’s serious about problem solving, never dwelling on the problem for too long but rather asking what can be done to move forward, McNamee said.
“It’s always full steam ahead,” she said.
McNamee said O’Neill is passionate about her career and about her students. She keeps up with professional development, and when she returns from workshops or conferences she’s energized with all sorts of new ideas and techniques.
“It’s just like there’s this little fire burning inside her,” McNamee said. “You can see it all over her face.”
O’Neill has helped Montana Tech students learn about common health risks. The AlcoholEdu program she implemented last fall teaches students about common problems college students face with alcohol. The year before the program began, she said, the campus had 89 alcohol-related offenses. The year the program became mandatory for new freshmen under 21, transfers and athletes, that number was more than cut in half to 43.
The school was ahead of the curve in instituting a tobacco-free campus in July 2010, a full year before the University of Montana in Missoula banned cigarettes and chewing tobacco on campus. O’Neill is involved with the school’s tobacco prevention program. AlcoholEdu also has a sexual assault awareness component, so Tech students have been taking a mandated course to prevent sexual assaults on campus for a year longer than UM in Missoula.
O’Neill’s goals aren’t just about her. She said she strives to be a good family member, a good team member, and a good member of the community.
“I want to make a contribution, absolutely,” she said.