Penn State World Campus student selected as College of EMS marshal

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A Penn State World Campus student who researched energy savings for low-income households and was the first online student to enter the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences’ poster contest will be the college’s student marshal at the fall 2014 graduation ceremony.

Lori O’Neill, of Arlington, Virginia, will lead the college’s procession of graduates at the Dec. 20 commencement ceremony, where she will receive a bachelor of arts degree in energy and sustainability policy. She is the first World Campus student to serve as student marshal for the College of EMS, and she earned a 4.0 grade-point average.

O’Neill said she is honored to represent the college at graduation and to have made a mark on the college as an online student who had the same experiences and accomplishments as traditional college students. She said balancing her family, classes and work was essential to her success. 

“Although achieving that balance was not easy, it helps to maintain a positive attitude and a strong support system whether it’s family, friends or Penn State faculty,” she said. “I thank my supportive family, including my parents Bonnie and Kevin O'Neill, my best friend Israel Guzman, my children Ryan and Sarah, and the exceptional World Campus faculty who encouraged me every step of the way."

O’Neill chose the World Campus because of the reputation of the University, which she said gave her the technical and analytical skills needed to pursue a career in energy policy. She also found the convenience and flexibility of the online program important because she was working and raising her family.

As part of the capstone project required for her degree, O’Neill researched the federal Weatherization Assistance Program, which provides funding to local governments and nonprofits to improve the energy efficiency of homes of low-income households. O’Neill explored whether teaching the families about energy-saving practices each year would improve the program’s savings-to-investment ratio.

O’Neill concluded that this comprehensive education could increase the ratio by more than 100 percent, and she detailed her research on a poster she entered in the College of EMS’ Undergraduate Poster Exhibition on Dec. 3. She was the first World Campus student to participate in the exhibition.

Through live video-conferencing from her home in Arlington, O’Neill shared her research with fellow students and faculty who were in the Deike Building on campus. She said she enjoyed the opportunity, which included discussions with the college dean, Bill Easterling, and the associate dean of education, H. Nels Shirer.

Her poster also won the Student Choice Award.

"I was honored to explain my work to administrators in the college, and I am thrilled that my peers from the college selected my poster for the Student Choice Award,” she said. “This experience showed me that I am a valued member of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences.”

O’Neill also participated in other college experiences that traditionally have been available only to University Park students. She was the first World Campus student selected as a laureate in the Earth and Mineral Sciences Academy for Global Experience, or EMSAGE, a program that recognizes students for their scholarship, service and experiential learning.

O’Neill selected Brandi Robinson, an instructor and her academic adviser in the energy and sustainability policy program, to accompany her at graduation as the college’s faculty marshal. Robinson said O’Neill’s discipline and drive will serve her well in the future.

“I’m delighted to see Lori’s dedication to her education shine through in her many accomplishments,” Robinson said. “Lori, like all of our students studying from a distance, demonstrates so gracefully that with perseverance and creativity, returning adult students can and do cultivate an engaged and enriching academic experience.”

Media Contacts: 

Mike Dawson

Work Phone: 

408 The 329 Building, University Park, PA 16802

Last Updated December 21, 2014