Ellen O'Neill RC'83
Minor: General Honors Program Seminar
Activities: Demarest, Douglass Writing Program Tutor
What attracted you to Rutgers University and the Honors/Scholars Program?
It was complete serendipity that I entered the program. Mine was the very first year. I learned that they invited promising students from some of the active high schools recruiting to apply. But I am from New York, so I was not recruited. I saw a small notice about a brand new Honors Program amidst a bunch of material I was sent when I applied for general admission. The requirement was an essay. I sent one in, and was happy to receive a letter from Prof. Bishop, then Dean of Instructions at Rutgers College, that I was accepted into the first class of General Honors Program students. (This was back in the day before the federated system of the colleges.)
Why did you choose your major and minor?
My major was English, never a question. I have a literary sensibility, and I could not wait to be immersed in literary studies. My minor was 6 General Honors Seminars. I was so interested in the interdisciplinary nature of the work that I petitioned to use the seminars as a minor. The administration was looking to support the new program, and so they granted my request with the stipulation that three be in math/sciences, one in social studies, and two in the humanities.
Tell us a little bit about what you're doing now. What was your first job after Rutgers? Where you do you live?
My first job after Rutgers was a travel copywriter for a deluxe escorted tour company. After that I went down to Wall Street (it was the 1980s, Wall Street seemed sexy), writing share holder reports for a mutual fund company. And then I landed at the then Museum of Broadcasting as an Associate Editor, and am now Creative Director in charge of Creative Services at what is now The Paley Center for Media. I live in Manhattan.
What has been your greatest professional and/or personal accomplishment since you graduated Rutgers?
Professionally I'm proud of leading what was a Publications Department (ink on dead tree assets) at The Museum of Broadcasting to an innovative digital department at The Paley Center for Media, within the huge budget restrictions of a nonprofit. Personally, I've enjoyed some success as a cultural blogger. And I have achieved a high level of avocational singing of Renaissance Polyphony, which has allowed me to travel widely to participate in workshops (sing Polyphony and see the world).
Was there a class and/or experience at Rutgers that led you to pursuing your current career?
Not directly. I was a student of Paul Fussell's and enjoyed his counsel on various matters. He encouraged me to write. Many of my English professors encouraged me to write, and go on to do graduate work. I was chosen for a very select exchange program with the English Department at Southampton University, England. That whetted my appetite to travel. After graduation I was accepted to the doctoral program in English at UC, Berkeley, but I chose not to go.
What three words describe your experience at Rutgers and the Honors/Scholars Program?
Intense. Literary. Intellectual.
How has your Rutgers and Honors/Scholars education benefited you in your post-Rutgers life?
My career at Rutgers showed me that true creative thinking is a key that will open many doors.
What advice do you have for our current SAS Honors Program students?
There is nothing like the power of your own convictions. It's essential to anything you want to accomplish that you believe in it, or yourself, entirely, before someone else-or the world at large-will.
To learn more about Ellen O'Neill's work, please visit her blog as M.A.Peel here.
Are you a graduate of the Rutgers Honors Program and want to share your story?
Check out past featured Spotlights of Honors Alumni.