BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - The sun was brilliant and the skies cloudless, but nothing was brighter than the vision of the future of the Paul H. O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs when it celebrated the culmination of its 50th anniversary year Sept. 29 at the Tower Ballroom in Indianapolis.
Surrounded by alumni, students, and friends, Siân Mooney, dean of the O’Neill School, welcomed IU President Dr. Pamela Whitten to the event, which focused on the next 50 years of the top-ranked school of public affairs in the country.
“We look forward to wonderful things coming from the school,” President Whitten said. “In the years ahead, the O’Neill School will enrich student learning experiences to bridge the gap between classroom learning and careers. We know that is so important. We recognize how much learning has to be through innovative opportunities and experiences for our students. The O'Neill is so well poised to really be a national leader in innovative learning for our students.
“If the school’s first 50 years are any indication, we can expect the next half century to be filled with even greater successes. As I look around the room, I see there are a few of you who are going to be back here in 50 years to celebrate the 100th anniversary as well. Congratulations to the O’Neill School.”
The culmination ceremony included a video featuring current students and alumni providing their vision of what the next five decades will hold for the O’Neill School as well as motivational remarks from Professor Emeritus Tom DeCoster, the founding director of IU’s Executive Education program.
“When we celebrate in academia, we tend to highlight student achievements and research activities,” DeCoster said. “At the O’Neill School, we highlight a third element, and that’s service. That’s part of our uniqueness. … Success breeds self-confidence which breeds more success. We’re primed for it. What we are today is what we have been. What we will be tomorrow is dependent on what we do now.”
RaeVen Ridgell, who is pursuing her MPA from the O’Neill School, inspired the crowd and shared her personal experience about how important scholarship programs were in providing her the opportunity to pursue her degrees.
“Here, I learned iron does sharpen iron,” Ridgell said. “I found strength and learning, how to advocate through public policy. And now, this descendant of immigrants and freedom fighters who dared brave the oceans with dreams of a better tomorrow has degrees in political science, theater performance, Africana studies, and, in December, an MPA with a focus on social innovation and societal change.
“Scholarships and O’Neill saved my life. I’m living proof of what O’Neill stands for and what it looks like when an investment is made.”
Dean Mooney closed the event by providing her vision of the future.
“Our commitment to diversity and inclusion will be unwavering, allowing the O’Neill School to be a model of equity and justice,” Mooney said. “We also will be agile in the face of an ever-changing world, preparing our students to be resilient while adapting to new circumstances with creativity and resolve. I do not consider these to be lofty goals. Rather, I see them as ideals that we’ve been striving toward since our founding. They are the natural evolution of the ideas and efforts that have come before us.
“The Paul H. O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs has lived up to the promise of the vision behind its founding. As our world and the challenges we face change, the O’Neill school is prepared to meet those challenges head-on and make a difference by leading for the greater good.”