Through Lesley's Bachelor's Degree Completion Program, Megan O'Neal was able to not only receive a degree, but also make her dream career a reality. Her story is an inspiration for students of any age who want to go back to school and discover their own path.
Playing with her 18-month-old daughter one day led to an epiphany for Megan O’Neal. Making up songs as her daughter gurgled in reply, tickling the tiny toes, Megan realized that her career in high tech, while intellectually stimulating, did not feed the expressive, passionate, activist part of her nature. In college years earlier, Megan had wanted to be an artist and writer, but she felt unfocused and decided to take time off. She never completed her degree, but instead found work in the burgeoning field of high technology.
As she spent time at home with her daughter, all those powerful creative feelings came bubbling to the surface. “I wanted not just a degree, but also to find a way to focus all my passions into something that would grow roots and give me a chance to help people,” Megan says.
A friend pointed Megan toward Lesley University, where a search of the website turned up the Expressive Therapies program. It was a perfect match, she says, because it “combines all the creative arts with healing, so I didn’t have to confine myself to a single art form.” Despite her enthusiasm at finding such a promising area of study, she delayed the initial phone call to Admissions. “It’s so easy to stay pleasantly mired in the bubble of family life,” she says. But any reluctance she had melted away during a conversation with the Lesley admissions counselor, who suggested that given the length of time she had been out of school, she might consider enrolling in the Bachelor’s Degree Completion program. The program helped her get her legs under her academically and connect with others who had similar life and work experiences.
Megan brought the skills she learned in her high tech career to bear on her Lesley coursework. High tech had taught her the value of meticulous workflow—planning and strategizing—as well as the importance of critical thinking. She also took advantage of Lesley’s Prior Learning Assessment course, which helps students identify and thoroughly document college-level knowledge they already possess through previous work experience, for credits toward their degree.
She discovered that her disparate life experiences actually made sense for the new career path on which she was embarking. “I found that a lot of the strange highways and byways that I’ve wandered down suddenly are part of this map that I can use to help people – and it’s hugely validating and empowering,” she says.
Her work in high tech also helped generate an interest in neuroscience, as she became aware of the scarcity of scientifically rigorous studies that would document neural changes brought about by expressive therapy. Megan’s interests led her to not only complete a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Expressive Therapies, but also to work on her Master’s (she has two years left), with the long-term goal of earning a dual Ph.D. in Neuroscience and Expressive Therapies.
Today, with her daughter turning six, Megan looks back over the intervening years with appreciation for her family and friends who helped with childcare and the Lesley professors whose deep kindness and global awareness made it a pleasure to go to class. “The initial push was hard, but if you’re going back to school to study in a field you love, as I did, you find a way to mix it in with your life.”
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