Shea O'Neill '07
Shea O’Neill helps rebuild communities. But he’s not constructing new homes or upgrading old infrastructure. Instead, he uses geographic data to identify trends and patterns in how people live, work, and spend money in a community, and then he proposes recommendations based on that information to help revitalize neighborhoods.
Shea’s work is done in partnership with “anchor” institutions such as universities or hospitals whose administrators understand that their organization’s relationship to the community is more complex than simply existing within it. It’s a lesson Shea learned early on at Ithaca College.
“I think IC’s greatest asset is the fact that it’s in Ithaca. The best classes I took, the best experiences I had were from professors and people who made that connection [between institution and community],” he says.
Shea credits history professor Michael Smith as a professional influence. “I remember from his classes that, yes, history is of the past, but the past is constantly connecting to the present. Michael was always having us do service learning projects that would connect us with what was going on in Ithaca.”
As a geographic information systems analyst at U3 Ventures, Shea looks at complex data and interprets the meaning behind the numbers. His minor in environmental studies may have helped prepare him for the work he does now, but he also places great value on the skills he learned as a history major.
“If you truly engage with a liberal arts degree, you learn a number of skills that are invaluable for any profession. You learn how to form your argument, how to compose your thoughts, how to compose your narrative. You’re surrounded by people who encourage you to think critically.”
Shea knows how transferable those skills are. “You don’t have to keep a liberal arts background just in the liberal arts. The manner in which you think critically can be applied to science, engineering, architecture—all the fields you tend to think of as more fact- or statistics-based.”
Shea currently teaches part time as an adjunct faculty member in the College of Architecture and the Built Environment at Philadelphia University. To his surprise, he has discovered a passion for teaching and hopes to grow professionally in that role.