For the past three years, Kelsey Weaver, Raj Gadapaka, and Alicia Dinkeldein have been at IUPUI working hard on their degrees. Come December 2021, they’ll turn in their last assignments, earn their final undergraduate grades, and get to turn their tassels and their stories to the next chapter.
It’s a fitting end for all three. The trio also had similar starts to their O’Neill journeys: transferring here from other universities.
Gadapaka was a Business Administration major at Ivy Tech while Weaver was at Hanover College. Both will soon have their O’Neill Management degrees in hand. Dinkeldein had studied athletic training at Ricks College, now Brigham Young University–Idaho. She left school during her sophomore year to return home to get married.
“My biggest regret was dropping out of college,” she says. “I am a nontraditional student, so going back to school at my age was scary and stressful.”
She first enrolled at IUPUI in 2001 but the challenges of being a working mother were too much at the time. It would take another 17 years before she would pick up where she had left off. Now, she’s earning her degree in Public Safety Management at O’Neill.
“Coming back as an adult trying to balance life, work, and school is extremely difficult,” she admits. “With the help of the O’Neill staff and faculty, I got back into the swing of things quicker than I expected. I was lucky to have a supportive team that was willing to hold my hand until it became easier.”
Dinkeldein is an EMT in Indianapolis and wanted somewhere close to where she worked and lived, so location mattered. In fact, when a 2020 survey of all IUPUI transfer students asked students to list the most important reason they selected IUPUI, location was brought up most often.
It was important to Gadapaka as well. He says not only did he feel he would fit well into the IUPUI community but that being downtown would open the doors he needed to start his career.
Being in the heart of Indiana’s capital city provides access to major nonprofits, top-ranking government leaders, internally renowned businesses, and all the connections that come with those fields.
“The impacts are massive,” Gadapaka says. “Transferring to the O’Neill School has given me the opportunity to network and gain an understanding of how the Indianapolis community—and the United States for that matter—works.”
Building that foundation of understanding begins in the classrooms and halls of O’Neill.
“The people of O’Neill were relentless in their efforts to ensure I would get on the right path to securing my future goals,” he adds.
Gadapaka points to examples like Assistant Director of Career Services Kristine Schuster helping him secure his internship or adjunct faculty member Curtis Ramsey ensuring his students had the support they needed in his course throughout the pandemic.
All three transfer students stress the people who make up the school have played an important role in their progress.
“The staff and faculty encompassing the O’Neill School are brilliant,” Dinkeldein says. “Not only do they have a passion for what they teach, they also have a passion for making sure each student is successful in their education and career goals.”
That includes helping transfer students get up to speed on their O’Neill major and experiences. Weaver initially transferred to IUPUI’s University College. She spent more than a year there deciding what degree she would pursue.
She says the people at O’Neill were welcoming and informative when she was deciding on a major, but she still worried she might be too far behind to meet her graduation goal.
“O’Neill helped me easily make up the time I had spent finding the right fit for me,” she says. “Its faculty and staff are the reason I am going where I need to be going. They have helped me with every question, concern, and achievement I have had since transferring.”
As is often the case, O’Neill students don’t wait until they get a diploma to start making changes in the world around them. Dinkeldein says her education is already paying off in her current work as an EMT.
“Studying within the O’Neill School has greatly impacted my career and inspired me to create a new position within the agency I work for,” she explains.
Those types of tangible changes come from the diversity of the degrees offered by O’Neill. As Weaver points out, just because a student earns a criminal justice degree doesn’t mean they can only become a police officer. She says it’s the skills behind that degree that really allow O’Neill students to shine.
“From courses to experiences to internships and networking, O’Neill cares about the future and is constantly innovating to make sure their students are prepared to make an impact,” she says. “The O’Neill School develops leading minds with fresh ideas who keep the public affairs, criminal justice, and sustainability fields running ahead of the curve—and that can make all the difference in our world.”