Celebrating Nontraditional Student Week: Katherine O’Neil Veley

Kate Veley PortraitKatherine O’Neil Veley joined the Syracuse University family 15 years ago as an administrative specialist. As an SU employee, she was able to use her tuition benefits to take classes in flexible formats while working fulltime at Falk College. Though Veley just retired as the event manager for Falk College, she is still working toward a bachelor of professional studies degree in Creative Leadership and is expected to graduate in May 2020.

As a first-generation college student Veley feels very fortunate for her opportunity to attend UC as a Syracuse University employee. But her path toward a degree has not been an easy one. Veley juggles work and family obligations while keeping up with her studies. To maintain her dean’s list status, Veley spends many hours a week on her academics. “For over a decade, I gave up my free time. There is always homework waiting to be done, or the opportunity to get ahead a bit,” says Veley. However, with the help of her advisor, she was able to balance her multitude of responsibilities. “In an effort to have a minimal impact on my job schedule, I took a lot of evening and online classes,” Veley explains. Luckily, her son and husband have both been extremely supportive and encouraging of Veley’s desire for a college degree. “They are very understanding when we’ve needed to schedule family vacations around homework and class schedules,” she says. Also, knowing other adult students were working with the same challenges of balancing life and schoolwork was valuable. “It’s nice to know people know what you’re going through,” she says. “There’s a lot of support and understanding there.”

Veley’s part-time study at UC and professional and personal experience helped in advancing her career. She is now the director of Corporate Philanthropy at Make-A-Wish Foundation of Central New York. Veley encourages those who are raising young children, working a full-time job, and staying up late to study to never give up. “You’re growing in ways you can’t imagine as you maneuver this process,” says Veley, “You’re setting an example (and trust me, many are watching) and you, too, are going to graduate with a degree from Syracuse University! That is an honor and a privilege, and a representation of who you are and how hard you’ve worked.”