Faculty & Staff: Joy Kcenia O'Neil, Ph.D.

Joy O'Neil

Inaugural Director; Assistant Professor - Educational Sustainability


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) - Prescott College

  • Degree: Sustainability Education
  • Emphasis: Transformative and intra-active learning sciences in adult and higher education, social and ecological sustainability, sustainable food systems

Master of Water Resources (M.W.R.) – University of New Mexico

  • Degree: Water Resources Management
  • Emphasis: Watershed Ecology, river monitoring, civic engagement, non-profit program development

Bachelor of Science (B.S.) - University of Northern Arizona University

  • Degree: Environmental Science
  • Emphasis: Geology, agricultural environmental consulting


  • Pluralism for Educators
  • Introduction to Doctoral Studies and Educational Sustainability
  • Historical and Philosophical Foundations of Education for Sustainability
  • Sustaining Human Systems
  • Ecological Foundations for a Sustainable Society


Joy O'Neil is an assistant professor of Educational Sustainability in the School of Education at University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. O'Neil graduated with her Ph.D. from Prescott College in Arizona in Sustainability Education with an emphasis in food pedagogy, socio-ecological sustainability, and transformative and relational learning sciences in higher education. 

Prior to UWSP, she was the director of the Environmental Science program at the College of Santa Fe, New Mexico, for eight years. She was also an independent consultant building curriculum for higher education in sustainability and has taught as an adjunct faculty member for a number of colleges in the nation. Courses include geology, environmental science, biomimicry and whole systems thinking, green building design, and principles of sustainability.

As an interdisciplinary educational practitioner, O'Neil has also lived and taught English in Japan for five years, taught Spanish and Japanese at a Montessori school in New Mexico for three years and developed and taught in an afterschool Japanese Language and Culture program in Colorado for five years. Close to O'Neil's heart is sustainable food systems and practices from early lessons from her Russian grandmother in backyard food production to the time she has spent co-founding and gardening in the neighborhood community garden and as an owner and operator of a small café in Colorado. She brings these skills and passions with her to her new home of Stevens Point where she is learning quickly that there are many more new adventures and opportunities awaiting!

O'Neil's passion in educational sustainability stems from the guidance and lessons of her Mexican and Eastern European cultural and ecological ancestors–rooted in soil, ethics of care, diversity and social justice. Her scholarship lies in the simple and yet complex question, "how do we learn?" She takes a transdisciplinary approach in her research and writing about relational ontology and intra-active pedagogies as vehicle for transformative sustainability learning. She often weaves theories in neuroscience, quantum physics and ecology to understand the learning and dynamics that occur in novel learning environments such as gardens, kitchens and watersheds and the material found in these environments such as soil, vegetables and water.


Refereed Book Chapters

O'Neil, J.K., Cook, P., Leary, J.P., Brown, S., Lozano, A. (Proposal accepted, In preparation) Interdisciplinary Leadership E-andragogy: Instructional Team Modeling Curriculum Design, In Encyclopedia of Positive Scholarship for Global K-20 Education, Wang, V., IGI-Global.

O'Neil, J.K. (2017). Kitchen-based Learning as Sustainability: An Innovative Theoretical Model for Higher Education. In World Sustainability Series, Walter Leal Filho et al. (Eds): Handbook of Theory and Practice of Sustainable Development in Higher Education, 978-3-319-47876-0, 430248_1_En, (15)

O'Neil, J.K. (2016). Visceral sensing in higher education: an affective and social neuroscientific explanation of the learning process. In Wang, V. Theory and practice of adult and higher education. Information Age Publishing (IAP).

Published Conference Proceedings

O'Neil, J.K. (2016). Riverspeaking: Transformative Learning within a Relational Ontology. In the Proceedings of the XII International Transformative Learning Conference in October 2016. Tacoma, Washington: Pacific Lutheran University.


O'Neil, J.K. (2015). "Cooking to learn" while "learning to cook": (be)coming& and (re)membering sustainability (doctoral dissertation). ProQuest LLC. (UMI Number 3705566).


O'Neil, J.K., (2000). Volunteer River Monitoring Plan for the Urban Reach of the Santa Fe River, New Mexico). (https://nmstatehood.unm.edu/node/1643 ).

Conferences, Symposiums and Workshops

O'Neil, J.K., Parajuli, P., Jackson, M. (2015). How Matter Comes to Matter: Situating New Materialism in Sustainability Education. Prescott College Symposium, Prescott, Arizona.

O'Neil, J.K., (2011). Sustainable Living Certificate Program for San Juan College. Prescott College Sustainability Education Symposium, Prescott, AZ.

Scholarly Presentations  
O'Neil, J.K., (2016). Riverspeaking: Transformative Learning within a Relational Ontology.  In the Proceedings of the XII International Transformative Learning Conference in October 2016. Tacoma, Washington: Pacific Lutheran University.

O'Neil, J.K., Parajuli, P., Medrick, R., and Prescott College Cohort 5, AASHE (2010). Sustainability Education at the Edge: A Cohort Model for Doctoral Study, Denver, CO.

Community Workshops
O'Neil, J.K., (2012)."Hoe" to Build a Community Garden from the Ground Up, presentation as part of a week-long series in gardening, Southwest Garden Project, Durango, Colorado.

O'Neil, J.K., (2010). Spring Has Sprung: Plant Your Garden, all-day workshop, San Juan College Outdoor Learning Center.

O'Neil, J.K., (2010). Slow Food, Fast: A Cooking Demonstration to local, healthy eating, San Juan College, Aztec Campus, Aztec, NM.

O'Neil, J.K., (2010). Introduction to Sustainable Living, presentation, San Juan College Aztec Campus, Aztec, NM.