Three-Time Alumnus & Former Alumni Board Members Reflects on Rowan University’s Changes and How the University Changed Him

Tobi standing with his family after graduating in 2016.

Tobi Bruhn has witnessed the evolution of Rowan by first attending Rowan for his bachelor’s degree in communications in 1995, then immediately returning after graduating in 1998 to receive his master’s in public relations, before finally returning for his doctorate of education in educational leadership in 2011. During this time, he served in a variety of roles at Bucks County Community College in Pennsylvania before being appointed CEO of a private grant-making foundation. Even after graduating from Rowan, he remained connected by serving on our alumni board.

Headshot of Tobi Bruhn.

Glassboro has changed through the years. Rowan University has gone through many changes from Glassboro Normal School from 1923 to 1937, to New Jersey State Teachers College at Glassboro from 1937 to 1958, Glassboro State College from 1958 to 1992, then Rowan College of New Jersey from 1992 to 1997 until Rowan earned its University status in 1997 — a historical change that Tobi witnessed.

“I arrived shortly after the institution changed from Glassboro State to Rowan College of New Jersey, and then there was the excitement about Henry Rowan’s gift and we thought, ‘Oh, we’re going to become Rowan University.’ It was a very exciting time when I first enrolled because there were so many changes happening in a short amount of time, like new buildings, new initiatives, new majors.” It was not just a matter of excitement but also a matter of pride, a pride that the University carries to this day. “I think the way Rowan is going about its growth is smart, and the vision for South Jersey is exciting because the state needs another leading university to educate the next group of leaders.” While he mentioned the importance of growth at Rowan, the feel of a close knit college has also been well preserved. “I think they have done a good job to keep that South Jersey feel in the community, consistent with the values, and obviously with where they want to go as an institution.”

Students create a human form spelling out R and U to celebrate Rowan becoming a university.
Students create a human sign to celebrate college-to-university status with Henry Rowan and President Herman James as the dots, during the spring 1997 semester.

Tobi continued to stay involved after earning his Rowan degrees. After earning a bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate at Rowan, it only felt right to him to get involved with the alumni board and give back. The eight years that he was involved with the alumni board allowed him to meet people in other fields of study that he may not have had the opportunity to meet during his time in the classroom. He was also able to see the benefits of Rowan’s growth by meeting some of the first medical school graduates. Further, the role offered him a behind the scenes look into how the university functions. “You get a lot of really neat insights into the way Rowan works and the way it wants to grow in the future.”

People form the visual of the digits of 100 on Bunce Green.

While Tobi has maintained his connections to Rowan, he currently teaches at a community college in Pennsylvania. Part of his drive is the connection to his students and the interactions between the wide variety of students he has from various walks of life, “I really enjoy teaching at the community college level because in my courses I have students of all ages, those coming straight out of high school and going into college, and those enrolling later as adults. It’s nice to see when that atmosphere comes together and you see the interactions between people giving tips to one another, sharing experiences, helping out with technology needs. It’s usually the younger students helping the more mature students. So it brings me a lot of enjoyment, it’s a lot of fun, and hopefully they keep having me back to teach that course [Editor note: Effective Speaking].”

Teaching has only been one of his career paths as he spent time on the administrative side, too. The multitude of responsibilities that he had as president of advancement included going out to help individuals grasp the importance of education and the benefits to one’s career. Working as part of the president of the community college’s cabinet was also an insightful experience, “Also serving on the president’s cabinet you had a little more input in the strategic direction of the institution.”

After being a part of the administrative side for a long time, a new path that was equally rewarding and impactful opened up. Becoming executive director at Foundations Community Project, a private grant foundation that supports local nonprofits to tackle behavioral health and human service issues, was an opportunity to touch people’s lives in a different capacity, “So it’s another outward kind of role so you interact with a lot of nonprofit leaders which is a lot of fun. You get to learn about how to help vulnerable populations and hopefully we can figure out a way we can support them through grants so it’s another very rewarding role that I’ve had. It all kind of comes to helping people and meeting them in terms of where they are and what they need.” Even with the new job being exciting, the element of uncertainty stepping into a new role and new environment was present. But the intrigue of what he could help others achieve helped quell the nerves, “You know the big names like the Red Cross, but I think what I found in this role is there are so many small nonprofits that really do a lot of important work and kind of getting to know that and getting to know the people who run these organizations and figuring out a way how we can be helpful.”

An above shot of four students working at a small table with a professor assisting them.

Although a switch in careers could be viewed as daunting, Tobi felt that both his previous work experience as well as his education prepared him for working at Foundations Community project. As coordinator of development at Bucks County College helped give him insight into building a network that could not only connect him to different people but so he could connect others together as well. Connecting people together is a tool that is often handy working in private grants,  “One of our objectives is to also build collaborative relationships between the nonprofits because I think of the curses of nonprofits is duplication of services so when you have two nonprofits kind of doing the same thing, you want to do your best to say, ‘Hey, you should talk to one another to either combine, figure out where the gaps are that maybe one of you can fill those gaps’. So I think development is a really good profession to learn some of those skills along the way. I think my experience has been that if you do those things, you connect people, you provide leads, it comes back around and people will remember that.”

By coming back to Rowan for different levels of degrees, Tobi has a unique insight into the challenges and benefits of being an adult learner. Certain questions had to be asked before returning to the classroom, “It was a little daunting pursuing a doctorate degree. It’s like 1) am I ready for this 2) do I have the time, I had a young daughter at the time. You’re playing it out, it sounds good but when you’re in the courses, because they were eight-week courses and it’s fast paced, is that really something I can really handle? I figured that I was never going to figure it out from the sidelines so I might as well go for it.” Yet one of the positive aspects was that as an adult he was able to structure his time to care for his family, continue to work, and fulfill his education obligations. 

It’s rare that a student gets to observe the evolution of a university through multiple periods of time, however Tobi Bruhn was grateful that he did and decided to give back– a theme that has persisted through his careers.

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Story by: Thomas Ubelhoer, junior double major in political science and international studies

How Political Science Majors Can Grow Through Research and Internships: A Conversation with Professor Markowitz

The student government association president sits at his desk for a interview.

Like most political science majors, Professor Lawrence Markowitz was originally set on entering law school after he had completed his undergraduate degree. However, after a brief internship in law that exposed him to what big law was like, some time off and a tour of Western Europe exposed him to the alluring complexities of international relations. He has since then become an expert on and published work on a variety of topics from political violence to state building with a focus on post-Soviet Eurasia and is the current chair of the political science department at Rowan University.

Transitioning from one field of study to another presented new opportunities to learn not only in the classroom but by working as well, “I interned for human rights on international affairs, then decided that I wanted to go into the field, but knew I needed a little bit more of a regional focus and a little bit more language skills.” The 1990s changed the landscape of international politics as the Soviet Union fell, providing Professor Markowitz with an opportunity that most people for close to 70 years only could dream about. As he waited to see which university would be his home for his master’s degree, he says, “While my applications were being reviewed, the year before I started my master’s, I went overseas to Moscow and did a study abroad language study for about five months in Moscow.” Even after starting his master’s degree in the fall of 1995, trips to Armenia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and Russia again all helped add to his depth of knowledge–something that can be seen and heard when sitting in his class. 

Professor Markowitz stands in front of a slide labed "The Politics of Multiculturalism" with his hand pointing to some of the bullet points such as "Why is multiculturalism important?" and "How does multiculturalism matter?". There is a student in the foreground taking notes.

What Professor Markowitz does for students extends outside the classroom setting, helping to guide students through their academic career. The vision he has for his department has been carefully put together to maximize the potential of students, “In political science, the faculty spends a good amount of time talking about and thinking about putting together a curriculum that builds multiple skills and helps broaden students in a variety of ways. Obviously on the most superficial level, we want you to cover the basic topics, themes, and theories and to know the material in political science. That’s the obvious. Underlying that, we’re developing a lot of the skills and less tangible abilities that will serve you over the long term.” The benefits of the skills you learn exceed being able to think more analytically or write better, “For example, how to impose and support an argument through compelling logic and evidence. If you go into law, that is obviously relevant, but in any field you’re going to be able to do that. You want to ask for a raise? That’s a good tool to have–the ability to craft an argument and to think through how to support it.”

Even when diving into the specifics of what you learn, Professor Markowitz ensures that students leave class with a better understanding of the world around them. The experiences he’s had in his own studies, research, and travels are all passed onto the students to provide a well-rounded approach to the topics covered in class. Helping students craft well thought out opinions on the world comes from taking a look at the world around them and analyzing the pros and cons in the differences, “If you just look at your experience in the U.S. and you look at the U.S. and try to interpret the U.S. American politics and the world around you and the economy, without having that broader perspective, you only have a limited view. In comparative politics and in the Russian politics class I teach we talk about themes, such as in the comparative politics class I teach, one day we do welfare states, we look at social programs, we look at Germany’s pensions and version of social security and its health care.” As much as Professor Markowitz seeks to help develop his students ability to learn and think critically outside the classroom, opportunities outside the classroom are equally as important. 

While many students think primarily of internships, there are other opportunities that are available to students as well. Research opportunities are also available to students, an opportunity that helps a student branch out, “Students in their undergrad years, if they can work with a professor on a research paper project or conduct research for their classes, that is a big opportunity and advantage. In other words, they’re working on a paper and have a wide range of themes, but develop over time where your interests are.”  Traditional internships are always available to students. The benefits to those are clear, “But also: not just research, but doing work within organizations or on campaigns, getting involved in various ways in politics;  there’s a lot of opportunities for that.” There was also an emphasis on how lucky students are to have three major cities (New York, Washington DC, and Philadelphia) all within relative proximity to campus for tangible hands-on experience. Opportunities are boundless to those who look for them, with the staff helping students find positions for them to not only grow in, but find success as well. With both the Rowan Institute for Public Policy and Citizenship (RIPPAC) offering internship opportunities and the College of Humanities & Social Sciences offering a wide variety of internships, the possibilities available are varied.  Rowan’s study abroad program also adds a layer of depth to the chances that students can create for themselves by immersing themselves in the cultures they’ve spent time studying in the classroom. 

As much as Professor Markowtiz sees opportunities for students’ growth within their own fields of study, he also believes that students should expand their horizons by taking classes outside of what their area of focus is. Undergraduate studies provide students with the opportunities to explore a variety of interests, “First of all, even before selecting, but also after selecting a major, they should take a wide range of classes and explore. We’re one of the few countries on the planet, historically one of the few countries where you have a liberal arts education and you can take a range of classes and just take something in art or biology just because you want to learn about biology.” But when picking classes, students should not just choose randomly, but pick based on how it could relate to future careers, “If they go into law, then political science is a good major, but then the question is, ‘What kind of law might they be interested in?’ They don’t have to decide for sure, but if they are randomly thinking they might want to go into corporate law, then doing a minor or CUGS (Certificates in Undergraduate Studies) in something in finance or business makes sense. If they want to go into family law, then maybe doing a minor in psychology makes sense.” Finding a balance to broadening your horizons and narrowing down what a student is key to academic success. 

Professor Markowitz is standing in front of the board with his hand out stretched lecturing to his students.

Rowan’s political science department gives students the tools they need to succeed through lessons taught in the classroom, to the doors that lead to the professional world. When asked about what makes this university produce graduates who are so competitive, Professor Markowitz was quick to give credit to his colleagues, “We have a lot of faculty, especially in our College of Humanities & Social Sciences, who research within these fields. Most of them are at the high levels in their particular sub-field; they’re specialized. They are experts and they’re among the top experts in the broader fields that they’re in.” The staff aims not just to research for their own benefit, but to also help students stay on the cutting edge of information, to help them stay competitive in their fields of study. Professor Markowitz is not wrong when he says, “They’re not someone who is never interacting with undergrads and they don’t know how to talk about their research topic in everyday terms. We have that great mix, we have a dozen people or so in every discipline that have that kind of specialization and expertise. For the price tag, it’s a pretty good deal.”

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Thomas Ubelhoer, sophomore political science and international studies double major

Men’s Hockey Student Athlete Reflects on Earning Captain

Jared Cohen in the offensive zone reading a play.

Not many have the privilege of playing collegiate sports; fewer have the chance to earn the title of captain. A recent graduate of Rowan’s finance program, Jared Cohen of Wayne, NJ (Passaic County) wore the “C” after holding down the blue line for Rowan’s Men’s Hockey team for three seasons (2019-2020, 2021-2022, 2022-2023). Wearing a letter in two of the three seasons he played, Jared is a student of the game on the ice and in the locker room.

Jared bowing his head for the national anthem.
Jared bows his head for the national anthem before a game

The transition from being captain on a youth team to being a rookie on the next can be challenging. Yet Jared attributes a smooth transition to the team of veteran players around him, “I didn’t really know what to expect coming in but I was fortunate enough to meet some really cool guys my first year, some older guys who really took me under their wing.” His first-year season was about finding his role, allowing himself to take in the personalities of his new teammates before finding the confidence to be vocal with the veteran players on the team. Part of being a great leader was about being a great follower: showing up and doing your job, a concept that he executed on which lead to him becoming an assistant captian his junior year.

Going into his senior year, the obvious goal was to not just make the playoffs or make a run, but to bring home a championship. On an individual level, Jared strove to become the de facto leader on the team. Going into his senior year he was one of three players who was still wearing a letter on his jersey. Wearing the “C” was a responsibility he carried at every level. Wearing it at Rowan was the last step.

Captains come in a variety of forms, some are vocal while some lead by example, but when asked what his teammates would say if asked why he should be captain he had this to say, “I think mainly they’d say I’m smart. I’m not here to be everybody’s best friend as nice as that would be; I’m here to make sure everyone does their job for the team. That’s really what it’s about. I don’t think being the captain should be anyone’s best friend, I think they should have your best interests at heart instead. Sometimes tough love is called for, and other times it’s just a sit-down conversation. But I was always transparent with everyone.”

Jared stepping onto the ice.

Although he’s been a captain at every level, he acknowledges that he still had a lot to learn before wearing the C. When asked about what lessons he picked up on under different captains, he had this to say, “It’s definitely just keeping the team together. I mean it’s hard to get through to everyone. You have a bunch of different types of guys on the team, strong personalities, weak personalities, but it’s my job to blend those together to make it as successful for the team as possible. It’s almost like a chef making a recipe, sometimes you’ve got to do it by feel, so that’s what being a captain requires. Especially on a college team where we’re not going to play pro after this, but everyone still wants to win and have fun doing it.” 

Earning the captaincy was a season-long endeavor, but one that was worth it. Throughout the season Jared positioned himself to be the guy that both his teammates and coaches go to. He says, “I went into the season as the only returning player with a letter so that was really cool. I told  my coaches in the beginning, during training camp, ‘I want the ‘C’, I want to be the guy on this team.’” After handling extreme lows and highs during the season, carrying both extremes with grace and a leader’s stoicism, the coaching staff agreed that it was time to give him the job he earned. Getting the ‘C’ was a special moment, “It was me and two or three other guys with ‘A’s on our jerseys, no one had a “C”. But I kind of knew I was the guy and I acted like it and I think the team reciprocated that. Toward the end of the season, before our playoff run, at a random coaches meeting before practice he gave me the ‘C’. He took my jersey and put it on. It was pretty cool.” Navigating the good and bad of a long season exemplified what being a leader of a team was. 

Jared making a cross ice pass in the offensive zone to his teammate.

When reflecting on the better moments of his collegiate career, several moments stand out. However the memory that sticks out the most is from his freshman year, “All three years I played we won probably 70-75% of our games so I’ve definitely been on three good teams, three years of playing– we lost the COVID year. It was never really about the regular season, we always won a lot more games than we lost but come regionals times the closest we got was my freshman year. I was playing so hurt so I was just a shell of myself, we were on goal away from going to nationals. The way it works is you have to win three games in a row at regionals. We won two my freshman year, went to the third game, we gave it all we could and just fell short a little bit.” The taste of glory and being just shy of the national tournament put a fire in his belly to be better going forward. 

The somber moments of sports drive individuals to elevate their game, when reflecting on the lower moments of his career, games during his senior year stood out, “We had a couple tough games against Penn State and a few others, but we knew we had a good team, we knew our record would be good in the end. So we righted the ship there, we talked about it, we talked about whatever we had to do. Toward the end of the season, when things started to go south, in hindsight it might’ve been past salvageable at that point, it might’ve been that’s what it was. We had two really bad losses, one of them being on senior night. We blew a 2-1 lead, but ended up losing 3-2 in the final minute.” However, instead of sulking, he immediately followed up by watching film to see what went wrong to put a better effort, more effective team on the ice for the next game. His philosophy embodies learning from what you did well during your best games as well as your worst game.

Jared watching a play unforld in the offensive zone.

Many lessons have been learned through watching other leaders, thousands of hours of time on the ice both in game and practicing, but in the classroom as well. Being a finance major helped in a variety of ways. Some of the tools that he refined through projects in class have translated to an on ice setting, “I love to be extroverted and meet new people. I think being a leader has definitely done that. Communicating with so many guys over the years, I learned about their different styles, their likes, their dislikes. Being a finance major, it’s kind of funny, I learned to communicate with a lot of people and how to get stuff done for a team. I think that’s the most important thing I’ve learned– communication.” Embodying the spitting of a leader means drawing from a variety of lessons to apply in unconventional scenarios, something that Jared does very well.

After bleeding brown and gold for his team, after four years his collegiate and education career has come to close. Through his four years in class, 61 games and 41 points, and now a finance degree to his name, Jared Cohen has walked the stage into the professional world. 

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Story by Thomas Ubelhoer, international studies and political science major

Meet Some of Rowan’s New Transfer Profs

Pink sunset above the iconic roof of Bunce Hall.

Today we’re excited to feature more incoming transfer Rowan Profs. Ella Haulenbeek will transfer from Rowan College at Burlington County; Tanisha Sharma will transfer in from Stockton University; and Leah DeLuca is joining us from Camden County College. 

Welcome to Rowan! Could you share with us one thing you are looking forward to at Rowan University? (Personally, academically, anything!)

Ella Haulenbeek: I’m looking forward to making long lasting friendships and becoming more immersed in my psychology career!

Tanisha Sharma: I am looking forward to seeing what classes I would take, what research I could join and where I could find leadership opportunities.

Leah DeLuca: I am looking forward to meeting and collaborating with other education majors.

What is one hobby, activity, sport or club that you’re involved in that you’d like to continue at Rowan? (If any.)

Ella Haulenbeek: I’m hoping to continue my choir experience after not having participated in it since high school.

Leah DeLuca: I am involved in [honor society] Kappa Delta Pi at Camden County College and would like to continue my work with Rowan’s Kappa Delta Pi.

Lea DeLuca with her family on a dock.
Welcome to Rowan, Leah!

Is there anything you’re hoping to discover about yourself at Rowan? Grow a new skill? Try a new interest? Starting a new activity, sport or club? Learn a language? Be a part of?

Tanisha Sharma: I would love to further explore my leadership skills, along with my perseverance. The latter because my desired path requires a lot of work and consistency therefore, my academics will greatly test the amount of perseverance that I contain.

Please share an interest, hobby or like that you have! (Gaming, cartoons, your pets, music, painting, working out, etc.)

Ella Haulenbeek: I love gaming, makeup, and shopping!

Tanisha Sharma:  I love listening to music, especially while driving or cleaning.

Leah DeLuca: I enjoy traveling with my husband, kids and Irish doodle pup! We have set out to see every lighthouse along the Eastern Seaboard.

A selfie of Tanisha Sharma next to a body of water.
Welcome to Rowan, Tanisha!

What major are you pursuing and why?

Ella Haulenbeek: I’m pursuing a psychology major so I can provide therapy and counseling services to those who need it.

Tanisha Sharma: I am pursing biochemistry. I am pursuing this because I intent to apply to a medical school (hopefully Cooper Medical School) after my undergraduate and this major will take care of all of my academic prerequisites.

Leah DeLuca: Health and physical education. All children can find joy in healthy and active lifestyles regardless of physical ability. I want to help children find that joy and encourage them to try new activities.

Do you have advice for other transfers who haven’t committed to a school yet?

Ella Haulenbeek: Don’t feel pressured to go somewhere based off of the opinions of others, go somewhere that’ll make you happy.

Tanisha Sharma: I would recommend to them to see which school best suits their needs regarding housing or being a commuter or regarding the professional field in which they would like to pursue a career.

Leah DeLuca: Transferring from a community college to Rowan was an easy process.

Where are you going to live this upcoming year?

Ella Haulenbeek: On campus

Tanisha Sharma: Not sure

Leah DeLuca: Commute from home

Ella Haulenbeek after graduating.
Welcome to Rowan, Ella!

What is one thing about Rowan itself that you liked, that encouraged you to commit?

Ella Haulenbeek: My brother went to Rowan and he was treated very well, it seems like a welcoming environment!

Tanisha Sharma: The thing that attracted me to Rowan was its concentration in the medical field. The research that Rowan conducts is huge attraction for me as I would like to pursue plenty of hours in research.

Leah DeLuca: Proximity to my home.

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Story by:

Thomas Ubelhoer, rising junior political science and international studies double major 

Veterinary Innovation Gives Fortunato the Goat a New Lease on Life [VIDEO]

Fortunato on a work table getting measurements done with a student and vet tech with a Studio 231 sign in the background.

An interdisciplinary, collaborative space, Studio 231 within the School of Innovation & Entrepreneurship helps to bring the best ideas to life – including, this time, giving a new lease on life to a baby goat who was unable to walk.

The story of Fortunato the goat highlights the ingenuity – not to mention the impact – of leveraging this student-led and student-run experiential learning lab and makerspace within the Rowan community. A hub for collaboration, ideation, rapid prototyping and research, the newly created Schreiber School of Veterinary Medicine partnered with Studio 231 to create working legs for this Nigerian Dwarf goat with septic arthritis in his hind feet, which caused him to lose the feet. 

Dr. Matthew Edson, founding dean of the veterinary school, had previously toured Studio 231 and knew that this resource would be valuable for their work, opening up the possibility of printing 3D models for the vet school.

Fortunato’s owners were told he should be euthanized. Dr. Edson had a different recommendation. 

With an email entitled “Goat Legs” Dr. Edson reached out to the Henry M. Rowan College of Engineering, asking to partner with Studio 231 to create new working legs for Fortunato. That email found its way to Addison Deckert, a sophomore mechanical engineer major from Gannett Park, MD, and Vincent Gallo, a junior mechanical engineering major from Cinnaminson, NJ, who then worked on the project. 

Fortunato getting measurements with vet tech and Addison done.

Even with a team put together and the drive to create a perfect model, a series of obstacles remained in the way. How would they build legs that would expand as Fortunato grew? How could Addison and Vincent, who rarely worked the same shifts, best collaborate? Which approach, which idea, was the right one to pursue?

The emotional attachment to Fortunato, the intensity of working toward saving a life, and working with a deadline certainly brought out the best in all involved. Several questions needed to be answered for success to be achieved. Vincent shed some light on some of them, “What should we keep in mind? What part of the leg should we try and stay away from? So that’s not like a big pressure point when the goat is walking; how much support does it really need?”

The shape of Fortunato’s body created an interesting challenge that needed to be addressed. Addison revealed, “One of the hardest things we had with designing was figuring out how to keep the boot on because sometimes just like a friction fit and wrapping it real tight isn’t the best solution. And he actually has a tendon running along the upper part of his leg, so we couldn’t attach anything to it. So we went through a lot of different designs.”

Another element of the challenge the project posed was what materials could and could not be used, as they had to be animal friendly. After looking at several different options that combine plastic and 3D printing materials, they opted for TPU, a material that would hold up in the sun, in water, and still remain comfortable for Fortunato. 

After switching the material for the laces to a thinner material, Fortunato was ready to test out the design. Because his leg hindered him from going outside, he was hesitant to touch the world outside, but on a beautiful day, dreams came true. Fortunato came to life running around and hopping on his new prosthetic – the design worked.

The joy for the team was moving, even though Vincent missed the moment due to having to take a test; Addison had this to say about the moment, “Actually being able to see a prototype that I made on Fortunato and working and actually giving him something he didn’t have before is indescribable.” The collaboration not only saved a life but opened the door on saving more down the line. Both students and the rest of the team were showered with praise from the new dean, “We couldn’t be happier with the whole team that worked on this. We came in the first day to a back of a goat’s leg drawn on the board. They had researched the anatomy. They had already come up with a couple of different models that they planned to use. They were really well prepared, but I think they were also able to be creative and entrepreneurial in their approach and adjust to the challenges and come up with a really nice finished project.”

Addison taking notes.

In terms of what comes next, different answers were given. The success of creating a prosthetic certainly opens up opportunities for students to work with the new school, Dean Edson says, “This is the sort of project that we want to do. We want to think outside of the box, involve other departments, other agencies, and all come together to solve problems like this for the betterment of both animal health and human health. And again, this was a perfect example of how we want to do that.”

This project certainly captured the mind of Addison and what she thought was possible, even expressing an interest in working ducks for similar projects in the future. Accomplishing the ability to help aid an animal to walk extends the reality of what is deemed achievable and with students such as Vincent and Addison leading the way in innovation, no project is too big to dream about at Rowan. 

None of this would have been possible without not only Dean Edson, Vincent and Addison but several professors, faculty, and others who helped guide the project along. Working as a team to achieve a goal for something greater than an individual’s ambition helps kindle the wonder in students. This is summed up through Addison, ““It was really amazing and it makes me really want to do engineering because sometimes you doubt it after doing 15 hours of homework and three all-nighters and failing a test and all those types of things, it really makes you doubt. But do I want to actually design something new and build something that actually helps people? Yes. I think Rowan’s really trying to push that mindset.”

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Story by:

Thomas Ubelhoer, sophomore political science and international studies double major 

Master In Public Policy: What Students Can Expect and Look Forward To

Professor Zundl listening to a student.

Rowan University recently launched a new Master in Public Policy program. Professor Elaine Zundl is one of the professors involved in creating the program and shares with us what students can expect. 

How did you become involved with the creation of this program?

My colleagues, including Dr. Lawrence Markowitz, Dr. Katharine Javian, and Dr. Danielle Gougon, worked on the program before I arrived on the scene, spending, probably, two years, maybe more, putting together the curriculum. I think there were many other people at Rowan who supported the development of this program and realized that this was a degree we needed but didn’t have. It’s an innovative program because it is relevant for students who are in environmental science or engineering or other social science majors like sociology. The program is useful to anyone who’s interested in how their work in another discipline can be important for influencing policy development and government stakeholders. Public policy crosses a lot of different domains. That’s the reasoning behind the program.

Faculty from political science, economics, and public policy, as well as members of the New Jersey public policy community lead the courses and discussions. 

Professor Zundl laughing at something said in class.
Professor Zundl leads discussion in a Master in Public Policy course.

What goals should students set for themselves coming into this program?

Prospective students should have a sense of the policy area on which they would like to focus. They may change their mind over the course of the program but a strong interest in policy and policymaking is key.

When thinking about using a political science degree, many people jump immediately to the idea of law school. What alternative career paths does a Master in Public Policy (MPP) offer?

There are a lot of jobs in the policy world that don’t require you to go to law school. If there’s an issue you are passionate about, you might find yourself being the executive director of a nonprofit, being a policy analyst at a think tank, or working for a lobbyist who’s passionate about changing policy for an organization you care about. Recently our department hosted a panel event with stakeholders who are advocating for making the cannabis industry in New Jersey more equitable. That’s something that anyone could get involved with: writing briefs, influencing how that policy unfolds, organizing community groups. Careers in policy are more diverse than most people realize.  Students tend to think, “Well. I’ll work at a government agency or I’ll go to law school,” but there are so many organizations that need someone who understands policy.

Adult learner works from her home office, looking seriously at the camera.

What is the importance of being able to understand the nuances of public policy?

The average person might have taken a college course in government or might remember back to high school when they learned how a bill becomes a law and the checks and balances of our government. But in reality, there are a lot of other things you have to consider when you are trying to change policy or create programs for the public. We call that the policy process. If you really want to be successful, if you want your vision for changing the world to get attention, you need an advanced understanding of how issues get onto the agenda and implemented. We cover research techniques for understanding the impact of a policy, we cover how certain issues end up in front of the public or on the government agenda for a particular session.

What should students entering the program look forward to?

The best part of being in an MPP program is that there are a lot of seminar courses where you get to learn by discussing issues with your peers. In the public policy classroom, it’s not just political science folks, it’s people who study economics, it’s people who are from sociology or diversity & inclusion or work in education. So, discussing one issue or the significance of one policy becomes very exciting because there are so many different viewpoints that you hear and that allows us to learn collaboratively. I think that’s one of the most exciting things about graduate school overall. The students have formed a very tight cohort and they are comfortable reaching out to each other. Most of our students are working professionals with a mix of incoming students who have recently completed their undergraduate degree. They have families or they have other things going on in their lives, but we are a tight community. We all reach out to each other to check in with each other and support each other.

Adult learners dressed in business clothes cross a bridge on campus as they walk together.

Are there opportunities that will be open to students at the master’s level that may not be available at the undergrad level? If so, what are they?

Internships and research opportunities for MPP students are separate from those offered at the undergraduate level. Typically, these opportunities require students to have more advanced skills than would be expected of undergraduate students. We work with employers and think tanks and legislators to cultivate internship experiences for our masters’ students. Students might also have a chance to work on a faculty member’s ongoing research project. There are also professional development opportunities for students. We hosted the New Jersey Political Science Association Conference at Rowan in Spring 2023 and some of our students attended the membership meeting.

What differences should students be aware of when jumping from an undergrad political science program, or something similar, to a Master of Public Policy?

I would say the most important thing to realize is that undergraduate studies are more directed and closely supervised. You are given assignments and prompts by faculty members, you have smaller assignments and you check in more often with your professor. When you are doing graduate level work, you participate in discussions at seminars and choose the topics for your projects, and you need to take more responsibility for asking for help and checking in with your professor. Sometimes students struggle with that transition, about being more self-directed because it can be a little intimidating. It’s not that we won’t be here to support students; faculty are always helpful, but ultimately you get from the program what you bring to it. You are expected to know what kind of policies you want to study and your faculty member works as a facilitator, in that sense, to help guide you.

One thing that I love about Rowan is that students can take MPP courses in their senior year using “senior privilege.” If students are not sure about a public policy degree or graduate school, this program is a great way to find out. If someone told me I could take a graduate course as a senior and pay undergraduate tuition and get a taste of graduate level work, I would have done it. Even if you decide to go on to do something else, you understand what to expect– it demystifies the whole experience for students. I want to break down barriers for students who might not think of themselves as graduate students.

What can students do to prepare themselves for a more rigorous curriculum?

You can always reach out to faculty who teach the courses and ask to see the syllabus or ask to meet with them to discuss the class to see whether the program will meet your goals. I think that’s an excellent first step. A lot of folks come to me and say, “Should I do an MPP? I don’t like what I’m doing now, and this seems interesting.” I try to emphasize that getting a graduate degree is a big commitment, it’s a lot of work. You should be pretty sure that this is something you want to pursue for at least the next 5-10 years. If you don’t have a sense of the policy area or issues you want to focus on, it might make more sense for you to take a few courses in the program before you commit. If students are not ready to enroll in the MPP, our department offers a Certificate of Graduate Study in Public Policy.

There are two ways you can enroll in the MPP program. The first is the CADP, the Combined Advanced Degree Program. That’s where if you’re currently an undergrad at Rowan, you can enroll in this program and take 12 credits in the MPP program while you’re still an undergrad and save money because you’re not paying graduate tuition for those 12 credits. Or you go the traditional route, where you finish your bachelor’s first and then enroll in the MPP program.

Is there anything else you want to highlight for people to know about the program?

There are many ways to get in touch with us and learn about the program. The best way for people to find out more about the MPP, learn about our current students, and stay up to date on our events, is to follow our Linkedin page. I personally host Master of Public Policy info sessions throughout the year for prospective students. Many of the info sessions are held over Zoom but we tend to have one or two in person as well.

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Story by:

Thomas Ubelhoer, rising junior political science and international studies double major

Building a Community: Raymond Wos Jr’s Undergraduate Experience

Raymond standing in front of Bunce Hall with the pride lights shining onto the building in the distance behind him.

Rising senior Raymond Wos Jr. (he/him/his) from Gloucester County, NJ, is a subject-matter history major and double minor in both international studies and political science, and he’s also heavily involved with the inner workings of campus as a leader of change. Today he will share with us his personal journey and contributions to the University community. 

At what point did you become comfortable with your sexuality and disability both with yourself and expressing it to other people?

For my disability, I was diagnosed at the age of 6 and then that was with my Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Then I came out as bisexual, being comfortable with it and couldn’t hold it in to myself around my second year in community college so I was probably 18 or 19 years old at the time. I was thinking I feel comfortable with myself and realizing that I needed to be comfortable with these identities regardless and there’s nothing wrong or imperfect about me, it’s just that I know I am the best version I can possibly be and I can be proud of my identities without any criticism or any backlash from these issues.

What has Rowan done to make you feel accepted as part of the LGBQTIA+ community on campus and what gave you the courage to give back to the Rowan community?

As an individual, realizing how much empowerment and power I have on this campus, I realized as someone who’s a part of it but also realizing there’s so many more identities that need to be represented through SGA (Student Government Association) and many other facets I’m involved with. It’s just shown the amount this institution will give, but there’s always room for improvement regardless. However, there’s times where I’m in these roles to make change and I was able to help create legislation throughout the year. One of them, this past spring, I had written a piece of a resolution for transgender rights, acknowledgement, and more condensed stuff on our campus through the wellness center and many other facets of the community. With everything that’s happened within the trans community today outside of Rowan, it just shows that we need to pay more attention to these issues. Since we are not really, this is the first to take a course of action that I’ve done with PRISM and so forth to make this thing happen and it did pass. We’re now working together collaboratively with several offices in particular. Right now at the moment, with the Wellness Center we’re making sure they have fantastic resources for our trans community on this campus. 

What drew you to get involved with Rowan’s Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and can you share what you have accomplished in your role as AVP?

My time in the role as Assistant Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, I have completed a lot during my time. I’ve written at least 3 to 4 different resolutions that’s helped many facets of the Disabled community, mental health, and LGBTQIA+ community this past year and made sure there was an emphasis on the importance that these communities need to be represented on this campus and making sure of it. I’ve helped write responses to things that have happened within our community through the backlash that’s happened at Holly Point and even on Twitter where people posted derogatory terms. My well known accomplishment that I’m really proud of is getting a Rowan Announcer created for Judy Heumann, who’s an internationally recognized Disability Rights advocate and leader throughout this nation. She recently passed in March and I got that settled by writing articles and blogs that were published in the campus newspaper, The Whit and DEI blog about it so there’s a lot of work I’ve gotten done.

There are a lot of accomplishments that have happened throughout the academic year. However, I’ve also attended a lot of cultural events, I’ve worked with The BSU (Black Student Union) and NAACP to try and support the local community around me within these facets, within the Division of DEI. But most importantly I do work in the office of Social Justice, Inclusion, and Conflict Resolution office with Tara Ferrucci and Dominique Pierson who are in charge of the facilities over there. They’re absolutely amazing people. Just gaining more knowledge for their office and working collaboratively with them, even super close with them. Besides that I’m involved within the facet of the Division of DEI, I’m involved in 8 committees they have on campus related to DEI. I’m so embedded into it I understand where the Division is leading to but also how I can help them and give the student perspective as much as possible. I’m proud that I’m able to give that and have faculty, staff, students, and many other supporters understand what I do and how much I care from the student body perspective and how much change I want to see, but also for future generations to realize it’s a lot to consider. But it needed to be done for us. 

Raymond smiles big relaxing in a yellow chair at night with Bunce Hall behind him.

What moments at Rowan gave you the confidence to up such a large role in representing the LGBQTIA+ community?

The reason why is because it’s not for me personally, it’s not represented as a big facet that I was hoping for. Since I had my predecessor, Alex Butler, they were a part of the LGBTQIA+ community as well. I felt a motivation– a very high interest in making a change, but also being a part of a community and realizing I do have a voice as well as seeing the facets of the community, realizing as a person in the community and as an ally, there are so many problems and issues that are not being mentioned in and out of our institution and how we’re going to fix them. I realized I can make a change, not just within the LGBTQIA+ community, but so many other communities that I am not a part of but also within my own disabled identities as well because I feel like they’re left out of the conversation. In addition, neurodiversity is a part of it as well that is missing in these conversations. I just don’t see these issues through my queer and disabled perspective. All these lenses of identities have different facets and need to be represented on campus. The role has gotten bigger and the perception of it has gotten bigger and people may not realize it. 

What challenges have you had to navigate through your time here as an undergraduate student here that other students might not have had to?

For me personally, I have navigated here at Rowan through different challenges. I was a transfer and commuter student here on this campus and it was a very different environment. I transferred the semester that COVID happened and I was here probably two and half to three months in person then COVID hit, then schools shutdown, spring break was two weeks that got extended. From there I learned online and everything else. We went to a universal design type of platform like Zoom and WebEx and learning that way was very different in the beginning, but now it’s a tool that utilizes a lot more than I was expecting to use– I’m grateful I was able to use it. But it’s always been a challenge, also being a student who doesn’t share a lot sometimes. Also, now becoming more comfortable and being empowered, I was able to represent myself on this campus being a transfer from a community college and a commuter. The other facets of my identity I represent on this campus, I have decided to make myself a powerful voice and I think a lot of people have seen that within the last year and a half through every facet of this University.

Are there certain goals that you have set out to achieve whether it’s spreading acceptance or reforming previously held views at the university level that you have achieved?

Some of the things that I personally have achieved during my time here, I can definitely tell you one of my goals is intersectionality which is something that is so important in realizing that we do have a sense of community. It’s also that we need to realize our individuality and we do have a sense of purpose, but also we’re able to have different identities but can relate to each other through this intersectionality. We realize we can share the same experiences but some of us might have it easier than others as expected. I think that’s a philosophy the position needs to have and realize, yes, I can be a person who is a cis white man that is bisexual and disabled and realize I face challenges within two identities, but being a cis white man isn’t a challenge because there’s so many benefits I get from society. But the other identities that I can’t because of how things are structured and how things are happening in our society.

Another one was mental health within DEI. I have passed a legislation resolution to get mental health resources to our campus student website, Canvas, hopefully that’s being implemented soon. Another legislation resolution that I’ve passed again that I have mentioned previously was the transgender awareness legislation and getting the Wellness Center to be more accepting and being open and having it be more accessible.

Another thing I was trying to hit upon was writing opinion pieces and stuff like that within other communities like BIPOC, Neurodiversity, within Disabled, within LGBTQIA+ and I felt like we have gotten there by expanding with our Rowan DEI blog which is absolutely amazing. I highly encourage everyone to check it out, it’s very nice.

A new goal that I was about to start on this campus and it might transition to our next AVP of DEI will be creating a Disability Student Union. From all the conversations and what I’ve been seeing, the empowerment from other communities being seen on campus has been absolutely empowering. It gave power to those who had a voice and gave it and became a force that was not to be reckoned with and being able to make an important change on this campus. But now, since seeing that having an organization called a Disability Student Union in the near future will be a huge benefit to this institution to make change. I think that is something we should look forward to and hopefully will be seeing in the near future. Those are some of my initiatives but there are many more besides that.

Are there specific moments that stand out to you that show the growth within the community at Rowan?

Seeing people becoming more of a family and realizing we’re coming and growing as individuals, but also as people within our society. Also within our clubs and organizations a lot of them are becoming more closely knit and trying to work on my collaboration ideas and working together– it’s a start. Plus we’ve been out of the pandemic and been fully back into school, full fledged with all these activities and everything else for about a year or two now. We’re still rebuilding that stage up again. I think we’ll need a few more years to do it, but I think the communities, the sense of belonging, and what we’re trying to bring to Rowan, seeing the potential next year is gonna be really good. We’re going in the right direction.

Are you satisfied with the changes you’ve helped create at Rowan and what would you like the next crop of students to do to carry on your work here?

For the legacy I left is definitely having empathy for others, but also having empathy that happened on this campus where we need to have a shared responsibility to care for one another and also empower each other. To give each other the power to make change and evolve as a whole and work collaboratively with SGA, with all these various organizations to really make change and challenge the administration to do better, but also to make them more knowledgeable on issues that we’re facing at this time. For the next crop of students, I want them to realize that empathy will go far and wide, showing kindness to others will take a great deal of responsibility for these roles and of these executives for what we’re trying to do for the future. Students should realize just overall empathy, love, and kindness will always take you far in what you do in these careers.

Can you talk about your next steps after you graduate?

After I graduate I want to become a high school history teacher, somewhere locally or somewhere within the state of New Jersey to work with students in history. To show them what the potential of history is, but also destigmatizing history, showing there is so much more potential in history, what is undiscovered, and showing what we learn in the classroom is not always true. We have to challenge what writers have perceived and what has been written by the victors. We need to do better and realize there’s other historical information out there, many more historians have better writing and so forth like that. In the near future, after I’m done teaching for a few years, I want to come back to Rowan and do a double master’s of arts program in Special Education and the Diversity and Inclusion program as well. Having those two facets of programs combined together and working on it, I will have the potential to grow as a self-advocate, an advocate, and an activist, and something bigger within the state or locally. That’s my goal for the future.

After your experience with Rowan, after your experience with community college, how has your education experience impacted how you will teach?

What I have learned during my time here and my time at community college is that if you have something you have your mind to and you put it to it and as someone who’s going into a teaching career, you’re gonna be able to have the same determination and the same energy you want to bring into the classroom. You want to make an impact on these students to be engaged and learn the material you’re teaching them, but go beyond that and have more of a special interest in topics in history. But even more, realizing the importance of having humanities and history in our society to still exist. Where today it’s falling apart in some of the different states, we’re losing humanities, music, and sports throughout public education. We need to refocus our energy throughout the nation to make sure we bring back humanities and I want people to realize they’re equally as important as the STEM fields.

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Written by Thomas Ubelhoer, rising junior political science and international studies double major

Welcoming Two Raritan Valley Community College Transfer Students

Freshmen students tour the outside of Holly Pointe Commons residence hall.

Meet our newest transfer Profs Shannon Russo and Angelina Zeppieri. Both Shannon and Angelina recently graduated from Raritan Valley Community College and will begin at Rowan University this fall. 

Could you share with us one thing you are looking forward to at Rowan University?

Shannon Russo: I am looking forward to being on my own for the first time in my life.

Angelina Zeppieri: At Rowan University I’m looking forward to applying for internships and dipping my feet into the international business world.

What is one hobby, activity, sport or club that you’re involved in that you’d like to continue at Rowan?

Shannon Russo: Softball is a sport I would like to continue. It can be for the university team or the club team. I just want to play.

Angelina stands in front of farm animals wearing a black gown.
Angelina Zeppieri

Is there anything you’re hoping to discover about yourself at Rowan? 

Shannon Russo: I am hoping to expand my social skills and make more out of my social life.

Please share an interest, hobby or like that you have!

Shannon Russo: I play softball and I love to paint. 

Angelina Zeppieri: I love painting in my free time, playing on my Nintendo Switch, and hanging out with my boyfriend and friends.

What major are you pursuing and why?

Shannon Russo: History Education because I love History and I like kids. Plus all of my favorite teachers were my history teachers.

Angelina Zeppieri: I’m majoring in International Business so one day I can work abroad in a successful company, while also learning about the culture of the country I’m in.

Do you have advice for other transfers who haven’t committed to a school yet?

Shannon Russo: You will know that you are at the right college when you feel excited to go to that college. Don’t stress yourself out over the fact that you have to choose. The choice can be fairly easy.

Angelina Zeppieri: Some advice I have for other transfer students who haven’t committed to a school yet is to find a school which is the right fit for you, academically and socially. Commit to somewhere that you know you’ll thrive there, and work on completing your goals.

Shannon Russo poses with her hand on her hip, in front of a water sunset.
Shannon Russo

Where are you going to live this upcoming year?

Shannon Russo: On campus.

Angelina Zeppieri: On campus.

What is one thing about Rowan itself that you liked, that encouraged you to commit?

Shannon Russo: The social aspect around the campus. There is always something to do.

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Story by:

Thomas Ubelhoer, rising junior political science and international studies double major 

From Political Science Student to Political Operative

Connor talks to two people.

Originally intent on a completely different major, that changed after Connor attended Dr. Lawrence Markowitz’s talk on Russian collusion in American elections. Although he quickly changed majors to political science, he did not want to lose other areas of interest that had been a big part of his life growing up, causing him to pick […]