Can You Teach Someone Entrepreneurship? This Successful Rowan Alumnus Says Yes

Rowan alumnus stands wistfully outside of Business Hall, standing for a portrait.

From Classroom to CEO: Unveiling the Success Story of Anthony Magaraci, a Rowan Entrepreneurship Alumnus Anthony Magaraci, Entrepreneurship ‘06 alum, gives insight on his successes since graduating from Rowan’s entrepreneurship program.  A member of the inaugural class of the entrepreneurship program within the William G. Rohrer College of Business, Anthony Magaraci graduated in 2006 alongside […]

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

The Professor Behind The Building of Rowan University’s Marching Band, Pride of the Profs

A close up of the Rowan University marching band drum major practicing on the athletic field with a dramatic sunset in front of him.

Once she got to Rowan, she didn’t know that we were known to be a teaching school at that time. Her professors within the College of Performing Arts really looked out for her; they would sign her up for conducting symposiums and competitions outside of the department. “One of them was my percussion teacher who […]

Running The Funny Farm Rescue is Serious Business for this Rowan Grad [VIDEO]

A view of Laurie's back as she walks through her farm, wearing her signature bright pink hat and bright pink boots.

“Life happens when you’re busy making other plans,” says art alumna Laurie Zaleski, who never intended to run a farm. Meet Laurie Zaleski, the owner and founder of the Funny Farm Rescue and Sanctuary in Mays Landing, NJ (Atlantic County). Laurie also owns Artsy Graphics, which is a graphic design and photography company. She graduated […]

Education and Soccer Alumna Makes Magic at Disney World & Remains A Ray of Sunshine Through Cancer Diagnosis

Miranda kicks a soccer ball into a soccer net as an alumnus, while wearing Rowan gold.

In this alumni success story, we learn more of the career path for 2013 education alumna Miranda Donnian. With our catching up with Miranda, a former record-breaking women’s soccer player for the University, we learn more of what came after her time here at the University, where her career has taken her, and her personal […]

Alumni Success: Special Education Teacher Creates Special Needs Sports Organization [VIDEO]

A view of Spectrum Sports with people working out.

A glimpse into a former special education teacher’s career pivot After graduating and launching his special education career in 2011 and teaching for 10 years, alumnus Dan Minko noticed a gap in available recreation and athletic opportunities for people who are a part of the special needs community. To fill the gap and serve the […]

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 […]

From the Classroom to Competition: World Ninja League Founder Takes His Skills to the Next Level [VIDEO]

Chris Wilczewski is a Rowan University 2015 alumnus who majored in Marketing. Chris is the founder and chief operating officer for the World Ninja League, “home of the world’s leading obstacle course organization.” He discusses how he founded the company, his involvement in ninja competitions, his origin story and experiences throughout his educational and professional […]

From High School to Showbiz and Back Again: Rowan Alum Janine Edmonds Tells All on Her Career as a Guidance Counselor

Janine poses in front of a mural.

Today we feature Janine Edmonds, a graduate of Rowan University’s class of 2001 with a degree in Radio/Television/Film and a 2006 graduate of Rowan’s M.A. In Counseling Educational Settings program. Here, Edmonds tells us about her path returning to higher education and her experience as a guidance counselor for Oakcrest High School. Did you always […]

Alumni Success: Shaun Pierson ‘19 Talks MFA Candidate at Yale and Personal Photography Projects

Shaun Pierson in front of a mirror with his camera.

Shaun Pierson (he/him) is a Rowan University 2019 graduate who majored in Radio/TV/Film. He currently lives in New Haven, Connecticut, but during his time at Rowan, lived on campus as an RA. His work has been featured at the Midwest Center for Photography, the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, the Foley Gallery (NYC), Vogue Italia, […]

Alumni Success: Joseph Albanese and Where Computer Science Can Take You

Joseph Albanese of Gloucester County, NJ is a 2021 Rowan University alumnus who majored in Computer Science. Joseph works for the company Freefly Systems as a software engineer for the organization’s Alta X drone technology. Whether that be through dealing with maintenance on the front and backend of coding on drones, Joseph Albanese is a diligent worker and proud graduate of the Rowan College of Science and Mathematics.

What is computer science?

Computer science is the study of computers and software. Rowan’s program particularly focuses on the software end of things. There’s a lot of different subcategories that you can get into within the major such as artificial intelligence and robotics, which also has a focus on low level code running on boards. You could also get into applications programming where you’re running codes on applications that you use everyday such as social media.

There are a lot of other categories within this encompassing field that all relate to computers and the software that runs them.

Joseph Albanese wears an Alta X t-shirt.
Rowan University alumnus Joseph Albanese

What are the different avenues like within the field?

Computer science is used in just about everything you can think of now. For instance, your car has a small computer that controls the electronics like the air-to-fuel ratio and a ton of other little things that you don’t even think about in your day-to-day life. Your phone runs an entire operating system that has computer programs running on it. You can go into fields like robotics or drones where you’re focusing on those low-level bits and manage flight dynamics.

You could also go into more high-level things such as writing the software that you use to interact with other pieces of software or devices. You could go into cloud programming or web development where you develop a net of servers and develop all of the different actions that the servers are performing. There’s a huge breadth of things that you can do with computer science in general.

What are some positions that you can find in computer science?

You can be an embedded software engineer where you’re specifically focusing on the development of software that runs on boards. You can think about dominos, where you’re taking these pins that have input and output signals and you have to do an operation in between. You take the input and do some form of an operation between sending out outputs.

With robotics there’s a huge application for that. You can work in an automotive field, you can work with developing cameras that even you guys [editor’s note: our camera crew] are using right now. You could also be a web developer, which has two different subsections with the frontend and backend of things.

For the frontend of things, you can work on the user interface and how buttons appear on the screen and how the user is going to interact and act with that sort of thing. On the backend, you’re managing how data is transmitted from a user, how it’s stored, as well as the operations that you perform on it. There’s a lot of different avenues that you can go about doing.

A lot of what I did at Rowan was lower level application development. I focused quite a bit on writing Linux applications at Rowan University like what was in my capstone classes. Our senior project had us contracted by ASRC to build an application that they were going to use. 

Joe is diligently working on his laptop while his drone is right next to him.

What was the coolest application that you developed at Rowan?

The two coolest things that I did at Rowan were that ASRC project where we wrote a messaging system to send text messages back and forth between servers. The coolest thing about that was that it was decentralized. There was no central server keeping track of the messages, the messages would go directly from one computer to another computer and only to the user that was supposed to be receiving it. If any of the other computers had gone down you could still communicate with all the other ones. If you brought it back up it would automatically be joined back up into the network and communicate again.

Another cool project that I did at Rowan was building a Spotify recommendation website. If you connect to the website or link your own Spotify account with our website it would give you the option to like songs. The website would then take all of the different characteristics of the songs that you had selected such as the keys, the speed of the song, the different notes that would play, and it would compile all that together to craft a playlist for the specific user.

What do you enjoy the most about the field?

There’s a huge variety in what you can do. There’s a lot of interesting jobs that you can get in computer science but I would say that the thing that I like the most about computer science and engineering in general is getting problems and solving them. I get a lot of satisfaction from it. When I get a problem that I have no idea how to approach, getting to know about it and cracking the code and figuring out what I need to do is fun.

Joe is working with a partner and has a drone flying.

What is Freefly Systems?

Freefly Systems is a company that started out doing cinema drones and other robotics. We build cameras, but I primarily focus on the Alta X, which is our large heavy lift drone that is used in many different movies. We’re also getting into the industrial space with land surveying. We’re also looking into breaking into drone delivery. We sell this drone to different companies that are already doing really cool things with their own equipment or provide different services for them.

Generally, Freefly develops drones, cameras and gimbals. Companies that specialize in filming these triple A movies would look into our company and our Alta X to put their camera and equipment together. They use our platform to carry out their tasks. There’s so many different types of markets with drones. There are people who want small drones for shows, but generally for our type of customer, payload and weight capacity is one of our highest concerns. The openness of the platform and the ability to integrate whatever you want with it allows you to take care of whatever you need at the highest level.

What are your responsibilities like at Freefly?

I am a software engineer for the Alta X Team here. Generally, I take care of multiple different tasks ranging from the programming of the boards inside the drones to managing how the different boards communicate with one another as well as writing scripts to do qualitative insurance. I’ve done some work with changing some of the different codes that provide the front end to control the drone.

There’s a whole wide range of tasks that I do as a software engineer. Rowan University definitely provided me with a lot of basic tools that I now need to understand general programming concepts and how to write quality code. From there I was able to leverage those skills and learn how to apply it to drone technology.

Joseph smiles as he programs the Alta X drone for flight.

Are there any opportunities for Rowan students and alumni at Freefly?

Here at Freefly we’re constantly looking for new talent. If you’re an alumni or just recently graduated, you should definitely apply as we’re always looking for new software engineers. If you’re a current student, we’d love to have you as an intern and show you the ropes of what drone software engineering is like.

What is the best piece of advice that every computer science student should live by?

I would say that the best thing that I had heard when I was in school was to not just focus on your course work and making it the only thing that you’re doing. If you have side projects and things that you’re working outside of what you’re being taught, not only does it reinforce things that you’re learning but it also shows that you’re passionate about what you’re doing while applying for jobs. It gives you a leg up in experience but also having something to show what you’re doing.

If you apply what you learn outside of the academic environment and take it one step further, you start to push the boundaries of what you learn in class. You’ll have a much easier time transitioning into an actual workplace. While school provides a great foundation and a bit of depth to things, going outside and like I said earlier, pushing it that one step further, will really help you get a leg up on things.

See our video with Joseph here:

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Story produced by:
Lucas Taylor, English education graduate student

The First of a Program: Katrina McCarthy, M.S. in Urban and Regional Planning Student

Katrina is sitting at a desk with a globe put near the camera.

Transitioning from one career path to another is no simple task, but in the case of Rowan Global student Katrina McCarthy, she’s used her prior knowledge to set the foundation for her next step forward. In our conversation with Katrina, a Rowan undergraduate alumna and member of the first cohort to launch the  M.S. in Urban and Regional Planning program, we discuss how her experiences have led her into different fields as well as how Rowan is setting its students up in the Urban and Regional Planning program for future success.

Can you tell us a bit about your geography background? What made you pursue it for your bachelor’s degree? 

I was initially an undergrad in the Radio/TV/Film department [RTF] here at Rowan. I was one class away from finishing the program when I had taken a class called World Regional Geography. From that class I realized that there was this whole discipline around geography and that I could make a career out of it if I pursued it.

At the time I never knew something like this existed; I had always loved flipping through the Rand McNally Atlas ever since I was a little girl. I remember being in the backseat of my family’s pickup truck during road trips just perusing through it. After that I was all in on geography. I took every class you could possibly take about GIS (Geographic Information Systems) and learned how to make digital maps. It all spiraled from there.

Katrina is standing and smiling with her arms crossed inside Discovery Hall.

What was that experience like going from RTF [Radio/TV/Film] and transitioning into Geography? What aspects of it made it difficult and what parts of it were easier than you anticipated? 

Geography is one of those disciplines that is very welcoming and open. There are many people like me who didn’t realize that you could study places, people, spaces and how or why they become those places. It ends up being somewhat of a catch all program where other people stumble upon it from these teaser classes. You have your gen ed experience and stumble upon something like Geography. You discover it. The program is very all encompassing and accessible to any person who is passionate about the big and small details of the world we live in. It’s a bit different, but I felt like RTF was a little bit more niche and competitive and I wasn’t ready for something like that at the time.

Could you provide some insight as to what Urban Planning encompasses? 

Urban planning to me is taking the physical world around you and just looking at it as if it were an onion and peeling it all back and seeing all the different component parts that make up the world that you traverse through every day. So whether it be infrastructure, roadways or buildings, it’s the built physical landscape that you live in and the other aspects of it that support it. With that being said, you’re looking at food systems (where your food comes from), water systems, affordable housing, transportation, green spaces and so on. There’s just so many different facets of how urban planning works.

What is your concentration? 

So I’ve really concentrated on conservation. I’ve worked on a project called NJ MAP. We’ve partnered with some conservation organizations to work on a project called the Conservation Blueprint, where we are basically bringing together all the conservation groups in New Jersey together in a collaborative way to figure out how to connect and preserve the available land that is left in New Jersey.

One of my colleagues, Dr. John Hasse, famously stated in 2001 that New Jersey is projected to be the first state to reach “build out.” Build out means that all the land in New Jersey is either developed or preserved; there’s no in between. From that you get what’s called a locked-in landscape. New Jersey has become rapidly suburbanized, and you see a lot of McMansions and wandering suburbs. But then you also see a really strong push to conserve the beautiful landscapes that make up this state, the Garden State.

Katrina is sitting at a table with a large map of the world behind her.

Why do you believe there should be a prevalence in keeping the balance between wanting to build more but also wanting to preserve? 

I think the balance is being able to do urban and community planning the right way. For a long time the planning profession to me seemed a little bit daunting and scary, because, growing up, I thought urban planning was something done by technocrats. I thought that it was a top-down operation and through the first half of the 20th century, it was in many ways. After going through this program, what I found out is that real true planning comes from the community.

True planning comes from learning about the history of places and opening it up for a proper dialogue. You realize that without the residents’ input you create a disjointed, sprawling landscape. In order to do it better, we need to really break it open, turn it on its head, bring more youthful vibrancy to it and, and bring in the voices of the people that are living in these places. And I think that’s what it’s lacked for a long time.

So with New Jersey being such an historic state, there’s been a lot of changes going on throughout. What difficulties do you run into when going through your urban planning? How do you overcome these difficulties?

So for example, since the onset of the COVID pandemic, you can see the skyrocketing of e-commerce and what does that do to our landscape? There are warehouses everywhere, just going up by the minute and what it’s doing is eating up farmland, it’s eating up forests, it’s eating up land that shouldn’t be developed in that way. If it was done better, we would have more coordinated roadways, we’d have more coordinated rail lines that connect to harbors and airports. New Jersey is ground zero to see these impacts. We’re the linchpin right in the middle of the Northeast megalopolis. We’re in the center of Philadelphia, New York, Baltimore, Washington DC – you could be to any of these places within a couple hours drive. We have the second biggest port in the country with Newark.

But what we see is, all these warehouses, just dabbling in the landscape now because of broken or short-sighted planning. All of this can be done more efficiently. But we’re just not there yet.

Part of that problem is that New Jersey has what’s called Home Rule. New Jersey is the third smallest state in the country, but at the same time, we have 564 discrete municipalities and so 564 different towns, making their own decisions about what happens in those towns. For situations decided by mayors and officials that are on two- and four-year terms, they often make decisions about what’s good for their town in the most immediate time frame and it can be very short sighted. What happens is that the next administration inherits what the previous administration’s already done and it sort of bleeds into each other.

Part of the reason that it’s so difficult to tackle things like warehouses is because we need to take a more regional approach. Not even just regionally in New Jersey, but regionally in the Northeast. How do we do this better, how do we make it more efficient? And how do we bring about the policy, regulation and/or votes to make these changes happen?

In this portrait, Katrina is standing in front of the camera with her arms crossed.

You’re clearly passionate about the subject. But with that passion, how did we get from the little girl who liked looking at maps and books to where you are now?

I think that when I transitioned into geography, like I said earlier, I realized this is actually a discipline with discourse that is able to shape the modern world. Going through the process of creating and maintaining NJ MAP really engrossed me in the power of maps to communicate change and bring awareness to matters often unseen in day-to-day life. Then when I committed to going back into this graduate program, I realized that it’s not healthy for elected officials and planning boards to be in this reactionary state when development proposals are put forward. There needs to be advocacy and understanding for the people living in these places. It starts with engaging in the community. You start to question, “Is this happening where I live? Is that happening where you live?” You start asking yourself: Where does the change actually lie? How do we change the status quo? How do we flip the script, change the dynamic, and make it so that there are more people coming into this field?

When I was in high school considering what you could go to college for, I never thought about planning. I mean, I don’t know who would because it’s not really introduced in such a way. And it’s not a really appealing field like others. Planning doesn’t exactly present itself as a riveting field. But when you really dig into it, you start understanding that there is so much to it that impacts your daily life. You start saying “We can have a say. We can figure out how to build momentum for these different initiatives.”

What was the hiatus that you mentioned earlier? 

After I graduated in 2009 with a degree in geography, I worked at an engineering firm. I was just mapping signs on roadways on a computer that was updating a road centerline inventory. It was just grueling, mind-numbing work. After that I came back to work on a project in the Geography, Planning, and Sustainability Department. We kicked off what was called the NJ MAP, which is an environmental resource atlas that we developed. Like I said earlier, a lot of the planning in New Jersey happens at a local level in these 564 municipalities. What we realized is we wanted to be able to provide data and information to people to make better decision making for their towns and what we questioned was, “How do we know where the threatened and endangered species are? Where are the stream corridors? How do we protect the wetlands? How do we not allow development in areas where development shouldn’t occur?”

We thought that we could catalog all this data because of how New Jersey is so fortunate to have a really strong program through the Department of Environmental Protection that produces so much data.

We can document and we can show where these things are. So we thought if we take all this information and we can put it out there on a publicly accessible map, people will be able to use it in the field and then bring it up at a public meeting and say, “Where is this location where would they want to build this warehouse? And is there another location that might be more suitable, where there might be a willing seller? Is there a site that isn’t going to build on prime farm soils but instead redevelop abandoned lots?” Typically all this information isn’t readily available but NJ MAP bridges that divide. We wanted to take this data and make it publicly accessible so that everyday people can use it. That’s been going on for around 11 years now, and this type of thought process is still going strong.

Katrina is sitting at a desk with different plans arrayed inside Robinson Hall.

Do you ever feel as if there’s an immense pressure with your work? Do you think it might be too much at times? 

Whenever you build something, especially if it’s open source like NJ MAP, I feel like people could use it for nefarious purposes. It’s kind of out of our control, you just hope that more people use it for good than bad. Being able to take data and put it down to a parcel level, a place where you can measure it and see where things are, I think that that gives a lot of power to make more informed decisions and support grassroots advocacy efforts.

When did you start your master’s program?

I started the master’s program in fall of 2020, which is when the program began. So I was part of the first cohort to start the program.

With you being in that inaugural program, what kind of skills have you learned during your bachelor’s that are now being tested for your masters? 

I’m a lot more focused on the question: “How do we make planning more regenerative?” For a long time planning was this one way, just kind of how humans build up the landscape to be able to accommodate automobiles. The United States was largely built for the automobile, which, if you look at Europe and other places, it’s glaringly obvious that we did it all wrong. But now we’re starting to figure out how we can get it right, undoing some things and deepening the involvement of the community. You follow practices that are regenerative.

I feel like coming through the program, there’s a real emphasis on what’s called the triple bottom line, which means doing things that are good for the economy, but also society and the environment. How do we set our sights on that as our goal and create strategies that achieve tangible results? What is the best situation for the mental, physical and social well being of a community? I think that’s a big part of planning today, as well.

With this master’s program, do you have to have a final thesis that you came up with?

No. There’s no requirement for a final thesis, per se. There is a capstone Planning Studio course that is immersive in applying planning techniques in a real-world project. We partnered with Frederic Byarm of Invincible City farms to gain a better understanding of community perceptions of food insecurity in the city of Camden, NJ. Mr. Byarm is passionate about cultivating nutrition, economic growth, and dignity in his mission to eradicate food insecurity in Camden and wants to create a service where local food may be produced and delivered by local employees. We worked together to conduct a semester-long project that included conducting focus groups, one-on-one interviews, surveys and a food environment scan and created a final report and presentation to the community stakeholders.

We’ve done many other interesting projects, and definitely a lot of writing, just to document different research methods. We also did a lot of qualitative research methods. For example, we did another project where we looked at the Chamberlain Agora that’s being developed right now. During this process, we knew the plans were already in motion. They’re already going to expand the building and it’s one of the places on campus, that’s an iconic campus hub. It’s one of the places that everyone goes and is a meeting place that connects all these other places on campus.

So we wanted to get some information from the people that use this place every day. We were trying to figure out what was missing and what should be there when the expansion is complete. We were looking at the seating options, charging stations, sustainable materials, water features and greenery. Mainly we were trying to figure out how to make the site functional for humans and nature. That was a really fun project that was done collaboratively (three-student team).

What is it like working with your degree here at Rowan? What is it like working on your own university, so to speak?

I had a great experience. I think that there is definitely room to build the Rowan MSURP program relationships with campus planning and other offices. Like I mentioned earlier, this program is quite young, it just started in the fall of 2020. So I think that there’s a huge opportunity for this cohort of grad students coming through to interact with the campus landscape architect, planning office and sustainability leaders. There are so many things going on, there’s initiatives that some of my colleagues are working on like Re:wild (a movement to build a world in balance with the wild) and accessibility on campus, not just for physical impairments, but for any kind of other accessibility consideration.

Katrina is standing in front of a brick wall and smiling outside Discovery Hall.

What job opportunities are out there for people that have a degree in urban planning? 

With job opportunities, the work ranges. You can work as a community developer or for conservation organizations, you can work at planning firms, whether they be urban, regional or rural. A lot of planning is done at the local level, but it’s generally done by a planning firm.

In this area in particular, planning firms might cover Camden and Gloucester counties. You can also go into fields like transportation or historic preservation. I have a colleague in the grad program who is really interested in historic preservation and vintage motels, specifically in Wildwood, and he was able to intern with their Historic Preservation office over the summer.

If you’re interested in working on climate change, mitigation and adaptation measures are being put in place now but need a lot more support from working professionals. Developing and implementing green stormwater infrastructure and practices, for example, is a huge field. With that being said, there’s a lot of different directions that you can go.

How accessible is the program going from here to there?

I say that it’s so accessible, and that’s why it can be hard to nail down one niche aspect. For myself, I could say that my niche has been conservation planning because I’ve worked in an adjacent capacity for the last few years. You have people like [faculty member] Megan Bucknum who is a professional that works really deeply in food systems planning. A lot of people wouldn’t think about urban planning and food systems, but urban areas need food and they don’t have a huge farm base, so that is another major branch of the planning field.

Why Rowan? Was it opportunity that you spoke of or was Rowan one one of the firsts to have this program?

There is one other planning  program in the state at Rutgers called the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy. It is a well-established and highly respected program. I think that it’s really important for Rowan to be able to enter this space because, as a public university, Rowan has the ability to provide an accessible education to people, especially in South Jersey. With this program, I feel like it offers a flexible way to gain an understanding and entry into the field of urban and regional planning. The undergrad program is in Community and Environmental Planning, and really so much of what urban planning is comes from well-executed community engagement. There is also a 4+1 program to help streamline undergrads into the program if planning becomes their passion.

What would you say to encourage someone to look into urban planning? 

It depends on where your niche lies. If you’re a really technically minded person, you can dive deep into GIS. GIS once upon a time was using a limited software program to be able to draw polygons and points lines on a map. It was very straightforward. Now, if you want to dive into GIS and really get into the data and information, you have to be almost a software programmer to be able to do it, but you will also be able to pair that with a passion for places and spaces. If you manage to synthesize the two it will bloom even more. If you enjoy writing or graphic design those skills are strongly needed too. So it just depends where your niche lies.

Even if you enjoy traveling, then I feel like it activates something inside you. I have always loved to travel. As of now, I don’t travel as much anymore, because I have two young kids. But at the same time, being able to get lost in a map is something that will never get old to me. And I can do it anywhere in the world. I am never not intrigued by what I find. No matter where you are, just go for a walk and observe; there’s something so enjoyable about that. And if you enjoy that, you would enjoy geography, you would enjoy the discipline, you would appreciate all that goes into the field of planning.

Is there any pride that you feel having been part of this inaugural class that’s going to graduate with this master’s program? 

I’ve had a long history with Rowan. Like I said, I started my undergrad program here back in fall of 2005 which is scary to say out loud. I graduated in 2009. And I’ve been a proud Rowan alum and I will be a proud Rowan alum after I leave this program.

It’s cool to see Rowan plant its flag in this field because we need more urban planners, we need more young people realizing that they can do something about the urban and physical landscape around them and they can make a difference.

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Beyond the Classroom: How Two Students Blend Art and Science

Naman and Terry are sitting on the stairs of Bunce Hall.

In this edition of Beyond the Classroom, we discuss the founding of the ArtSci Symposium with Terry Nyugen, who recently graduated from the Biomedical Art and Visualization program, and Naman Srivisvatra, who recently graduated from the Biological Sciences program. While at Rowan, Terry was president of the Neurodiversity Club; Rowan Blog featured her in this interview. In our discussion with Terry and Naman, we learn of their ambition to blend the lines between art and science in order to create a more inclusive and understandable message within research exhibits.

What drew you to Biological Sciences? How do you think your program helped you transition to Biomedical Art and Visualization? 

Naman: For me at least, I picked biology mainly because I had an interest in it for such a long time. I mainly picked biology because it serves as an intersection point between a lot of different fields. I was mainly interested in the ecological and environmental side of it. At some point, I had chosen to pursue medicine but at the same time keep the same interest in environmental and ecological sciences.

With the medicinal aspect, there are parts of it that involve a lot of complex molecular biology along with other aspects that deal with organic chemistry and various other “hardcore” sciences. The Biological Sciences major presented the opportunity for me to get both of those things without having to compromise schedule or taking multiple majors.

The reason I ventured into Biomedical Art and Visualization was because of Terry. Terry had introduced me to the program back in our freshman year. I always had an interest in visual arts, so to me it seemed like a perfect fit where I get to practice science while also working in visual arts and communicating science. At the time I had thought this to be such a unique opportunity that I would not get anywhere else. 

How did you two meet? 

Terry: We met each other freshman year and quickly became friends. Naman just so happened to be in a practice room in Wilson Hall, and I just so happened to be getting ready for a concert that day. We started to introduce ourselves and we found out that we were both pre-med students and an untold bond was formed! That’s how we just got to know each other.

I didn’t really have a lot of pre-med friends at the time and I was looking for them. Naman and I got acquainted and we started signing up for classes together. From there our friendship just kept growing as we started involving each other more in each other’s lives. 

Terry is sitting on the ledge of a nearby building with flowers all around her.
Terry Nyugen, of Burlington County, is a recent graduate of the Biomedical Art and Visualization program.

How did you introduce Biomedical Art and Visualization to Naman? 

Naman: The way that I had found out about the program was the day we met when I was in the practice room. I did a lot of musical work as well, I was heavily involved with the Jazz Studies program and Terry was in Classical Piano. The day of that concert I was looking over the program booklet of the concert. In that booklet, it showed all the different names of the students that were involved in the concert as well as the major that they are affiliated with. When I saw Terry’s name and the major next to it, Biomedical Art, I had thought to myself, “I’ve never heard of that, especially at Rowan”. I started to do some research on my own and I found out that it was an entire major. I proceeded to ask Terry about the major and the different types of stuff that are involved with Biomedical Art and Visualization. I found an interest in it and then that following Fall semester I started taking those classes. 

How did you (Terry) and Naman get involved with Biomedical Art and Visualization? 

Terry: In high school I had a lot of different learning issues and curves that I had to overcome. For me, learning visually was a way for me to get the information and ingrain it into my brain. The reason why I specifically chose Biomedical Art was because deep down, I wanted to pursue medicine in high school but I didn’t have stellar performances. I still wanted to stick with science but not commit to it. My strengths were in art and I found ways, especially towards my senior year, to combine the two ideas.

My parents were the ones who found the Biomedical Art and Visualization program. My parents saw my efforts and wanted to find the environment that would put me in the best position to succeed. Even when I took AP Studio Art in high school, my portfolio was based around this idea of combining science and art. It wasn’t until I actually decided to commit to Biomedical Art that I found out it was much broader than I had previously anticipated. It deals with educating and creating different avenues of communication and not just creating beautiful illustrations.

Essentially, I chose Biomedical Art to help teach myself scientific information without outright saying “I go to medical school!” Eventually, once I feel more confident, I’ll say that. I had a love for art but also didn’t want to give up on the rigors of science classes.  

What clubs/projects are you two directly involved in right now? 

Naman: In the past, I was a founder of the American Physician Scientist Association, which was one of the main components of the ArtSci Symposium. Our goal was to help incorporate more vigorous research into medicine. A lot of the time with students that are going through the process of applying to medical school, they really do not have any scientific research experience. It’s not a prerequisite, but it is nice to have.

A lot of my friends, especially during the Covid period, were struggling to find space at labs and weren’t able to get the experience they needed for applying to medical school. And so, I had started working on setting out on an organization on campus that was dedicated towards getting students into research. For a lot of the time, what we figured out what was happening was that it was the students who did not feel comfortable directly reaching out to figures such as research supervisors. With getting into labs, it more than likely comes from word of mouth. It’s direct communication.

Especially since the pandemic hit, research took a huge blow. The pandemic created almost a vacuum, there were students who were actively looking for labs to participate in and you also had students who were leaving; there was no bridge between the two to get students into the labs.

I wanted to create an organization that was dedicated to helping students obtain the research experience that they needed, whether it was for medical school or just if they wanted to pursue science on a deeper level. That was one of the big initiatives that I had here at Rowan. 

Naman is standing profoundly in front of a brick wall with his blazer draped on his shoulder.
Naman Srivastava of Gloucester County, is a recent graduate of the Biological Sciences program.

Naman: Another one was my protein work over at MIT. Although it doesn’t directly involve Rowan, I still did a majority of the work on that here at Rowan as well as using a lot of the skills that I had learned at Rowan as well. What we did was look for new ways to communicate science. In this process called protein solidification, it was becoming more and more popularized by scientists and faculty members at MIT. I took an interest in it immediately.

As someone who has a music and science background, I thought that my perspective would bring an interesting way to communicate molecular biology. What we did was, it was me, Terry and a couple other of my buddies who were actual music majors and we sat down and looked at the different sequences of protein. Proteins are built out of these tiny pieces called amino acids and there are 20 of them total. We were able to categorize all of these different amino acids into musical notes. Each of them correlates to a different note and what we did was string all of the different notes together into a musical composition.

There’s a level of artistic literacy that is needed to get this to work because of the sheer amount of musician skills needed. I will say it was extremely complex mainly because you get a random string of notes and it was our job to make a cohesive composition out of it and make it sound coherent. We did a lot of work on that, the first time we started on it was back in 2020.

That was for the American Society of Microbiology. The society was doing a bit of an art contest. They had expanded the different forms of submissions that they would accept and so my friends and I saw this as our chance. We sat down and wrote up a composition and even filmed a music video for it. We did not win, but we did manage to get into the finalists category; which, I’ll take! After we were done that one, the following year we saw that MIT was hosting a conference that was built around biological communication and new ventures into science. We sat back down and decided to start back from scratch. We went back at it and selected a new protein, solidified it, and got all of the musical data to start writing our piece for submission. We were planning on actually driving up to Boston, but with covid that really put our plans in awry. It was held virtually but it was a really good experience to be able to talk to so many different people from that area and get an idea of their thoughts when it comes to different projects and ideas. I’m planning on going back again this year. Our group really wants to keep our ideas fresh so we’ve been thinking of integrating new ideas with the project like animation or even being able to communicate how our thought process worked. 

Naman and Terry are sternly looking directly into the camera while sitting next to each other.
Terry and Naman cofounded the ArtSci Symposium.

Could you tell us about the initiative, ArtSci, that you two co-founded?

Terry: It started off when we were having lunch outside the student center. I had approached the idea to Naman and said, “What if, and hear me out, we have a symposium where we revolutionize how research posters are presented?” We wanted to figure out a way to change the way in which research posters had been incorporated up to this point because at the time we were learning about having creative outlets for communicating certain things.

With research posters, we wanted to change the foundation of it and have them more focused on communicating the desired message in a more effective manner within the mathematical and graphic design portion of posters. For myself, I remember looking at the examples in classes versus the things that I see in the Science Hall.

I would just wonder what happened if you know, the traditional signs were posted? This mindset was an idea that came up before but it wasn’t as developed as we would have liked it. When I approached Naman with the idea I remember saying, “I really think you can do this.” I knew of Naman’s strengths and I knew that we both had skill sets that would complement each other as well compensate for our own weaknesses. After that lunch we decided to work together from then on. 

Naman: The original idea was something that was proposed a year or two back. We wanted to hold our own research symposium. But at the same time, because we cater to such a broad range of research, we were very self aware and questioned as to how we can make this interesting or something new. The main research symposium that was held on campus had been canceled for the past two years due to Covid, and the person that ran it, Dr. Gregory Hecht, had retired. So there was this vacancy and we saw that kind of as an opportunity to capitalize on.

Naman and Terry pose with campus greenery in the background.

Naman: During our discussions of the research symposium we knew that we wanted to make it unique in some way because a lot of the supervisions that are held on campus are a one-and-done type of ordeal where you make your poster, present and then you’re done. For both Terry and I, we wanted to put some sort of spin on it, something that would help people actually understand the message of what is trying to be conveyed.

If you go to a standard research symposium it has a lot of texts, a lot of diagrams and a lot of graphs. You’ll be standing there and trying to absorb all that information from somebody who’s not from that specific field which only makes it increasingly more difficult in such an arduous environment. If you’re looking at multiple research posters in the same day, that’s a lot of information for anybody to take in; so, we wanted to distill that process down and make it easier for anybody and make it more accessible for people from all backgrounds to understand the work that’s being put forth by the researchers and the artists.

Our rationale for this idea was to pair together scientists and labs with artists and graphic designers so that two to come can come together and sort of create posters and presentations that effectively communicate the type of work that the researchers are doing in a cohesive and synthesized manner. We sat on that idea for a long time. Before we could get to the point where we wanted to be we had to do a lot of pre-planning. Any idea after thinking critically on it is exceptional in theory, but the nuts and bolts of the idea is extremely intensive. For us, we had to think of ideas such as “Where is it going to be held and when is it going to be held? How much is our budget going to be? Where are we going to spend the money? How are we going to spend the money? How can we get other organizations at fault to potentially either help out, either on the artistic or the scientific aspects? What are additional sources of funding? What are other concerns?”

As most Rowan students know, the university is continuing to get larger within the most immediate sense as well as its general presence. We saw this as a potential joining of the Rowan University students and Glassboro community where people of all backgrounds regardless of circumstances can come and appreciate the work that other researchers have done in an accessible manner. For us, we wanted to make it so that anybody can walk in.  Our whole goal was to make it so that even someone as young as a  sixth grader can walk in and understand everything that’s being presented. This is a very unique opportunity for us to get engaged within the local community, specifically Glassboro and the different communities around it.

There was a lot of planning that we did and there were a lot of people that helped us out along the way. The team ended up being close to around 15 people. We had divvied up the work where there were volunteers who were strictly involved with just the planning committee. Thankfully, our head of volunteers, David Lee, did a lot of work in organizing potential volunteers who were there for both setup and teardown. David and his group helped with reaching out to different departments and finding different sorts of researchers, as well as people who can sort of help us out in this heavy endeavor. We did a lot of work in just [getting] the word [out] on our project and letting both communities know that the symposium was happening. 

Naman and Terry are standing on the Bunce Hall stairs.

You previously stated that accessibility is one of your core values. What made you come to this realization that the current standard of art and scientific diagrams are not as accessible as it should be?

Terry: I think one of the core motivators for us that I forgot to mention was this whole thing sort of was born out of the tension that was between health care and politics that sort of arose from the pandemic. With some people, they shared their own opinions such as not wanting to get vaccinated or not wanting to wear masks for several reasons, such as personal values and beliefs. Although people are allowed to think what they wish, there’s also a degree of not really understanding the scientific aspect of why it’s so important to have this certain action be done as a community.

There are some people you won’t be able to convince no matter what, but there are some who are willing to listen, as long as they understand what you’re trying to communicate. There is an abundance of research that’s being done and a lot of times, you don’t hear about it. Because for instance, you either don’t understand the ideas that are being argued or the information just isn’t accessible. For us and ArtSci, we want to sort of have a centralized place where the research was going to be presented in a way that people could easily understand it with no exclusions. 

You two provide an interesting perspective with Biomedical Art, what made you think of incorporating art into your studies? 

Terry: For me, it’s always been about how easily you can communicate things. If you think of an art museum, or even like a location such as the Natural Science Museum, everything that you see there, you’re not going to see paragraphs and paragraphs of texts. Instead, you’re going to see vibrant exhibits, diagrams and models which are all presented to help visually communicate what the researcher is attempting to argue or convey. At these sorts of spots, you’re not going there to read articles on whatever it is that they are presenting, instead it is presented in a physical concept. A lot of these creative disciplines are very linked to the way we think and the way we talk and the way we communicate with each other. If I say the word apple, you’re not going to think of the word apple; you would think of the actual physical object associated with the word.

Things like that are very important. Just in the way that we communicate as people, presenting things in a way that’s like all very technically correct, in terms of, you know, lots of text, lots of figures, diagrams, and statistics, it doesn’t always immediately click in terms of like, what’s actually being presented and it being completely understood. For myself, I’ve had experiences like this happen such as when I was sitting in a lab meeting, and I was being shown tons of graphs and charts. At the time, I was listening to my lab mates discuss the research that they were doing and I zoned out completely. I had no idea what they were talking about, even though everything was written I had retained none of the information. This is something that I face on a day-to-day basis, but with creative disciplines, it delineates from this monistic way of thought.

Naman and Terry are leaning against a railing standing side by side.

How do you feel as if you’re going to adapt and integrate new ideas into the art side? What is the vision like for that right now?

Naman: That’s a great question for our future team. They are very much interested in expanding our original vision. I will say our first plan was a little bit delusional and a little bit naive. We were thoughtful in our planning, but we were overshooting the hell out of it. But I think the new team realizes the mistakes that we made because the people who were on the new team also worked on the old team.

The new team was there to watch which steps we took in order to actualize our original vision. For example, the new team is already aware of hiring more people to help out with communication, because there are plenty of scientists and researchers at the University, but there’s not enough people to actually sit down and communicate the ideas. So being able to have a more diverse group of people to communicate that research to me, is very important. 

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Story by:
Lucas Taylor, graduate English education 

Photography by:
Ashley Craven, sports and communication major

Rowan Alumnus and Band Director Mike Massaro on Music Education

Music education alumnus Mike Massaro plays the trumpet wearing a red polo shirt.

Today we feature a Q and A with 2020 Rowan Music Education graduate Mike Massaro, the middle school band director at Kingsway Regional Middle School and coach for the Rowan Youth Jazz Orchestra. Music is a passion of Mike’s, and it all started for him at an early age. He talks about the journey he has been on with the art, his teaching position and the importance of learning music.

Where did your passion for music stem from?

I can think back through my life of how I got progressively more involved with music, but it all started back when I was a little kid. When my grandmother would be driving me in her car, I’d be in the backseat. And she put in this cassette tape. The first track on it was “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong, and I would sing along in the back and I’d hum along.

I always knew that I liked music a lot. As I got older, eventually I joined band when I was in elementary school, got in the jazz band when I was in middle school.

But it was really when I got into the high school jazz band and my high school band director believed in me a lot, that I knew that this was something that I wanted to spend a life in.

What was the exact moment that you were like, this is what I want to do for my life?

The moment that I realized I wanted to go into music was actually the moment that music had gotten taken away from me. When I was a sophomore in high school, I always used to come right home from school, and I’d go up to my room and I’d practice trumpet right away.

One time that winter break, I was hanging out with a bunch of my friends and we were just being silly sophomores in high school, throwing stuff around the basement. I got hit in the face by a toy and my lip busted, which is not good for trumpet players. I couldn’t play trumpet for about a month or two. So, I would come home and in that time where I previously used to practice, I would just go up and sit, and just keep an icepack on my face, and not do anything. And it was boring. It wasn’t fun, it was depressing.

I realized, if this is what my life is without music, why would I go into anything but music?

Mike is sitting down and looking off to the left.
Mike Massaro (above) wrote a piece for Rowan Blog while a student; read that here.

Why did you choose Rowan for music?

There were a lot of factors that went into me choosing Rowan for music, but ultimately what it came down to was the professors that I knew I would be studying under, and the individual attention that I knew I’d be receiving.

I can tell, looking at Rowan, that every single professor truly cares about every single student that is involved in their program. Through my time learning with all these professors, I was able to get to know them all so personally, and so closely. Looking at myself now as a teacher, I’m able to look at anything I do and pick apart almost sort of where I got that from, which professor kind of instilled that in me and how it’s grown ever since that.

You knew that you wanted to continue with music, but when did you decide that you wanted to teach it?

So for me, I realized I wanted to go into music in a very finite moment. However, realizing that I wanted to teach music was more of a progressive thing.

It was probably around my junior year in high school, I had gotten a lot more opportunities to teach other students. I was running sectionals, I was just getting to work with a lot of younger students, and I started to really like that feeling of knowing that somebody was getting better at music because of something that I was able to share with them.

I started to fall in love with that feeling so much. I realized it was really what was keeping me going. It was my big spark in life and I knew that I wanted to live with that for the rest of my life.

Mike is sitting in a tree playing the saxophone.

Can you talk a little bit more about the relationships that you have with the students and the inspiration that their growth brings?

Sure. I believe in all of my students, I believe any one of them can truly achieve what they want to, especially in music. I can look at all of them and see so much of my past self and see so much of my past friends from when I was in their shoes. But I can also see so much new in all of them. There’s so many new ideas that they all bring to the table, so many new things that they want to try, and new things that they’re able to accomplish.

Every student is at a different level. I don’t expect all of my students to achieve the same things. We all start at different levels and we all end at different levels. But ultimately, what my relationship with my students is based off of is progress, and seeing that we’re all able to grow together at the same time.

Music education seems to be one of the first programs that always gets cut. Why do you believe music education is vital to help students build on their skill set?

To anybody that’s asking why music should be in schools, why is music education important? I ask the question, what would your life be without music? it’s something that surrounds us everywhere that we go. We’re in the car, we’re in the store, we go to concerts, we can hear these birds around me right now. Any sound can be considered music.

I think establishing a relationship with that art is one of the most important things that any young student can experience, because it truly exposes them to the world that is around them in a more personal and connected way than, in my opinion, any other field that is out there.

Mike is sitting and looking off to the right with a slight smile.

Can you kind of talk about how music can additionally teach kids math and language?

I definitely believe that music is a universal language. It encompasses so many of the other fundamental skills that we see. Math, rhythms are all math. Everyday pitches are all math, and in that same realm of math, it’s all science. Everything that we do is based around physics, It’s all based around acoustics.

In terms of language arts, English, literature and any other language you could possibly dream of, everything that we do is storytelling. It’s all based and structured around the same types of forms that we see in literature and stories. And, I mean if we’re talking history music has such a diverse and extensive and beautiful history throughout all of mankind. It truly does bring every single subject into play all at once, and you can take moments to isolate down and work with those specific subjects.

A side profile picture of Mike sitting and talking.

Whenever it comes to like the band, the orchestra, the jazz band, everybody has to be on the same page or the music fails. How is each individual person important, no matter if they’re the first chair with a big solo, or they’re the last chair?

Ultimately, our job as musicians in an ensemble has to pay respect to the original work that was written, that was composed. That composer wrote that work for a very specific purpose, for a very specific reason. Every single member of our team matters when it comes to making sure that reason can come to life. Whether it’s some situation where there’s one student on a part, like there is in a jazz ensemble, or there’s many students on a part, like there is in a wind ensemble. Every student matters, because again, we’re trying to pay respect to these words.

Ultimately, the melody doesn’t mean anything without the harmony. The harmony doesn’t mean anything without the melody. The drumbeat doesn’t mean anything without the melody and the harmony. It takes every single student to really create the story that we are trying to tell in there. And if you look at an activity like marching band, there’s nowhere to hide on the field. Every single student has a role. There is no bench, all of our students are on 100% of the time.

As a music education teacher, how do you keep everybody engaged evenly?

When it comes to keeping all of the students in the room engaged all the time, I’m constantly asking myself what their skill set is in three different perspectives. I’m looking at the individual skill sets, the skill sets of their sections. Like the trumpets, the alto sax is the percussion section, and then the skill set of the full ensemble.

I think the hardest part about being a band director is finding the balance between managing those three skill sets increasing all at once. ‘m constantly asking myself, is this challenge enough for this student? Is it too much? I want to push the bar for everybody individually, just how I can at the right pace.

The same goes for their sections, they grow together through their sections and ultimately ensemble goes together. So, I’m constantly listening and assessing their growth on those three levels. 

Mike is smiling and holding his saxophone.

What do you feel is the importance of having somebody to guide the students? What was the importance for you to have professors that show you the way and sparks your love for music?

I tell my students all the time, the most important thing that I could ever teach them is how to teach themselves. I always want to be there to give them the material that they need when they are ready for it. And when they are ready to take those next steps, I will push them to do it. But ultimately, I’m not the one playing the instruments. That’s them. I’m not the one sitting in the group playing that is that is them.

I want to constantly be giving them the skills that they need to take any inspiration in any musical knowledge that they can, and use it to make themselves be the best version of themselves that they can.

You touched on this earlier, but could you dive deeper on the overall experience that you’ve got with your professors and how they’ve shaped you as a musician?

One of the most important interactions that I had with a professor when I was at Rowan, was with one of my professors who was actually a middle school band director at a local middle school. This was the day that I realized I wanted to teach middle school.

I went out there on one of my practicums, which was through the ED major, and I saw what he was doing with his students and the level that they were performing. I was completely unaware that middle schoolers can perform at that level. That was the moment where I said, I want to be able to do this.

I was able to talk with this professor for a while afterwards and he talked to me about being a musician, being a teacher, and how important it is to teach to my own musicianship. Everything that I learned in my ensembles, at Rowan, whether it was in jazz band with Denis [DiBlasio], wind ensemble with Dr. Higgins, or my trumpet lessons with with Brian [Appleby-Wineberg], no matter what it was that I learned, these were all things that built my musicianship up.

Ultimately, as a teacher, I’m constantly teaching to what I know. As a musician, I’m constantly pulling from those experiences. So, how did my experiences at Rowan shape myself as a teacher? They built my musicianship. They made me who I was, as a musician. They exposed me to so many different situations and types of music and opportunities, that I was able to take all these things, and now share them with my students who can now evolve on them themselves, teaching to my musicianship.

Another shot of Mike playing the saxophone in the same location.

What is the importance of being able to teach music for grades K-12?

Like I said earlier, music is universal. I think in music, having experience teaching every single grade level can only be beneficial for you. One of the time periods of my most intense growth was during my student teaching, when I was actually teaching kindergarten. I taught K through five general music and it was so much fun. I learned so much more about the teaching process in that time period, through working with kindergarteners, first graders, and second graders. Seeing how they received information and seeing how important structure was.

Music is cool in the fact that from the time we’re young, when we first experience it, and we’re in our music classes in kindergarten, second grade, and all that stuff, we’re working on what is essentially the same set of fundamentals from then all the way up to the professional level. The only thing that changes is the amount of it that we’re able to receive. And of course, yes, concepts become more and more advanced as you get older, but I perceive that as the amount of information that we’re able to receive. Being able to teach at the younger levels and at the older levels is incredibly beneficial, because seeing how people learn and how they receive this information really helps establish what comes next.

Mike is smiling while holding his saxophone

What is your role in youth jazz? How did you get involved?

I am the coach for the Rowan Youth Jazz Orchestra. This is a brand new program that is being offered through the Rowan Community Music School, to middle school and high school aged students. I got involved through this shortly after I graduated, I got a call from my former student teaching supervisor who had become the head of the Rowan Community Music School, the director of the school. She called me asking if I would want to hop on board with this new group. I said, Absolutely. We did a semester through Zoom and then we just finished our first full year of in person ensemble rehearsals and performances this year. It’s so fun being able to work alongside Skip Spratt, who is just an absolute amazing educator and musician overall, learning so much from it. I’m glad that I’m able to learn and teach these things at the same time.

How do you find a balance between your teaching and your musicianship?

Finding the balance between the teacher side of things, and the musician side of things can be very difficult at times. But again, I always do everything I can to not compromise the music and exchange for the things that come on the teacher side of things such as, the procedures, the logistics, the discipline.

I make sure that my students know my expectations as early and as upfront as possible, so that we can get right into the music as quickly and as efficiently as we possibly can. The more that side of things is running, the easier it can be for all of us to just experience what we want to get out of the music that is in front of us.

Mike is sitting and looking off right.

We know that middle schoolers obviously have a shorter attention span. How do you kind of deal with the different environment of middle school compared to college, where you are just coming from?

In college, the music that we’re performing and practicing and playing is consistently at the highest level that is available. In middle school, for most of the students, that is their first time really getting to experience music in this capacity. I often have to take a step back a lot of times and remind myself that it is the first time for the students going through this and that they can’t be expected to know all of these high-level concepts, or even sometimes, just know what to do in any given situation.

That is my job as an educator, to teach them what to do in these situations. So for me, I have to go back to square one and ask myself if I was in their chair, what would the next thing I would need to accomplish be? And then from there, I step into teacher mode and say, how can I help these students accomplish this next step?

Being there for their sort of first interaction with music, have you had that opportunity where you see a spark for the love of music in a student’s eyes? If you have what does that feel like?

Yeah. So for most schools, our pay days on the 15th, and the 30th. That’s cool and all, but for me, the real pay day is when students have those moments of those big realizations. Those, oh that’s it type of moments when they really get something and it’s clear that it locks in, and they actually understand it. That is my pay day. That is when I really understand and that’s when I really feel the reward of what I’m working for. When the students get to experience and when they take that next step, and when they really love what they’re doing. 

Mike is leaning on a tree while smiling and holding his saxophone to his chest.

How do you describe Rowan for someone to come here to further their music education?

The beautiful thing about majoring in Music Education at Rowan is that you’re going to be constantly surrounded by professors who care about you. Like I was talking about earlier, every single professor that I had believed in me and was patient with me through my learning process, and gave me the tools that I needed to figure it out and to succeed on my own. I had such a different college experience than a lot of my friends. We were all looking for different things. But whatever it was that we were looking for, our professors were able to help us achieve that and find that and live that.

So for any student that is looking into Rowan, no matter what it is that you want to accomplish with your time in college, these professors in this department is there for you to make sure that can happen.

Watch our video feature of Mike here:

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Jada Johnson, political science major

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Alumnus Dominic Whitener on Using His Passion for Exercise Science to Help Others

Dom is working on cast mold in the lab.

Can you explain what Exercise Sciences is? Exercise Science is essentially looking at exercise from a more quantitative and qualitative background. So it’s more taking apart the exercise, looking at what happens in the body physiologically, anatomically, and really breaking down all of that to really get the most efficient form of exercise and apply […]

Rowan Innovation Venture Fund Winners, Alumni Mike Lombardo and Kayvon Jahanbakhsh Share Their Story

Halfday Tonics product

Rohrer College of Business graduates Mike Lombardo and Kayvon Jahanbakhsh turned their journey to better health into a lucrative iced tea business: Halfday Tonics, with the help of the Rowan Innovation Venture Fund

Every great business starts with an idea, and Rowan University alumni Mike Lombardo and Kayvon Jahanbakhsh were inspired for their healthy iced tea early on.

“Years ago I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis,” Kayvon says. “For those who don’t know, ulcerative colitis is a very debilitating digestive disease. I was training to be an Olympic swimmer, so this diagnosis really set back my progress. Part of dealing with that diagnosis was giving up a lot of sugary products that I really liked because sugar is not good for gut health. Mike was here at Rowan and embarking on his own health journey at the time as well. He was trying to lose weight and get in shape because, in college, it’s pretty easy to not be the healthiest. Essentially, we were both pushing each other to be more healthy. We used the idea of a healthy iced tea for a school project, so it all started from a health journey.” 

Mike and Kayvon in Business Hall
Rowan Innovation Venture Fund winners Mike Lombardo (left) and Kayvon Jahanbakhsh

Co-founder Mike Lombardo says Halfday Tonics “is the iced tea revamp that we’ve all been waiting for. We make classic iced tea flavors with a fraction of the sugar, around 90% less than those classics that we all grew up with. Halfday Tonics also contains prebiotic fibers, which is good for gut health.” 

That journey to a healthier lifestyle turned into something much bigger with help from investors. Kayvon talks about how the pair got introduced to the Rowan Innovation Venture Fund

“When Mike and I first took our entrepreneurship class in 2018, we had Dr. Dominic, and he had told us about the Rowan Innovation Venture Fund, which helps fund students that have their own startup ideas.”

Mike explained that when the time came, the duo was ready to show their stuff. “It took us months to prepare for the pitch deck for Halfday Tonics. It was a lot of going over the numbers, understanding what the market share was, and developing our financial model, which all took a long time. We wanted to make sure everything was buttoned up before presenting to the Rowan Innovation Venture Fund because it is a really seasoned program. We had already been pitching and fundraising with other investors, so we were able to jump in and were ready to go.” 

Mike and Kayvon are posing confidently behind their product.

Their hard work paid off and Halfday Tonics reaped the benefits. Kayvon explains the impact the Rowan Innovation Venture Fund had on their business.

“We had raised 425,000 prior to the Rowan Innovation Venture Fund. Rowan came in at the end and gave us $75,000. This gave us a lot of validation within the investment community. It was nice to have an institution come into the round at such an early stage of the company and back us. That funding made us more legitimate to other investors in the community. The money itself helped us with stocking inventory and marketing materials.”

Although the pair faced rejection along the way, they never gave up hope or let it deter them. Kayvon says, “You’d be amazed at the number of emails that we sent. At least 100, 200, 300 emails were sent, and a lot of the responses were no’s.”

What helped Kayvon and Mike persevere through the rejection was using their connections. “There is a lot that can be done with a well-worded email or even a cold outreach on LinkedIn. Tapping into those connections is important because even if it doesn’t work out, you got more practice with pitching,” Mike says. 

Mike and Kyvon with Halfday Tonics product
Mike (left) and Kayvon with products from their Halfday Tonics line.

Both Kayvon and Mike were successful in garnering the funds needed to finance their idea, but just as any journey, it was not without its disturbances. However, the pair was able to learn from these different business issues and experience what it’s like to start up their brand. When asked of the different ordeals that they faced, Kayvon recalled instances that challenged them, but ultimately prepared them for their future endeavors.

Kayvon says, “Starting a business out of college, I think, is one of the most difficult things you could do. It works to your advantage because you have the naivety and you don’t necessarily perceive the risks as gravely as maybe someone that worked in the industry, but you don’t get the ability to understand the industry from a very fundamental level as if you worked at a beverage company before.”

Even with their growing pains as a newly-started brand, both Kayvon and Mike did not let challenges cloud their vision. Instead, any hurdles provided the duo with some much-needed perspective in regards to how far they’ve come and what they can do to keep what they have going. On this self reflection, Mike believes that “the highs are high and the lows are low. That’s the truest thing that I ever heard. And it still holds true today.”

Mike and Kayvon drinking Halfday Tonics product

Looking ahead, the duo wants to see Halfday Tonics in all convenience stores near you.

See our video with Mike and Kayvon here:

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Loredonna Fiore, public relations and advertising graduate

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Stephanie Batista, senior business management major

Alumni Success: “What’s Good” with Isaiah Showell ‘15, Multimedia Journalist and Local Storyteller

Isaiah interviews a subject for What's Good.

Isaiah Showell of Atlantic County has hosted and produced more than 100 videos spotlighting the people, places and programs of South Jersey communities for the series “What’s Good,” which he founded in 2017. Isaiah, who graduated with a Journalism degree from the Ric Edelman College of Communication and Creative Arts, shares his own South Jersey […]

Passing the Torch: International Studies Grad Griffin Lallier Looks Ahead

Griffin poses next to a flower bush with his diploma.

Griffin Lallier, an International Studies major with minors in Political science and Geography and a CUGS in sustainable urbanism, is a commuter student from Williamstown, NJ (Gloucester County).

Griffin looks off into the distance in front of Bunce Hall.

As a commuter, Griffin could still make many friends. He shares the best ways he found to make friends at Rowan. 

“Go to any of the social events that have been on campus, such as events held by RAH or SUP. Also, go to any of the events that professors talk about in class or any events the department is holding. It’s fun to hang out with fellow students. Being a part of clubs and activities has been a great way for me to meet a bunch of different people from so many walks of life,” he says.

Griffin talks about the clubs and organizations he was involved in where he made friends.

I’m involved in a couple of different things. While it’s not really a club, I am an Admissions Ambassador. I’ve been an Admissions Ambassador for just a little under two years now and we’re the people that give tours around campus and be the faces of campus. Aside from that, I’ve been heavily involved in RIPPAC, which is the Rowan Institute of Public Policy and Citizenship. We’re an organization that prepares students for dealing with matters of public policy and legalities. We get to meet a lot of really great high-end people in politics in New Jersey. I am also in the Spanish Student Association,” Griffin explains.

He shares his favorite moment of being involved on campus.

“Aside from just hanging out with people on campus and being in the Admissions Ambassadors, there was a moment last spring. One of our graduating seniors, Allison Mosley, was a Biomedical Art and Visualization major. She had an art show for her final, and so she invited all the Admissions Ambassadors to go. All of us got dressed. We treated it like a Met Gala sort of thing and it was so much fun. We all had pizza there and we all just hung out with one another. It was such a great night because not only did we get to celebrate her academic accomplishments, but we also got to have that fun, carefree atmosphere that anybody in college is always looking forward to. I think that’s probably my favorite memory that I’ve ever had.”

Griffin jumps and throws his graduation cap in the air in front of the Rowan arch.

Griffin describes his major as interesting and interdisciplinary.

“Being an International Studies major, it is very interdisciplinary. You learn a lot about so many things in terms of political science, anthropology, economics and all that. But with that, you also have to be prepared to do the research. It might sound intimidating, but when you do the research, your professors are always there to help you, so it’s a great balancing act. If you do a little of this, your professors will go a mile to help. So really, just get the chance to do the research and then get the chance to get to know your professors. That is the best way to succeed in this major.”

Griffin looks back and advises his high school senior self on making it through college.

“There are two things. Stop procrastinating. You need to get it together, dude. But also go easy on yourself. College is hard for everybody. Thinking that you need to have everything in your life figured out freshman year is completely unrealistic. It’s not sustainable for your own academic career or your mental health. Honestly, taking things as they go and proactively working on what’s going on at your current moment is the best way to make a successful college career.”

This summer, Griffin is interning with Welcome America, a company that partners with Wawa, in their marketing department. After the internship, Griffin hopes to take a year to work and then start applying for master’s in environmental policy programs.

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Story by:
Rachel Rumsby, junior communication studies and public relations double major

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Stephanie Batista, junior business management major

Passing the Torch: Outgoing RA Loredonna Fiore Reflects On Her Experiences

Loredonna throws her cap up in the air in front of the Rowan arch.

Loredonna Fiore is a recent graduate who majored in Public Relations and Advertising with a minor in Communication Studies from Elk Township, NJ (Gloucester County).

Loredonna poses with a diploma.

As a Resident Assistant in the Rowan Boulevard Apartments, most recently, Loredonna had an outstanding experience. Loredonna even attributes her closest friendships to being an RA.

“I was a commuter my first year on campus, and it was honestly hard for me to feel like I had like a place on campus. It wasn’t until I got involved and put myself out there that I started making my true friends, and I always say that becoming an RA helped me find my place and home on campus.”

Loredonna’s favorite memory as an RA was always summer training. 

All the RAs from all different areas all have to be in the same room, and it’s a really long process during the summer. My favorite part is always training because we’re all together as a staff, getting closer and bonding. This year, we did a lip-sync battle, and it was just so much fun. That’s definitely a favorite memory of mine,” she says.

Loredonna poses next to a tree.

Looking back, Loredonna says her high school senior self needed advice on friendship.

I would say I would tell my high school self that it’s definitely a matter of quality over quantity when it comes to your friendships. Often, society tells you if you don’t have all these friends and these big girl groups that you’re failing in your friendships. I would give my younger self the advice that true friends really click with you and they know your heart and they know you as a person. It’s ok if that’s only like one or two really true good friends.”

Aside from being an RA, Loredonna was active on campus in other roles. 

I have an elevated leadership role in Resident Life as an Assistant Resident Director. I’m also a Digital Content Contributor for Rowan Blog, so I get to meet many student leaders on campus, interview them and hear their stories.” 

In the fall, Loredonna is pursuing her master’s degree in Mass Communication and Journalism at the University of Georgia. She is also starting a Graduate Assistantship as a Resident Director upon graduation.

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Story by:
Rachel Rumsby, senior communication studies and public relations double major

Passing the Torch: Theatre Educator Nick Flagg

Nick poses in front of some flowers

Theatre and Advertising graduate Nick Flagg is excited about the next scene of his journey. A commuter student from Williamstown, NJ (Gloucester County), Nick is going into his second and final year of the Combined Advanced Degree Program (CADP) for the Master of Science in Teaching in Theatre Education

The program is basically an accelerated track where students start grad courses while in undergrad. It’s pretty beneficial because you don’t have to take all the classes at once. You get to dip your toes in the water a little, which is nice. It’s an easy transition,” Nick explains. “Also, it’s super affordable, mainly because the first year is done during undergrad. It’s really exciting. I am doing it with many of my friends too, so I’m not alone. I’m really excited to start student teaching next year.”

Nick poses with a diploma.

Nick is gaining experience over the summer to get a jumpstart on his career. 

“I work right down the road at the Broadway Theatre of Pitman as an actor, and I just got hired as a director for their summer camp. I’ll be directing a kid’s show for 5 to 9-year-olds called Seussical. I’m excited to start and continue teaching around the area. I teach in Millville at the Levoy Theatre, I’ve taught at the Grand Theater in Williamstown, and I’m excited to work some more right down the road at the Broadway Theatre of Pitman.”

After taking a peek into what is in store for his immediate future, Nick reflects on his favorite moment at Rowan.

“Right before COVID shut down the campus, I was involved in Urinetown, the musical, directed by Michael Dean Morgan. The day before the shutdown, we spread the word and got many people in the Tohill Theatre to come to see what we had done, since we wouldn’t get to perform it. We didn’t have all the technical elements yet, or our costumes, but our tech professors still pulled through and did lighting on the spot for a big open dress rehearsal. The run was one of the coolest things I’ve ever experienced because I’ve never felt so much applause and support in a room. People knew we worked so hard for the show. Hearing that roar of applause from so many supportive people is something I’ll always remember.”

Nick, left, laughs with his friends in their graduation attire under the Rowan arch.
Nick, left, laughs with his friends.

Nick reflects on what advice he would give to himself senior year of high school.

Do what makes you happy and to continue to seek out opportunities that make you happy, and not just opportunities that you think will make you appear a certain way. Do things you think will fulfill you and push you further, even if it’s not what everyone else is doing.”

From his experience at Rowan, Nick gives incoming Profs some advice.

Soak up every opportunity. Be eager to audition for everything, but also be eager to take what you’ve learned here, and implement it in other artistic areas within the community outside of Rowan, and really make sure you take what you learn and apply it as soon as you can. But don’t be afraid to audition. Just always look to be creative. Always think about who you’re making your work for and who’s digesting your work.”

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Rachel Rumsby, senior communication studies and public relations double major

Passing the Torch: How Tiana Howard Made the Most of Her Time at Rowan

Tiana poses in the garden.

Looking back at these past four years, first-generation college student Tiana Howard from Trenton, NJ (Mercer County) is grateful for her time at Rowan.

Tiana throws her cap in front of the Rowan arch.

I want to say that Rowan has shaped not only my four years since I’ve been here, but the rest of my life. I think it was a great experience as a whole,” she says.

Tiana looks back at who she was as a high school senior and advises her to love herself. She ended up as a Communication Studies major with concentrations in honors and rhetorical criticism.

“I felt that coming into Rowan, I had to change who I was and create a personality for myself that was different from who I was. I switched my major five times, trying to fit into what society tells us we’re supposed to do after we graduate. But, I ended up majoring in Communication Studies and finding something that I loved when I was true to myself. So, I would just tell her to love herself and be content with who she is.”

She reflects on the best way she found to make friends. 

“The summer before my freshman year, I met many friends at the Pre-College Institute through the ASCEND program. While at Rowan, I found that meeting friends was easier when I was in a club or at an on-campus activity.”

Tiana shows off her graduation cords and stoles in a garden.

Although she had to say goodbye to her clubs, Tiana enjoyed the festivities that came with it. 

“My favorite moment of being involved on campus is probably at the end of my senior year when every single club or organization that you’re a part of gives out the stoles or cords and you get mini graduation ceremonies. Even though saying goodbye is sad, it’s really great to just be in a community with all the people that you’ve been with for four years. They wish you well for the future.”

Tiana was involved with many clubs and organizations on campus, including being part of Strong Tower Family, president of Mu Sigma Upsilon Sorority, Incorporated, and being an Admissions Ambassador

Tiana is looking forward to her internship over the summer with the ASCEND Office as an Interpersonal Counselor. She is hoping to start a dual master’s degree program in social work and public health in the fall.

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Rachel Rumsby, junior communication studies and public relations double major

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Passing the Torch: Outgoing SGA President Matthew Beck’s Parting Advice and Rowan Legacy

Matthew Beck stands in front of Bunce Hall.

“Put yourself out there, take those opportunities, because if you ask for them and are looking for them, then the opportunities will come.” From leading the student body to interning for the company he will now join after graduation, Mechanical Engineering major Matthew Beck of Monmouth County stayed open to new possibilities throughout his Rowan […]

Passing the Torch: Future Public Health Educator Keyanna Meade

After transferring from Monmouth University, Nutrition major Keyanna Meade from Marlton, NJ (Burlington County) found many opportunities at Rowan. 

Keyanna poses under the Rowan arch.

Keyanna enjoyed getting out into the community to do research.

“I joined Dr. Vaughn’s lab in my junior year in the fall semester, and I absolutely loved it. It is a little independent and a little teamwork-based. We meet weekly,” she said. “I think getting involved with research in the community is something different. Everybody knows about research within the lab, but it was nice to do research within the community and for the community. “

Beyond research opportunities at Rowan, Keyanna made connections and found an internship.

“I interned with New Jersey Food Democracy Collaborative (NJFDC) over the school year. I just got signed on to a project where we’re going to do a food audit for Atlantic City. Dr. Vaughn reached out to a colleague of hers and recommended me to work with them.

Keyanna walks in her graduation outfit.

Keyanna recommends that other students get involved with research where they can.

“If you can do research, definitely do research. Doctor Vaughn is always looking for people to help. Definitely surround yourself with opportunities like internships or a work-study that’s focusing on your majors so that it helps you in the future.”

Keyanna advises her high school senior self to be more involved.

Make sure you get involved. Make sure you speak to your counselors about different things that you’re interested in. Look at other opportunities that you’re interested in, and even if it’s just like an idea or a little thing, just see where it can take you because you never know what your interest is. It might take you into college and you never know if you might switch your major or decide that you no longer want to do that major. Definitely take advantage of internships and other opportunities.”

In the future, Keyanna would like to be a public health educator.

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Rachel Rumsby, junior communication studies and public relations double major

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Stephanie Batista, junior business management major

Passing the Torch: College of Performing Arts Graduate Kaya Snow on “Maximizing Your Opportunities”

Kaya smiles, holds her diploma.

Dance and Theatre Arts double major Kaya Snow of Morris County will tell you the connections you make offstage are just as important as the ones onstage — they may even help land you your next gig.  “I don’t always have to apply to jobs that are in my field, specifically, because I get references […]

Passing the Torch: Passionate First-Generation College Student Shirley Celi-Landeo

A proud first-generation college student from Newark, NJ (Essex County), Shirley Celi-Landeo is an Anthropology and Modern Language and Linguistics double major. She has concentrations in medical and forensic anthropology, and concentrations in Spanish, German, and Arabic. Shirley is minoring in Latin American Studies and has three certificates of undergraduate studies in Spanish, German, and Forensic Studies.

Shirley poses in a garden.

Shirley looks back at how she made friends on campus.

“I made friends in the Educational Opportunity Fund through the Pre-College Institute and through all the clubs that I’m involved in, especially in Greek life. I just became a sister in the Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Incorporated. With that involvement, I was able to make more bonds on-campus, make more friends, and do a lot more.”

Shirley advises her high school self to take risks.

“Don’t be scared. Take risks, even if it seems kind of cringey and scary, especially coming into a PWI and not having the family support. Do whatever is offered to gain the opportunity to gain the experience. I’m grateful for coming to school across the state.”

Shirley poses outside of Bunce Hall.

A mentor in the Dr. Harley E. Flack mentorship program, Shirley reminisces about her favorite moments being a mentor. 

“My partner and I had to create an event or program for our mentees using a resource on campus. We paired up with the Flying First Task Force because a lot of our mentees are first-generation students. We were able to show them the resources on campus not only to them but open to the public. I was able to really get to know my partner as well as like getting to know my mentee a little more. I also developed a really good relationship with my supervisor.”

Shirley hopes to use her platform as a college graduate to help pave the way for others in her community and family.

I am a minority coming from the city of Newark where the stereotype is that you don’t graduate high school, let alone go to college and graduate college and go to grad school. I am not only the very first college graduate in my family, but I have younger siblings. My goddaughter looks up to me. The babies from my church from back home, I’ll be able to help them navigate when it comes to their time for college.”

Shirley poses in front of the Rowan arch.

Shirley advises current and incoming students to find what they love on-campus, join Greek life, and more.

“Greek life has been a huge thing in my life, and I just became a sister last semester. Also, don’t be scared when you change your major like 20 times like I did. I don’t regret any moments of changing my major. Don’t be scared, do what you gotta do. If you’re the first, be the first and pave the way for your family. Take the risk, and inspire more people.”

In the fall, Shirley will finish up her degree while applying to Rowan’s M.A. in Diversity and Inclusion program. Shirley hopes to go to law school in the future. 

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Rachel Rumsby, junior communication studies and public relations double major

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Alumni Success: Catherine Chambers ‘16, Where My Music Education Degree Has Taken Me

Catherine smiles and poses inside an academic building on campus.

What made you choose Rowan? What made you choose music? When I first started exploring colleges as a senior in high school, I really wanted to move far away from New Jersey and find my own way. I was set on not going to a state school, but I humored my mother and decided to […]

Enlighten, Engage, Entertain: The Mission of M.A. in Writing Graduate Leo Kirschner

Leo stands inside Rowan Radio offices.

Leo Kirschner is a champion of radio and sound. On air, he serves as assistant manager of the award-winning Rowan Radio station. On campus, he teaches for the department of Radio/TV/Film. He incorporated sound theory into a capstone project for his master’s degree in writing through Rowan Global. Read on to learn more about Leo’s research and graduate school journey.

Write the book that you want to read. A book to help others like you. 

That was the goal of Leo Kirshner as he set out to complete his capstone project to earn his M.A. in Writing, but that was easier said than done.

A lover of all things fantasy, the goal would have been easier to complete if books like “Lord of the Rings” or “Harry Potter” were available to choose. Though, as much as we love to dream that schools like Hogwarts or places like Middle Earth exist, they are only works of fiction. For Leo’s assignment, he needed to choose a work of nonfiction that aligned with his research interests of radio broadcasting as well as his mission statement: Enlighten, Engage and Entertain. 

Long before he was given this daunting task (and before Henry Rowan made his generous donation), Leo Kirshner was another student at Glassboro State College wondering what his next steps in life would be. While working to receive his undergraduate degree, Leo developed an interest in Radio and Television Broadcasting that he would pursue as a career after graduating. 

“I was working professionally in commercial broadcasting,” he shares. “I was writing and creating content, focusing on journalism and covering local stories for the news or for radio. I also worked as an advertising copywriter for car commercials, restaurants, and other stuff along those lines. Along with that, I did voiceover work for different commercials as well as producing.” 

He continued down this career path for the next 20 years before an opportunity to work at his alma mater would arise.

“My professor, Frank Hogan, who ran WGLS, was retiring, and they were bringing in a new team and wanted to know if I was interested in helping the department. I really wanted to give back to the community that helped me find success in my career.” 

Leo helps guides a student at Rowan Radio
Rowan Radio airs 24 hours a day with a broadcast signal that covers all of South Jersey as well as areas of Philadelphia and Delaware. It’s Leo’s pride and joy!

Leo would give back to the Rowan community by helping to run the Rowan Radio station and, though he enjoyed it, wanted to further lend a helping hand by diving into the world of academia. Since the school didn’t offer a master’s program in his initial career path, Leo decided to apply for the M.A. in Writing program through Rowan Global, something that greatly interested him. He was accepted based in large part on his portfolio filled with radio advertising, professional writing and creative writing that he writes on the side. 

“I started the program in the fall of 2016 and took it one semester at a time,” he says. “It’s like all other programs. You have your prerequisites, your core classes, your seminars and your electives. It was all in person prior to COVID. They were the double session classes, usually from 6:30 until 9:15. There were two semesters where I taught my broadcasting class from 3:30 to 6:15 and the grad program was the same day starting at 6:30. I was working full time, 40 hours a week in my job plus teaching, plus being a family man.” 

Managing it all wasn’t a simple task. During this time period, Leo experienced a health scare that made him step away from the program for almost a year and tried to make up for it by taking two classes a semester, something he describes as “the hardest thing I ever did.” 

In one semester between the two classes, Leo had completed 57 writing projects that he had done in the span of 16 weeks while simultaneously working 40 hours a week at Rowan, running the radio station and teaching his course on broadcasting. Not to mention, he still had a family to take care of and support.

“It probably would have been easier if I was younger or didn’t have as much responsibility, but I wanted to do the best just to see if I could do it, you know, and yeah, thankfully, I did.”

Leo on the air at the Rowan Radio Station
Did you know Rowan Radio first aired in 1964? Rowan Radio studios are currently located in the College of Communications and Creative Arts and Leo, seen here with Station Manager Derek Jones (left), is always nearby to lend a helping hand.

Despite all of this hardship, Leo’s greatest test would come in the form of the capstone project, the final project/thesis requirement for completion of the program. “It’s essentially the first or second draft of your proposed book that you’re going to eventually publish.”

For his capstone project, Leo would decide to write a nonfiction piece centered around the concept of acousmatics in the style of a textbook mixed with a memoir. Acousmatics can be defined as the influence that sounds have over people. It’s the podcast you listen to on your drive home or the music you play while you workout. How does it make you feel? What does it inspire you to think? 

Acousmatics comes to us from the Greek philosopher Pythagoras (yes, that Pythagoras), known for his favorite high school math equation as well as teaching his students behind a partition so that he was not visible. His students only heard his voice. It is this method of teaching that was the basis for Leo’s work. 

“You listen to the DJ,” Leo explains, “You listen to the commercial to my car, because it’s this worldly voice that makes you think it’s the voice of God, an otherworldly being trying to educate you, to inspire you. The goal of you being on the air is to engage, enlighten and entertain.”

Leo lending a helping hand to a student at Rowan Radio.
Much like Leo said, teaching is more than just sitting down with a textbook. It’s doing everything in your power to enlighten, engage and entertain your student.

Leo presented his project to his peers and professors at a week-long symposium held by the department. Students present their projects in a fashion similar to TED Talks with presentations lasting anywhere between 20-45 minutes. Due to the pandemic, Leo’s class was regulated to presenting their findings via Zoom, but the presentation wasn’t any less impactful. 

According to Leo, it was actually, “More fun!”

As for the project itself, it still remains unfinished. 

“The book is not done,” he shares. “I think I’m only halfway through it, I had my outline. But the project is going to be at least 30,000 words.”

As for who he hopes readers will be, the answer is obvious. It is those he hopes to enlighten, engage and entertain the most: his students.

[Learning and research] doesn’t have to be you sitting with a 500-page textbook,” he says, “It’s just you taking in an experience and learning from it.”

And we couldn’t agree more! For any student hoping go follow the same path as Leo and pursue their MA with the Rowan family, he offers the following words of wisdom:

“What I would tell any prospective M.A. student is that getting a master’s degree is everything you’d expect and nothing you’d expect. Yes, it’s going to take hard work. Yes, it’s going to be stressful. Yes, it’s going to give you self-doubt. But it also will offer you unique opportunities and perhaps change the direction of your life.”

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Story By: 
Bianca Gray, English graduate

Alumni Success: Music Performance Major, Clarinet Player Lia Boncouer ’20 Joins U.S. Navy Fleet Bands

Dr. Joseph Higgins leads a practice performance in Pfleeger Hall.

Today, we feature Lia Boncouer, who graduated from Rowan’s Music Performance program with a concentration in Clarinet Performance. Currently, Lia is completing her Master of Music degree at the University of Michigan. She discusses her undergraduate experience at Rowan, her journey to becoming a Music Performance major, and shares details on her recent acceptance of […]

Why Liliana Ferrara Chose Rowan for her Master’s Degree in Higher Education Administration

Liliana wears her graduation cap and gown.

Liliana Ferrara, a Rowan Global student in the MA in Higher Education: Administration program from Parsippany, NJ (Morris County), shares why she chose Rowan to pursue her graduate degree. 

Liliana is no stranger to Rowan University’s campus. As a proud Rowan alumna, Liliana graduated with a degree in Psychology and two minors in Sociology and Italian Studies. In fact, Liliana was the first person in Rowan’s history to graduate with an Italian Studies minor. During her undergraduate degree, Liliana also served as a resident assistant in Mimosa Hall and Nexus Apartments. 

Liliana grad photo
Liliana graduated from Rowan University with a degree in Psychology.

Knowing that she wanted to continue working in residential life, Liliana looked for programs that not only had a higher education program, but a graduate assistantship that would meet her needs.

“I interviewed at a few other schools through the MAPC conference and even got offered a few other positions. Rowan’s package and program was one I could not pass up,” Liliana says. “I loved Rowan so much during my undergraduate experience so it made the decision to come back so easy.” 

Now that she’s back on campus, Liliana talks about her adjustment into graduate level courses.

“My first semester was a nice introduction into the MA in Higher Education: Administration program. My professors really helped with the adjustment and made me feel comfortable,” Liliana says. “Now that I am in the second semester, it is definitely starting to feel more real. We are starting to talk about our research projects for next year and preparing for that.” 

Liliana and staff

So far, Liliana has enjoyed her time in the program and has connected with her professors. “Dr. Dale, who I had for Higher Education in America last semester, was really great. She gave me so much encouragement and support throughout the semester. I really valued that she was able to share so much of her experience in residential life because that is what I am passionate about. I was really able to connect with her on that level and hope to take her classes again next semester.”

Along with her coursework, Liliana has her hands full being a resident director of Rowan Boulevard Apartments.

“Although it is challenging to manage being a student and an RD, I have had such an amazing experience so far. I love getting to work with the RA’s on my staff and across campus. I wanted this job to help students and develop a close connection with them past the supervisory role. As an RD, I get to do just that,” she explains.

Liliana and staff pointing at her
Liliana (center) poses with members of the resident assistant staff.

Liliana can’t imagine being an RD anywhere else, either. “Being an RD at Rowan specifically gives you such a holistic experience in higher education. This assistantship stuck out to me because we get to do so much as graduate students. Whether it is working with the housing assignments team, supervising a staff, or serving in a duty rotation, this assistantship is so hands on. We really get to put the theory we learn in class into practice,” she says.

When asked to give advice to students who want to pursue a career in higher education, Liliana replies: “You really have to think about the work-life balance you want to achieve. In a field like residential life, it is so easy to get burnt out because there is a stigma that you have to work after hours to be great. I think it is really important to set boundaries so you can be successful in your work life and your personal life.” 

After graduation, Liliana wants to continue to work in residential life and maintain the work-life balance that is so important to her. 

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Story by:
Loredonna Fiore, senior public relations and advertising major

Photos courtesy of:
Liliana Ferrara and Residential Learning and University Housing Department 

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Rowan University Engineering Alum Shares Advice for Graduating Seniors

Jennifer in front of a sign.

Jennifer Roddy has had a flourishing career since graduating from Rowan University with a degree in Chemical Engineering in 2008. Profiled here for Rowan Blog, she currently serves as Director of GPS Business Development for Bristol Myers Squibb. As we celebrate this year’s graduates, Jennifer offers words of wisdom for future and fellow chemical engineers […]

Randy Bushman: A Rowan Global Student Starting a Career in Computer Science

Randy bushman header photo

Randy Bushman, a Rowan University alumnus who graduated with a degree in Computer Science, decided his alma mater would be a great fit to pursue his master’s degree. Now, this Rowan Global student is poised to begin his career at a world-renowned research institution just a few hours from campus. Read on to learn how Randy’s education and internships prepared him for his next chapter.

Randy gained a lot of valuable research experience while earning his undergraduate degree. Along with his coursework, he developed relationships with his professors that turned into opportunities.

“The computer science department has a collaboration with Bristol Myers Squibb, a pharmaceutical industrial company,” he explains. “A professor recommended me for an open research position during my undergrad, and I got a position designing software analysis for nuclear chemistry.” 

His momentum did not stop there. Randy learned of a scholarship opportunity called SFS: Scholarship for Service.

Randy sitting outside Rowan Hall.

“Basically, SFS is a program that offers tuition remission in exchange for employment with the government. My professor recommended me for the scholarship, I interviewed for the position, and I landed it. I was actually able to start taking graduate-level courses my senior year of undergrad and got them paid for.” 

This summer, Randy fulfilled his part of the deal and worked for ACE (Advance Course Engineering). ACE is a military-oriented internship that focuses heavily on cybersecurity, cyber warfare, teamwork and leadership.

“Through ACE, I got to work with people in the Air Force. I learned a lot about cybersecurity and cyber defense. I was able to apply a lot of what I learned in class throughout that experience,” he says. Now, Randy is pursuing his master’s in Computer Science, completely funded by the SFS.

Randy standing outside Rowan Hall.

“Grad school is definitely challenging. The major difference is that there is a lot less work, but it is a lot more difficult. I really try to keep on top of studying all of the material to make sure I don’t get off-track,” he says.

Although the program is challenging, Randy spoke about how supported he felt by professors in the department. “The faculty here are just great. They introduced me to so many opportunities that I didn’t know existed,” he says. “What I learned in class also really prepared me and gave me a solid foundation that I applied to each internship.” 

Looking ahead, Randy already has a job lined up after he graduates this spring.

Randy sitting on steps inside Rowan Hall.

“I got a job offer at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab doing cyber defense. I am so happy to start this new chapter with so much experience that I gained from Rowan University and my prior internship opportunities.” 

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Story by:
Loredonna Fiore, senior public relations and advertising major

Photos by:
Ashley Craven, junior sports communication and media major

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Alumni Success: Melissa Miller ’02 Ensures Penn Dental Medicine Technology Stays Up To Speed [VIDEO]

The set up of a dental clinic room.

Melissa Miller, a Computer Science alumna, directs and leads all technology operations within the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine, including academics, clinics, research and satellite community locations.

“One thing I really enjoyed about my experiences in the computer science program at Rowan was all of the collaborative work and projects we were able to complete that actually had real world connections to them,” says Miller ’02.

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Prof Pairs, Love is in the Air: The Story of Scott and Kevin

Scott and Kevin pose together on Rowan's campus.

Kevin: “The Rowan Music Department is pretty small and close-knit, so we always knew of each other. I always thought of Scott as… a little intimidating. He was the choral librarian, the choir section leader, the upperclassman. He was a HUGE part of the music department! I was accepted into Rowan as a saxophone player, […]

Alumni Success: Matt Ruiz ’10 Builds Career Thanks To ROTC Scholarship [VIDEO]

Matt smiles outdoors in front of fall foliage on Rowan's campus.

Matt Ruiz, a CPT Exercise Planning Officer, used his Armed Services Assistance ROTC Scholarship to earn a liberal studies degree, which helped him build life skills that he now uses as an office in the United States Army. “I would say that the biggest thing, getting the scholarship and doing the ROTC program here, it […]

Alumni Success: Dr. Janelle Alexander, Director of Diversity, Inclusion, Equity, and Belonging at Washington Township Public Schools

Today we feature Dr. Janelle Alexander, a Rowan alumna who earned a bachelor of arts in Special Education in 2001 and a doctor of philosophy in Education and Disability Studies in 2020. Dr. Alexander was selected as the Washington Township Public School Distict’s first-ever Director of Diversity, Inclusion, Equity, and Belonging this 2021-2022 academic year. 

Why did you choose Rowan to study Special Education? In other words, Why did Rowan stand out to you in your college search?

I initially did not want to attend Rowan to pursue my academic career because my mom went to school there when it was Glassboro State. I felt that I have always been reflective in the mindset that “if Harvard was in my backyard, would I not go?”

When looking at the major I wanted to study and understanding that Rowan was known for education, I quickly realized that not going to Rowan simply because of how close it was to home and because my mom attended the University was foolish.

At the end of the day, I knew Rowan produced quality educators and I saw the impact that Rowan’s education had on others, particularly like my mother who has been an amazing educator who taught in the Camden City School District for many years. I decided Rowan was a good fit for me to pursue my academic goals and to prepare me for my future endeavors in the education field. 

Why did you decide to go back to Rowan to obtain your Ph.D.? 

I always aspired to earn a terminal degree. I had a conversation with Dr. Monika Williams Shealey, who was extremely helpful in guiding me and sharing the positives and negatives of the different paths I could take in furthering my education at Rowan. I learned that obtaining a Ph.D. provided more opportunities in my eyes to being a practitioner from a research perspective.

To obtain and earn a Ph.D. that focused on access, success and equity was appealing to me. Within the Ph.D. program at Rowan, there was something called HOLMES Scholars, and within this component of the Ph.D. program you are connected with doctoral students of color nationally. In particular, there is a small percentage of females of color who have their Ph.D.’s. This created another network in which these scholars can be supported from and attracted me to this program. I wanted to be impactful in this area and grow my skill sets to be able to make a change, and Rowan gave me the resources, support and mentorships to do so. 

Janelle in her doctoral regalia.
Janelle in her doctoral regalia.

When did you know you wanted to study disability studies for your Ph.D.?

My undergraduate degree was in special education. I found that there was not a place that critiqued education. Educators and administration do not always get it right. Disability studies allowed me to question how we socially construct ability. I like to educate those into understanding how everyone learns differently, engage in the world differently, and therefore can learn from each other’s differences. I believe ability is socially constructed and that we have created and put barriers in place. This study allowed me to not only critique but have a voice.

How did you find out about the position for the first-ever Director of DEIB for Washington Township Schools?

The position was posted by … it honestly was not a position that was on my radar. I was recommended by two colleagues of mine that work in the school district and that were familiar with my work. 

Janelle in her doctoral regalia with Ph.D superman shirt.

What does this position entail for you? What does a typical day look like for you?

Because I am the inaugural director, I am currently on a listening and learning tour where I engage with administrators, community members and families, and over the next few weeks I will be shadowing students in the classroom. There are 13 schools in the school district in which I work and will be spending a day with one or two students in each respective school. During this time I will be going to lunch with them, going to the bus stop, sitting in on their classes and learning through experiencing school life with the kids. I believe there is no better way to learn on how to do things better in a school than to actually sit down with the kids, observe and start conversations with them. 

From this experience I will gather all my data, along with some general demographic data, propose a strategy plan, and then use all the work that is happening now to propel goals and objectives to the district to move closer to the goals of being more diverse, inclusive, equitable, and a place where everyone feels they belong. 

What is your overall goal as working in this position? What do you hope to gain from this experience?

Overall my goal is to set the ripple. I want to set the ripple of a space where students, staff, administrators and all people in education feel seen, valued, and heard. I say “set the ripple” because a ripple starts a wave and a wave leads to a tsunami. As the first director of Diversity, Inclusion, Equity and Belonging, I want to make a difference and influence others to make a difference as well. 

Janelle Alexander.

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Story by:
Natalie DePersia, junior public relations major

Photos courtesy of:
Janelle Alexander

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Aeberli walks with Dr. Nicole Vaughn in front of Wilson Hall.

Aeberli Begasse, a 2019 Rowan graduate of the Health Promotion and Wellness Management program, works as a tobacco program coordinator, educating and helping the community kick the habit.  “When I went to Rowan, I had the opportunity to explore other possibilities, and I was fortunate enough to find a career that fit more of what […]

Alumni Success: Byron Bustos Tells It All!

Byron holds a Rowan University flag.

Today we feature Byron Bustos, a 1999 graduate of Rowan’s Political Science program. Originally from North Jersey, Byron details his journey to Rowan, how he joined his fraternity and how it led him down a path he didn’t know he’d be taking.

When did you graduate from Rowan and what clubs, organizations or activities were you a part of?

I graduated from Rowan University in spring of 1999. I graduated as SGA [Student Government Association] President. I was also a resident assistant, and I worked with the Admissions Office as an Ambassador. I was in the United Latino Association, a member of my fraternity Lambda Theta Phi, BOCO which was the Borough of Cultural Organizations, the student activities board, the Political Science Association, Rowan Christian Fellowship, and Greek Council. I’m sure I was involved in other things throughout the years, but that’s what I can remember. 

What have you been up to since graduating from Rowan?

Right from Rowan, I went straight to grad school at Seton Hall University to get my master’s in Public Administration. I got my undergraduate degree in Political Science so I knew I wanted to work in the government but I didn’t know which aspect of it. I was also contemplating becoming a guidance counselor since I got my certification in Secondary Education at Rowan as well. After Seton Hall, I was offered a job in DC with the Office of the Inspector General for postal service. I did 19 years with that agency. This past January, I was promoted to the Director for the General Service Administration of the Office of the Inspector General (GSAOIG) .

Byron holds a Rowan flag while sitting on a flight of stairs.
Byron Bustos

I became the national president for my fraternity. I then became the executive director for my fraternity. I was elected to be the President of the school board in my hometown of Passaic, New Jersey. I’ve been involved with different cultural and political organizations as well. I started the New Jersey Young Professionals Organization. Then I moved to Maryland about five years ago, and I’m just as busy here. I’m currently the president of the Homeowners Association.

I also started the Urbana Latino Festival after feeling like I needed to do something cultural in my community. We just had our fifth celebration recently. Other than that, I got married, had two kids, a dog and a few houses.

Did you always have plans on attending graduate school after college or was it just something that you happened upon?

I didn’t know I was going to be going to grad school until I was a senior and that was exposed to me. Mind you, I was the first person in my family to go to college, so college was all new to me. I didn’t have anyone to show me the ropes.

Senior year, I knew graduation was coming and yet I was uncertain about what I was going to do. I wanted to be a guidance counselor, but back then, it was required that you had to become a teacher first. So I got my certification to teach. But, just like everything else in life, there was a crossroad. An opportunity arose for me to go to Seton Hall. Going to grad school gave me more time to think about what I wanted to do with my life. 

What was it like being a first generation college student? 

In my family, no one went to college. In high school, I didn’t even know if I was going to college. I didn’t have the mindset of: “I’m going to college, I know my next steps, and I’m going to become XYZ.” I just kind of fell into it because I was so involved in high school and exposed to different things. The doors were presented. I just had to walk through them.

The only reason why I went to Rowan was because, back then, Rowan sent buses to North Jersey to communities like mine that would bring high school students down to Rowan to expose us to something that we otherwise wouldn’t have been exposed to. We were able to apply right on the spot. Without that, I would have never been exposed to Rowan since the only colleges and universities I knew were the ones around me in North Jersey. 

Were you always super involved as a child?

I always had inklings that I wanted to do things, but it really took off in 8th grade. I found my area of things that I wanted to do, which was community-oriented public service advocacy.  Just trying to inspire people to do things. I did things in high school, but I really blossomed in college. 

Were there any classes you took or professors you met that you felt helped you achieve your success?

I can’t pinpoint to one specific professor, but in my last semester at Rowan I did student teaching. Although I never fully taught a classroom after I left Rowan, I still had my certification in teaching, which helped me when I became elected to the school board. I had perspectives on [questions like:] What are pedagogies? What is it to teach the curriculum? What is it like to go through the training and be able to have students in front of you? Those things were all crucial to know. 

How do you feel being a member of Lambda Theta Phi and the United Latino Association impacted you?

If I didn’t have the United Latino Association while at Rowan, my years would not have been as fruitful or as fulfilling. If I didn’t have Lambda Theta Phi, I don’t know what friends I would have carried on from college. I don’t know what my future would have been like if I wasn’t so involved in my fraternity. I was able to build a great network with both of the organizations. They really shaped a lot of who I am and I helped to shape them as well, so it was a two-way street. I’m glad I had them. 

Did you have plans of joining Lambda Theta Phi or was it just something that happened? 

When I was a freshman, my family’s attitude was very much: “No, you’re not joining a fraternity,” which, at the time, I didn’t care much about anyways since I didn’t know much about fraternities. However, my sophomore year is when my perspective started changing and I became more open minded. I went to a meeting, heard about it, learned about it, and did my own research. 

I learned what the members were doing and how they were giving back to the community and what they were doing for the university, which really propelled me to say, “This can be a way for me to do more of what I want to do, which is advocacy, motivation and trying to get others to change things.” What better than joining a cohort of like-minded individuals? 

A young Byron Bustos
Byron at Rowan University

What was it like going from just a member of Lambda Theta Phi to becoming the National President, then the Executive Director? 

It didn’t happen overnight, but I was heavily involved during my undergrad, which propelled me to going to the regional meetings. After that, I would go to the national conferences, which exposed me to the organizations and the leadership, which allowed me to join the alumni board. Getting so involved just propelled me further and further in the organization.

With the fraternity, I wasn’t in favor of a few things and thought things could be improved. So I decided to run for national president to be able to create change from the top down. I didn’t go through the normal process to become the head person, but that’s just the way I am.

Do you feel like fraternities and Greek life in general get a bad rap which deters people from joining?

Definitely. Fraternities and sororities provide more good than what they get credit for. Many times, the media focuses on the incidents that occur rather than the greater benefits that Greek life provides to the campus and the community overall. It’s a disservice to the legacy of those organizations, some that have been here for hundreds of years, to have that legacy erased in a moment. 

How do we get minority students more involved in Greek life and make them aware of the fraternities and sororities that are made for them and by them like Lambda Theta Phi? 

It’s a catch-22 sometimes. I don’t know if the university needs to shove in people’s faces per se but I think it just depends on the student and what the student wants to be involved in. All the university can really do is make sure that these organizations are available. 

Going back to something we discussed earlier, do you care to tell us a little bit more about the Urbana Latino Festival?

When we moved down here to Maryland, we quickly realized that there was a need for a little bit of music and more diverse events. My wife and I decided to put the event together and, within a day, the RSVP was sold out which no one expected. Five years later, we moved it to a different location and had over 600 people attend.

There’s vendors and different food trucks. It just has really blossomed into a beautiful thing. We’ve added more diversity and exposure to what it means to be Latino and everything that comes with it.

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Story By: Bianca Gray, senior English major

Photos and video courtesy of:
Byron Bustos

Alumni Success: How Strategic Communication Grad Nadya Ramos Inspires Us All!

Rowan University has a network of alumni thriving in many different fields and professions all around the world. Today, we got a chance to sit down with one of these successful individuals — Nadya Ramos, a 2020 graduate of Rowan Global’s Strategic Communication program.

A young girl sits atop a green chair in her kitchen, her feet dangling off the edge. She’s too young to understand anything it says, and the adults around her are getting more entertainment watching her than she gets out of reading it, but there she sits day after day trying to make sense of the words on the page. There’s something special about that little girl even though she doesn’t know yet. Something unique that’ll come to inspire many other women and girls. 

This young girl went from pretending to read newspapers to becoming a wife, mother and the CEO of her own small business.

Rowan alumna Nadya Ramos is the founder of Modern Millennial Mom, a blog to express her own reality and experience being a mother in the modern age as well as a businesswoman and has grown to allow her to create content for others. Modern Millennial Mom has allowed her to reach many other women who are experiencing being mothers in this modern age while simultaneously juggling the whirlwind of this world around them. 

An Atlantic City native, Nadya currently lives in Arizona working as content creator, marketing consultant, business owner and full-time mom creating content for companies like Walmart and Office Depot, but life wasn’t always like that for her. When asked about her past, Nadya shared not only her experience being a first generation young Hispanic girl but also explained the multifaceted layers of the word “first.”

She explains: “I was the first person to get a bachelor’s degree, I was the first person to get a master’s degree, the first to start a business. All of these opportunities and ‘firsts’ come with a lot of struggles and challenges. I didn’t have someone to go to in my family to say I needed help or to even ask. It’s a double-edge sword. You dream bigger when you’re the first, but with it comes many challenges.” 

Many who can’t relate to the experience of being the first would then ask, “How do you do it?” If Nadya were to respond with the advice given to her by her mother it would be: “Work hard and go to school,” a mantra many of us may know from our own parents. But Nadya felt as though there was more to life than just working hard, going to school and building enough to get by stating: “When my mom came to this country, a single mother of five children, it was all about survival. For me, I wanted to build more than just enough to get by.”  

Nadya did face her own set of obstacles and challenges, but instead of treating them like adversaries, she used them as stepping stones to get to where she is today. For starters, Nadya had initially had plans of attending Rowan for her undergraduate degree but was not accepted. Taking the setback in stride, she chose to instead go to school locally working as a blackjack dealer on nights and weekends as well as interning for $10 an hour (and sometimes for free) to put herself through school.

She would eventually enroll into Rowan’s graduate program for Strategic Communication and, while would receive her degree in August 2020, there still came numerous setbacks. 

Nadya strikes a pose in front of brick wall

“It took me longer than expected,” she explains. “I got married in the process. I had a baby. I moved. I took a break from work and was a stay-at-home mom for some months. But, looking back now, I can see that everything happens for a reason, and I understand now why it took me longer than expected. I actually ended up writing my master’s thesis after influencer marketing blew up, and so I was able to switch my topic and write about something I was really passionate about after initially choosing something I wasn’t all that interested in. Now, I do this for a living. I work with many influencers. I do brand collaborations. I do influencer marketing campaigns. And now I myself get to work with other brands doing those collaborations.” 

On the launch of her own small business, Modern Millennial Mom, Nadya lets us know that it didn’t just fall in her lap and was the result of yet another setback: “I launched my marketing consulting business because I was let go from my job last year. There were things about the workforce that didn’t align with my goals now that I’m a mom with a family to raise. I wanted more freedom. More flexibility. I just didn’t want uncertainty. I want to regain control of my life. Be the CEO of my life. Now, I teach other women how to gain the confidence to market themselves and their business better.”

As a woman of color in a field that is predominantly not filled with faces that look like hers, Nadya has had to deal with her share of misogynoir. For those unaware of what misogynoir is, it is defined as the culmination of racism and misogyny, and it’s something that many women of color are all too familiar with. Nadya was very candid about her experience with misogynoir, holding no punches. 

“I’ve definitely experienced misogynoir,” she shares. “I didn’t know how real it was until it was me who was experiencing it. I came home one day and sat in the kitchen talking to my husband and mother-in-law about how this is not something that’s in my head. You know how people say, ‘Maybe that’s just in your head’ or ‘Maybe you’re overthinking it.’ Well, when it’s you on the receiving end, it’s hard to justify it or explain to yourself what just happened.

“Not very long ago, in my last job in the field, I experienced, myself and other women, microaggressions in the workplace. Other women and I started to notice a lot patterns that just didn’t make sense and it felt very targeted. It just didn’t make sense and it felt very targeted. I feel it’s important to give voices to women who own businesses and women of color so they can get out there and create more opportunities. But it’s also important to provide these same women with the resources to be able to do so.” 

Close up on Nadya in front of wall

One of the ways Nadya helps to provide these resources is through her series, Growth Through Conversation. The show, which started out as a Facebook Live series, has now expanded to pre-recorded conversations that are posted to YouTube. Nadya describes the show as: “A conversation you might have with somebody in your living room or at a networking event.” 

When asked about how it feels to be able to use her platform to elevate the voices of women, specifically Latina women, Nadya gave an answer this writer wasn’t quite expecting. While she took the time to praise the women who have been able to achieve great success in their field, she reflected more admirably on the women who are still working day in and day out to achieve their end goals. 

“So we read these books,” she starts, “about how this person made it or how that person made it and they’re inspiring, but the thing about that is that we’re looking at somebody who is already on the other side. I’m not going to say it’s easy, but it’s a different point of view when you’re looking back. You can say now: ‘I made this mistake but thank God I did because it led me to X, Y or Z.’ And, while there is value in that, I think I find myself more inspired by other women who I either know personally or who I have connected with that are just living life.”

It can be easy for a person dealing with multiple responsibilities to sometimes lose track of them all and just feel beyond overwhelmed. In order to prevent this feeling, Nadya understands that in order to be her best self to everyone around her, she needs to take time for herself, by herself.

She says: “Through therapy, I learned that I can’t be my best self if I don’t take care of myself. I see self care as building time into your day to get out and move. For me, I go on power walks and listen to a podcast or a DIY video about a new skill that I want to learn and master. I listen to that when I first start my walk but then, on the way back, I unplug. I take out the headphones and allow myself to rest. I allow my mind to rest. Overconsumption is very overwhelming to someone like me. I battled with anxiety and depression so I have to build in these moments where I can unplug.” 

From the little girl reading the newspaper to the accomplished woman she is today, Nadya doesn’t serve as an inspiration to us because she’s a woman who can juggle it all and has just achieved so much. Nadya is an inspiration because she showed strength and persistence in the face of adversity and has never backed down when it arises. 

“That’s who I’ve always been,” Nadya smiles happily as reflects back on the rollercoaster ride life has been. “It took me too long to realize I was special and I am special! And so are you! And so is the person reading this. And if I can say anything to that little girl in that chair, reading that newspaper, I would say: Thank you for being you!” 

Nadya and her son Noah together and happy

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Story By: 
Bianca Gray, senior English major

Photos courtesy of:
Nadya Ramos

Alumni Success: Chemical Engineer Jennifer Roddy

Jen poses outside of Rowan Hall.

Today we speak to Jennifer Roddy, a 2008 graduate of Rowan’s Chemical Engineering program. Jennifer is originally from Franklinville, NJ and now resides in Metuchen, NJ. She lived both on and off campus during her time at Rowan. Jennifer is currently the Director of External Partner Management at Bristol Myers Squibb and has an MBA from Rutgers University.

Jen poses in front of Engineering Hall.

What is Bristol Myers Squibb?

Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS) is a global biopharmaceutical company that drives scientific advancement across multiple therapeutic areas, including oncology, hematology, immunology and cardiovascular disease. Our mission is to discover, develop and deliver innovative medicines that help patients prevail over serious diseases. Our patients are at the heart of everything we do!

What was your journey like from Rowan to your current position?

I was offered an internship the summer after my freshman year at a pharmaceutical company called Johnson Matthey (JM). I worked there part time while at Rowan, allowing me to develop real world skills while simultaneously obtaining my formal education. After graduation and two years as a full-time process engineer at JM, I was ready for a new challenge. A Rowan alumnus in my network was working for BMS at the time and referred me for an open position in his group. I joined BMS in 2010 as an Outsourcing Coordinator focused on external manufacturing of clinical supplies. I continued to support our external operations throughout my career, with my roles transitioning over time from a technical focus to a business focus. This transition encouraged me to pursue my MBA with a concentration in Pharmaceutical Management at Rutgers University. 

Jen poses in front of a wooded area by the Engineering buildings on campus.

What is your role at Bristol Myers Squibb? 

At BMS we outsource certain operations to external partners for many reasons, including but not limited to balancing our capacity, limiting risk, and evaluating unique technologies. I currently lead a team called External Partner Management. We are responsible for developing and maintaining strong relationships with our partners that develop and manufacture materials that will be used in clinical trials. We also work to identify future partnerships, develop sourcing strategies, and focus on ways to drive value for BMS through these partnerships.

Why did you choose Rowan?

My decision to attend Rowan was driven by the unique program structure and economics.  Rowan’s engineering program offered multidisciplinary labs and engineering projects that allowed you to develop real-world skills in the classroom. Small class sizes also suited my learning style and allowed me to develop strong connections with my classmates. In addition to the program offerings, I was also focused on the affordability of higher education. I could not afford tuition without taking out student loans and needed to ensure my education would have a high return on investment. Rowan offered an amazing program at a fraction of the cost of many other universities.

Jen poses in front of the bridge connecting Engineering and Rowan Halls.

Why did you decide to go into Chemical Engineering?

I initially enrolled as a Chemistry major, but I ended up at an Engineering Open House my first week of school. During the session, one of the professors explained how challenging the program was but that the opportunities after graduation were endless. I switched majors that day and never looked back. 

How do you feel that Rowan’s Chemical Engineering program helped prepare you for your career?

Rowan’s Chemical Engineering program not only prepared me for a career in engineering, but it provided a way of thinking that I could apply throughout all stages of my career. The multidisciplinary labs provided technical skills across many disciplines, while allowing individuals to develop the ability to work across peer groups of different educational backgrounds. At the core, Rowan’s Engineering program teaches you to solve problems. The ability to solve problems will make you successful no matter where your career takes you.

Jen works on her computer.

Do you have any advice for students who are currently in the Chemical Engineering program?

Persevere!—As a former fifth-year student, I understand firsthand how challenging the engineering program can be. As you struggle through content and coursework, know that hard work and perseverance will be your key to success. Celebrate your success as they come, but also appreciate your failures. If you are able to develop the ability to learn through failure, your growth will be limitless.

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Story written by:
Jennifer Roddy ’08, Henry M. Rowan College of Engineering

Organized by:
Rachel Rumsby, junior communication studies and public relations double major 

Photography by: 
Stephanie Batista, junior music industry major

Alumni Success: Julia Reilly, Chemical Engineer at Dupont

Rowan hall and Engineering Pond at night.

Today we feature Julia Reilly, a Rowan Chemical Engineering alumna who graduated in 2019. Julia is currently a chemical engineer at Dupont, a specialty company that makes products in the safety, healthcare, electronics, mobility, and construction spaces. Julia is from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, but she currently lives in Washington, D.C. 

A headshot of Julia.
Julia Reilly

Why Rowan?

My guidance counselor suggested I look into Rowan. Being from Bucks County, I had never heard of it. I went to Rowan’s Honors Accepted Students Day, and Rowan was better than I thought. I met many people at the event, and I loved it. 

Did you have any internships while you were at Rowan?

I had an internship at FMC Corporation, an agricultural sciences company, as well as an internship at Dupont. After my internship at Dupont, they interviewed me for a full-time role in the company during the fall semester of my senior year. I got the job, and it was nice to not have to worry about finding a job during my second semester of senior year. The job was in the Field Engineering and Supply Chain Development Program at Dupont, where I still currently work. 

Julia poses in front of some trees in a blue shirt.

Do you have any advice for Chemical Engineering students at Rowan?

I’d advise students to reach out to professors early on and offer to work in their labs. I started working in Dr. Joseph Stanzione’s lab my freshman year, and it was a great opportunity. I built a good relationship with him and gained valuable experience as I was trying to build my resume. This definitely helped me to secure an internship early on.  

How did Rowan help to prepare you for the job you have today?

Rowan has great chemical engineering classes that teach good fundamentals. My favorite part of the Chemical Engineering department are the special topics classes, such as mixing and process safety courses. These classes are not commonly offered at other schools and help Rowan’s Chemical Engineering program and Rowan alumni to stand out.

Julia poses in front of some trees and shrubbery in a blue shirt.

What do you hope to see in the future of Rowan?

I personally hope to see Rowan expand the Chemical Engineering program. Also, I hope they’ll continue to make diversity, equity and inclusion a priority in the engineering department specifically. It is important to me that they improve the diversity of both students and faculty and make the department an inclusive space for all to thrive.

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Story by:
Rachel Rumsby, junior communication studies and public relations double major

Rowan Abroad: Recent Graduate, Chloe Senatore, Talks Acceptance into Trinity College in Dublin

Chloe holds her decorated cap inside a gazebo on campus.

English major and Rowan Blog contributor Bianca Gray sat down with fellow English major and recent graduate, Chloe Senatore, to talk about her acceptance into Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. Chloe not only discusses the journey that led her to Trinity College but how the English Department at Rowan helped her along the way. 

Can you tell us a little bit about your graduate program and what you’ll be studying? 

I’m studying Irish writers. I’ll be focusing on Irish literature and Irish writing at Trinity College in Dublin where many of those writers went to school. It’s a one-year program but it’s going to be really cool and I’m really excited. I definitely feel as though the classes I’ve taken at Rowan and the professors I’ve worked with have prepared me to do something like this. 

Was it always your intention to study abroad for graduate school? 

No, actually. I wasn’t even fully planning on going to graduate school. I just wanted to apply to this one singular program to see if I could get in. It’s a difficult program to get into but I knew if I didn’t apply then I would never know and spend the rest of my life sad about it. I didn’t apply to any other programs. If I didn’t get into Trinity then I was just going to enter the workforce but, lo and behold, I actually did get accepted and that’s what I’m doing. 

Why did you choose Irish Writing to be your field of study?

That’s very personal to me. I’m Irish. I have a big mane of red hair. You’ve seen me. I have Irish heritage on both sides of my family. Irish literature often gets lumped into British literature but Irish literature is its own separate thing, and I really wanted to dive into it more. I chose Trinity specifically to learn more about this field. I literally have a quote by W.B Yates tattooed on my body.

I’m very into not only Irish poetry but the Irish experience in general. I dove into the history of Ireland when I was supposed to go abroad through a program Rowan was hosting before everything happened with COVID. The program was a law class called International Terrorism and, though it wasn’t something affiliated with my major, I was going to take it as a free elective. Since COVID shut down the trip, I’ve just been yearning to go and experience the culture and history of the country. 

Chloe stands in front of the Owl Statue

Can you tell me any specifics about the program you’re enrolled in at Trinity?

It’s a small program. It only accepts around 20 students a year. It’s not a traditional English program. There are multiple different paths I could take, and I could choose to study one specific author. The general structure is that the first semester is just studying all of Irish literature in general, and the second semester is going to be spent with me writing a dissertation on whichever path of Irish literature I choose to study. 

Who are your favorite Irish poets/writers?

Seamus Heaney and W.B Yates. They’re just the best. 

What inspired your initial interest in literature? 

Oh gosh, that takes me back to being a kid and reading Harry Potter. I’ve always been a book nerd. I love to read, and I think it’s something I’ve just always naturally gravitated towards. It’s just been my thing for as long as I can remember. 

Why did you choose Rowan to pursue your passion? 

I actually transferred to Rowan. I did my first two years of college at a different university but I didn’t like it there. I ended up transferring to Rowan because it was closer to where I lived and I could easily commute to school. My decision to transfer was one of the best decisions I ever made. Rowan’s English department is just so superior to the English department at my other school. I just think that it’s really awesome that I got to be a part of the Rowan English program. The professors are just so cool and knowledgeable. They push you to improve. 

Who was your favorite professor to work with overall? 

I loved so many of the professors, but I’d have to pick Dr. Falck. She’s just amazing and phenomenal. She’s one of the best teachers I ever had. The feedback she gave and the way she taught was just incredible. I learned so much from her. She even wrote one of my recommendation letters to go to Trinity. 

What was your favorite course? 

Probably Multi-Ethnic Literature of the U.S. It opened my eyes to see that American literature isn’t just Mark Twain, Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman. There’s so many people of different ethnicities that wrote some great works that should be more heavily acknowledged in the canon. 

Chloe standing in front of city skyline at night.

How do you feel the Rowan English Department prepared you for graduate school? 

They couldn’t have prepared me any better to handle my academic career moving forward. The professors at Rowan don’t just give you an A or a B. They genuinely see you and see your writing and they help you to improve. They aren’t just going off a rubric. They’re genuinely interested in helping people improve on an individual level. There was a time or two where I had a professor give me a B on an essay when I knew for a fact that I did better than some people in the class who got the same or better grades than me. I would voice my opinions to the professor and they would just tell me that I got the grade I got because they knew I could do better. 

What advice would you give to a student thinking about pursuing an English career at Rowan? 

Whatever you put into it is what you’re going to get out of it. I can admit that I’m a try hard, but what I put into it was what I got out of it. I put a lot of hard work into essays and things like that so I got a lot out of it. My professors gave to me what I gave to them. 

Where do you see yourself in the future? 

After this next year of grad school, I’ll have a bit of a beefier resume. My goal is to work for a publishing company or work as an editor. I’m not really sure where I’ll be led but I like the idea of reading and editing books for a living.

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Story by:
Bianca Gray, senior English major 

Photos courtesy of:
Chloe Senatore 

Related posts:

The Rowan Writing Arts 4+1 Program: Students Share Their Experiences

Mic Worthy: Earning a M.A. in Writing While Inspiring Students

Beyond the Classroom: Writing Arts and English Major Skyla Everwine Interns for Project Little Warriors

Behind the Camera with Recent Radio/TV/Film Grad Adam Clark

Today we feature December 2020 graduate Adam Clark. Adam graduated with a degree in Radio/Television/Film. He also commuted from Bridgeton, NJ (Cumberland County). He tells us about his work since graduation and his upcoming plans. What have you been up to? Before I graduated I started working on this film that continued long after I […]

My Interesting Student Worker Job as the Rowan University Mascot

Rowan mascot jumps for joy outside of Savitz Hall at Rowan University

Today we feature Sean Scott, a Rowan alumnus who studied Finance and graduated in May 2020. Sean touches upon his experience as being the university mascot, Whoo RU

How did you end up being the mascot for Rowan? Did someone reach out to you or did you seek the opportunity yourself?

To start off, I was the school mascot for my high school. Fast forward a few years and I worked for the admissions office as an admissions ambassador for Rowan. The summer between my sophomore and junior I was informed by my boss in admissions that they were looking for people to try out for ‘the mascot.’ In a nutshell, I thought, ‘I go to the sporting events anyways, I might as well go to these games dressed in a mascot costume, have some more fun at these events, and make a little money while doing so.’

Sean Scott headshot.
Sean Scott

What kinds of events did you attend for being the Rowan mascot? Was it just sporting events or was it all kinds of events?

The experience of being a mascot was really cool because of the wide range of events I attended. I went to a lot of men’s and women’s basketball games, many football games, and other sporting events. However, I also did events like Hollybash, St. Baldrick’s Day, SUP events, open houses, and accepted students receptions. This experience made me well versed with student life around me.

Sean pictured with his girlfriend Caroline Murphy.
Sean pictured with his girlfriend Caroline Murphy.

How long were you the mascot for Rowan?

I was the mascot from August 2018 up until March of 2020.

Sean in front of the Prof Statue.

What are pros and cons about the experience?

There were definitely more pros than cons during this whole experience. For sporting events, obviously you attend to watch the players compete. It was really cool for these events to be on the court or field alongside the players and coaches. As a mascot I was able to experience these events differently than just a normal fan in the stands. Another positive was simply knowing what was going on around the university. By working as the mascot I was always up to date on upcoming events and involved with them.

The only downside to working as the mascot is how hot it is inside of the costume. However, I did burn a tremendous amount of calories when working as the mascot that I like to think made up for it.

Sean at graduation with parents Maureen and Stacy.
Sean at graduation with parents Stacy (left) and Maureen (right).

Did you tell people you were the mascot or did you keep yourself incognito?

Yes my friends, family and fellow coworkers in admissions knew I was the mascot. Other than that, no one really knew who was inside the mascot costume, which was pretty cool. I am a pretty extroverted person, but I definitely could not bring out the dance moves I did as the Prof without my costume on. I was free to express myself without anyone putting a face to me. The experience I had as the Rowan mascot was extremely fulfilling and one I will never forget.

Sean in mascot costume with mom.
Sean dressed as mascot with his mom Maureen Scott.

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Story by:
Natalie DePersia, junior public relations major

Photos courtesy of:
Sean Scott

Related posts:

5 Interesting On-Campus Jobs

Job Hunting 101: Career and Graduate School Fair

Rowan at Home: Glassboro Native Builds Sports Career in Her “Own Backyard”

Alumni Success: Sena Pottackal Launches PR Career, Seeks to “Improve Inclusion Within the Consumer Experience”

Campbell Library from the grass

Today we feature Sena Pottackal, a 2015 Rowan graduate who has persevered through personal adversity. Sena majored in Public Relations and minored in Advertising and Communications Studies while at Rowan. She participated in activities such as PRSSA and PRaction and was a member of several societies, including Lambda Pi Eta and Delta Alpha Pi

Do you mind talking about when and how you lost your sight and what that transition involved for you?

I became legally blind when I was 15 due to a genetic disease called Retinitis Pigmentosa. The disease is progressive, and I lose vision every few months. Over the years I had to learn how to use assistive technology, such as a screen reader, which has enabled me to complete school work and work professionally. 

Sena Pottackal on Red Carpet at 2019 NYWICI Matrix Awards.
Sena Pottackal on the red carpet for the 2019 NYWICI Matrix Awards, where she received its IPG scholarship and internship at Weber Shandwick.

Why did you choose to study Public Relations at Rowan? 

I went to community college for undergrad. During my time there I took basically every communications course they had to offer. Public Relations resonated with me the most because it gave me great opportunity to pursue my passions in writing and business while utilizing my analytical skills. When I was looking to transfer to a four-year school, my teacher who taught my Public Relations course recommended Rowan. 

Sena Pottackal before 2020 Virtual Graduate Convocation where she was a student speaker.
Sena Pottackal before her 2020 virtual graduate convocation, where she was a student speaker.

How do you believe Rowan has prepared you for your future professions and endeavors?

Rowan has given me the skills to be successful in Public Relations and in particular, writing. Professor John Moscatelli was my Advanced Public Relations Writing teacher, and he really helped me to develop my writing skills and confidence in my writing. 

How did you and how do you continue to persevere through adversity?  What advice would you give to other individuals trying to seek a job while having a disability?

Something that was helpful for me was having mentors. Networking makes a huge difference. I was unable to get an internship while at Rowan, which inspired me to pursue grad school. Fortunately, I was involved with NY Women in Communications and I went to their annual student conference and I found out they have a scholarship for undergraduate and graduate students. Then I proceeded to win the NY Women’s in Communication Scholarship, which is how I broke into the industry. This scholarship also came with an internship to work at one of the IPG agencies. If I did not network and try to be part of different clubs, I would not have found out about many internship and job opportunities.

Sena Pottackal
Sena Pottackal speaking at 2019 Public Relations Council Critical Issues of the Modern Workforce Forum at Carnegie Hall.

How did you manage to balance academics, social responsibilities with clubs, and your involvement with your community? Do you have tips for students who may be struggling with creating a balance?

Outlining when meetings were and when assignments were due was important for me to stay on task and up to date with my work. I also had to be honest with myself and the people I was working with about my time constraints. Professor Cristin Kastner Farney was very helpful. She taught me in Journalistic Writing. There was a book I needed for my advertising and account planning class. The book was not available through any platform that offered accessible textbooks. So she scheduled an hour on Monday, Wednesday and Friday every week to read me the textbook so I could take the class. Teachers like Professor Cristin Kastner Farney got me through because they invested in my future.

2018 Bronx Zoo trip with NYU PRCC classmates.
Sena Pottackal (second from right) on a 2018 Bronx Zoo trip with NYU Public Relations and Corporate Communications (PRCC) classmates.

What lessons have you learned from your disability?

Everyone is different. We all have our own struggles, and this disability taught me to approach people with compassion. You never know what someone can be dealing with, and I can attest to the fact that some days can be harder than others. Being kind and compassionate can go a long way.

What were your initial visions for pursuing a career in public relations? Do you believe you are working in and/or toward your dream job?

When I graduated from Rowan, I was truly just looking for any job in communications. Back then I was aware that employment for people with disabilities was very low. After graduating Rowan I attended a blind training session while taking a year off. This is where I realized that by practicing PR, I could do more than just write. I could use this field to promote awareness about the capabilities of the disabled community and to overall improve inclusion within the consumer experience and the workforce. 

Sena Pottackal on NYU 2018 SPS Spring Cruise with colleagues from NYU SPS Community Service Committee.
Sena Pottackal (in middle) on NYU 2018 SPS Spring Cruise with colleagues from NYU SPS Community Service Committee.

What is your role/what do you do as working as a Junior Associate at Current Global?

Right now I am presenting research that my company just did about the lived experience of consuming content as a person with a disability. So I have been presenting that research in webinars. I also have helped write accessible communications guidelines.

What is your life motto that keeps you striving for more?

Be kind to yourself and give yourself the time and the room to grow into the person you were meant to be.

Sena Pottackal and partner in Jamaica for Sena's 30th birthday in June 2019.
Sena Pottackal and partner Karl Hogans in Jamaica for Sena’s 30th birthday in June 2019.

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Story by:
Natalie DePersia, junior public relations major

Photos courtesy of:
Sena Pottackal

Related posts:

Cory Monroe: Graduating Public Relations Major and Mother

#PROFspective: A Chat with Public Relations Major Nene Diallo

Public Relations Major Lands Full-Time Job After Internship

Alumni Success: Mitch McDaniels on Finding Your “WHY”

Mitch poses at the Holly Pointe Commons sign.

Today we speak with Mitch McDaniels, who graduated from the Honors Concentration with a degree in Biochemistry in 2020. Mitch also minored in German Studies throughout his time at Rowan University. He grew up in Hammonton, NJ (Atlantic County) but now lives in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Mitch was a Resident Assistant (RA) for three years and lived on campus for all four years. He was also actively involved in the Honors College, B.L.A.S.T. Mentoring, the Keck Behavioral Lab at Cooper Medical Schoolthe Academic Associate Program at Cooper University Hospital, Rho Alpha Sigma, and Alpha Epsilon Delta. He was also a volunteer at the Kitchen of Hope Food Bank (Glassboro), and a Chemistry Learning Assistant for four semesters.

What did being an RA and Assistant Resident Director (ARD) mean to you?

Res Life [meaning RLUH or working for Residential Learning and University Housing as an RA, ARD, graduate role, or professional role] is such a unique field and it’s such a diverse and unique group of people that come together to do so much more than just run a building. I absolutely loved it throughout my time at Rowan — the opportunity to be a part of flourishing communities of residents in their first year of college, and hopefully being that go-to guy for my residents for the good, bad and everything in between.

My experience through Res Life has definitely been one of my favorite memories at Rowan because I met so many new, and now lifelong, friends through it. I love when my residents come back and tell me how much fun they had their freshman year or a favorite memory they had from their year in our pod. A few even went on to go into Res Life themselves; it makes me so happy to hear that!

For me, it was really special to see the ways in which my communities grew together, and the ways they found to make a difference together. 

Mitch poses under the "Pork Chopper" statue in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Mitch poses by the “When Pigs Fly, Pork Chopper” Statue which is part of the Sculpture Walk in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

What advice do you have for current students?

I think every first year student should take a little bit of time to find what it is they want to do at Rowan, until they really find their “why,” both on campus and off. I’m still learning exactly what that is for me, honestly. No matter what you do, who you hang out with, or the classes you take, I’ve learned that it’s best to keep an open mind because those moments came when I was least expecting them.

My first year, I was really quite quiet, but I thought that being an RA would be a really unique way to meet people and be part of a community. Lots of people become hyper-focused on the free housing and food, which is pretty sweet, to be honest, but I also wanted to find a place to help in building that welcoming environment I found on campus. I often forget that I had a meal plan and free housing as an RA because I just enjoyed getting to meet everyone and get connected and involved in a way that was different from any other role on campus because their home also becomes yours. 

No matter what you do at Rowan, you really have to take the time to find your “why” [your purpose] at Rowan. There’s this proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” I really believe that Rowan’s spirit comes from that small-campus community, where friends, colleagues, and professors all have your back.

My best advice would be to enjoy college for the people and experiences you’re surrounded by — go together, not alone. I’ve found that the best way for me to get things done is when I’m passionate about it and that I want to see it through to the end, together. For me, the Res Life community was that “thing.”

Now stepping into the real world and getting off of the college campus, finding your “why” comes with the territory for everything you do.

Mitch poses confidently in front of a Sioux Falls sign.

Where do you work now?

Now, I work as a Clinical Research Coordinator at Sanford Health, a big hospital system in the Midwest, but mostly in the Dakotas and Minnesota. I’m on a team of four coordinators that are working on a portfolio of COVID studies. We have two different studies that we are mainly working on for the moment. One is for different treatments that focus on outpatient settings, where patients actively have COVID and are sick, but they’re not sick enough to be hospitalized. This study, sponsored by the National Institute of Health, is an Adaptive Platform Study, which means that we are evaluating multiple investigative treatments that can change from time to time, to quickly and safely identify medications that could significantly improve a patient’s COVID-19 diagnosis.

We’re also doing inpatient work with people who are in the ICU on ventilators, high flow oxygen or other life-saving measures to support them throughout their battle with COVID-19. It’s another adaptive platform study evaluating various medications for people suffering more severe COVID, and who have received advanced life-saving therapeutics or interventions to keep them alive or better support them.

I was always asking myself “why” because I wanted to pour all that I could into any activity I was doing. I didn’t want anything to be just a checkbox for my resume. It really needed to be something that I cared about and believed in.

Part of my “why” for medicine is that I want to be a resource for people wherever I go. That’s something I saw in my family with my father being an FBI agent. I want to be able to carry my skills into underserved areas at some point in my career and make a difference within those communities.  

Mitch wears a light blue shirt and stands in front of a waterfall.
Mitch loves the famous Falls Park in his new hometown of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

What do you hope to do in the medical field?

It really hit when I had the chance to really immerse myself in the Camden community through Cooper, first as a student at MEDacademy at Cooper Medical School, and later as an Academic Associate at Cooper University Hospital. I really began to see that a physician doesn’t work in a bubble, they are someone who’s active and embedded within the community that they are trusted to serve. Ever since, I saw medicine as an opportunity to expand upon the skills, mindset and joy that Res Life has brought me, to help better build a community.

Of course, Rowan has always supported and nourished my curiosity for science and the human body; it’s also helped me to find my voice in leadership. But what my time at Rowan and Cooper has gifted me with has been the opportunity to think, grow excited and imagine how I wanted to give back to the community at the intersection of science, leadership, education, research and policy. 

Part of my “why” for medicine is that I want to be a resource for all people wherever I may go. That’s something I saw, and valued, in my family with my father being a Special Agent in the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I hope to be able to carry my skills into communities (especially those underserved) throughout southern New Jersey, our nation, and the world throughout my career and in hopes of making a difference within those communities by empowering the people of those communities through all I learn from them. No matter what field of medicine I pursue, there’s nothing more important to me than to help these communities I hope to serve to thrive and grow.

A gorgeous blue and orange sunset shines above a majestic waterfall in Minnesota.
Mitch captured the beauty of Falls Park with just his phone.

Tell me about your favorite memory from Res Life? 

My favorite moments were those that were unscripted where I would just hang out with my residents on a random Tuesday night in a hallway or lounge of Holly Pointe. We would have the best conversations! I would always leave my door open because I wanted people to be able to walk in and just sit down. I wanted them to know my room was theirs too, and that it was a safe space where they could unwind, have fun, or talk anything over. The most organic moments were the times when I felt true friendship forming between myself and my residents, and it was not any longer just me “supervising” their freshman experience.

One of my favorite memories in these communities as an RA and an ARD was bringing my residents to the food pantry. I really loved the idea of getting into the Glassboro Community and all of us volunteering together and seeing the ripple our pod could make in the greater community. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention the awesome staffs I worked with throughout my three years in Res Life. I couldn’t think of a better group of people to program with, spend time with, or occasionally deal with those 3 a.m. fire alarms. Those unscripted moments, with my residents and RAs alike, made every moment worth it. I owe it to them for helping me to find my why throughout undergrad. 

Waterfalls and tower in Sioux Falls, Minnesota
Another gorgeous sunset by the Queen Bee Mill in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

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Story by: 
Marian Suganob, public relations and advertising graduate

Photos courtesy of:
Mitch McDaniels, biochemistry graduate

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Profs Abroad: Stephanie in Paris (and Other Parts of France)

Stephanie wears glasses and a red beret smiling at the camera with a green forest in the background.

Today we speak with Stephanie Ibe, who graduated in the Spring of 2020 and majored in Biological Sciences with a minor in French and an Honors and Pre-med concentration. Stephanie stayed in Le Havre, France for seven months while working as a teaching assistant through the TAPIF Program. Stephanie comes from Franklin Park, NJ in Somerset County. She was involved in MAPS (Minority Association of Premedical Students), Res Life as an RA/ARD, research labs, tutoring, RUPAC (Rowan University Philippine American Coalition), Alpha Epsilon Delta (AED – Premed Honors Society), University Chorus, and mentoring through the Dr. Harley E. Flack program.

What happened after you arrived in France?

After I arrived, I had to go through all these different transportation modes to go from Paris to Le Havre and my phone wasn’t working! I had to navigate the entire thing just by talking to people and from reading signs. I don’t know how I ended up making it to Le Havre. It was raining, too. It was a bit of a shock to just be thrown in and use [only] French right away. 

I had a Prof Référente (Referent Teacher) with whom I could communicate through Facebook. She was so helpful. She helped me find my place to stay because the high school that I worked at didn’t have housing available for me. So she asked another high school nearby if I can stay there and it ended up working out. She picked me up from the train station once I arrived. She gave me bed sheets and a week’s worth of groceries. I was lucky to have good support over there.

Picture of “La Funiculaire” (little train Stephanie had to take to get up to her apartment). It is about 5 feet wide and maybe 6 feet tall with paintings of flowers on the side.
“La Funiculaire” (little train) Stephanie had to take to get up to her apartment.

Was it scary having to talk in French to French people? 

I was honestly really scared when I first arrived because it wasn’t the same as “classroom French.” I’ve never studied abroad before, so I never knew what it was like to actually speak French in France. I went to France once when I was in high school, but I always had my teachers there to help us. This time, I was by myself. I had to use my French, especially when I had to explain things to my students. Sometimes they didn’t understand what I was saying in English, so I would have to translate in French.

You get used to it after a while. There’s a lot of slang I need to learn as well as very technical vocabulary. I had to open a bank account in France and I didn’t know any banking vocabulary, so it was a bit difficult. I also observed the biology lab classes in one of the high schools. Even small things, like DNA, were switched. It was ADN.

Stephanie wears a red beret in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France.

Your brain automatically switches to your second language after being immersed in it for a while. It’s also easier to learn different languages when you are able to see the connections between languages. When I was there, I tried to practice my Spanish with the Spanish assistants. It’s a lot easier when you’re talking to someone that’s native to that language. They can tell when I am making a mistake and they don’t feel shy to correct me and give me feedback because they are teachers. It’s what they do. 

What other countries were your fellow assistants from?

I met assistants from Spain, Germany, England, Northern Ireland, Los Angeles, Colorado, New York, Kenya, Russia and Jordan.

Stephanie and the other TAPIF assistant poses by a giant building in Normandy, France.
Stephanie (bottom, right) at Le Mont Saint Michel in Normandy

What was your favorite memory (outside of being a teaching assistant)?                 

Spending all of my time with the assistants because that’s all we really had. Everything was closed after one week of me being there. We didn’t have museums or restaurants to go to. All we had was each other. I was lucky to live right next to the beach, so I had a lot of beach days. It was only a 20-minute walk to the beach. Having that space to get out, explore new places, and take my beach days were fun.

Fancy French food on a white plate prepared by a culinary student in France.
Meals from the student restaurant

I worked 12 hours a week, 5 days a week, a few hours each weekday. In France, they start school at 8 a.m. and finish at 5:20 p.m. They get two 15-minute breaks as well as an hour and 20 minutes for a lunch break. They can do whatever they want during their break, like walk around town and eat anywhere. A lot of my students would go home and eat lunch. They also take the public bus to school, not a singular school bus.

Fancy French dessert on a white plate prepared by a culinary student in France.
Dessert from the student restaurant

What was your favorite meal in France?

I ate a lot of vegan food because most of [the assistants] were either vegan or vegetarian. I really liked it because I never knew you could do so much with such little ingredients because the vegan diet is so restricted. They can’t eat any meat or dairy, or even honey. But, you can do so much with spice. We would always have potluck dinners. Also, the food at my high school was so fancy because [the students] are training to be proper chefs. They would practice making fancy French desserts and sophisticated dishes. French school meals are also very balanced and affordable.

Photo of French school lunch showing a well-balanced and delicious meal.
School lunch in Le Havre, France

What was the most interesting thing you learned about France?

I guess, how welcoming everyone was! I watched Emily in Paris right before I left and I had this idea in my head. “I’m going to be all by myself and they’re going to shoo me away because I’m American.” But no, everyone was so welcoming! When you’re walking down the street, everyone says “Hello, how are you?” Even though you’re complete strangers. When I first got back, I wanted to have a conversation with my cashier like in France.

Stephanie plays a ukelele while sitting on a beach in Le Havre, France.
Stephanie plays the ukulele at a beach in Le Havre

What was your favorite souvenir?

My favorite souvenir was a ukulele. I had to get rid of a lot of clothes and a pair of shoes to fit the ukulele! I only came with one suitcase, one carry-on, and one backpack. I ended up leaving a lot of shirts. I traded with other assistants. For example, I gave some of my Rowan shirts. I traded them for a Spanish white sweatshirt from Granada as well as a Spanish jean jacket. I also bought real lavender. It is really cool because it keeps its scent for a really long time. It made my luggage smell amazing!

Is there anything else you’d like to tell me about your time in France?

The overall experience made me think about how it felt like to be a foreigner in another country, which is something that a lot of us have not experienced. It made me really think about how it might have felt for my mom who came from the Philippines to the U.S.

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Story by: 
Marian Suganob, public relations and advertising graduate

Photos by:
Stephanie Batista, junior music industry major and Stephanie Ibe, biological sciences graduate

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Alumni Success: Michael A. Wilson Jr., Marketing Operations Specialist for SHI International Corp.

Side angle shot of the Rowan welcome arch.

What have you learned by working as a Marketing Operations Specialist for SHI International Corp.? What were your initial visions for pursuing an undergrad in Public Relations and then a graduate degree in Data Marketing Communications? I would say SHI has been my saving grace. I have been at this company since I have graduated […]

Alumni Success: Stephanie Ibe and How She Became a Teaching Assistant in France

Stephanie sits at the Giant Prof statue on campus while wearing a custom stole showing the Filipino and French flags.

Today we speak with Stephanie Ibe, a 2020 graduate who majored in Biological Sciences with a minor in French and Honors and Pre-med concentrations. Stephanie stayed in Le Havre, France for seven months while working as a teaching assistant through the TAPIF Program. Stephanie comes from Franklin Park, NJ in Somerset County. She was involved in MAPS (Minority Association of Premedical Students), Res Life as an RA/ARD, research, tutoring, RUPAC (Rowan University Philippine American Coalition), Alpha Epsilon Delta (AED – Premed Honors Society), University Chorus, and mentoring through the Dr. Harley E. Flack program.

What is the name of this program? 

It’s called TAPIF, which stands for Teaching Assistant Program In France and it’s through the French Ministry of Education. TAPIF was recommended to me by my French teacher, Dr. Maria Hernandez, a former Fulbright Program alumna.

What part of France were you mainly based in? 

Normandy! It has a mix of everything. It’s in the northwest of France. You can find suburbs, cities, small towns, beaches, cliffs and the countryside. It’s about two hours away from Paris. You could take a bus to Paris from Normandy for as low as eight euros (about $9). When we traveled to the south of France, we took a train ride from Normandy that took about six hours.

Stephanie poses in a gorgeous, tiny street in the French city of Marseilles.
Marseilles

My base city is really special. It’s called Le Havre. It is an urban city with a beach and a port. It is located right next to Sainte-Adresse, where Claude Monet created many of his paintings. What happened in Le Havre is that during the World War II bombings, the entire city was destroyed. The city was rebuilt not too long ago. It was rebuilt by Auguste Perret between 1945 and 1964, so Le Havre looks completely different from other typical French cities. The buildings are a little bit newer and more modern. They are boxier and made of concrete.

How many people again were in your program in France? 

According to the website, about 1,100 people participated in it and in my city there were 13 assistants.

How close did you live near each other? 

We were all within about 20 minutes of each other, whether by bus, tram or walking. Public transportation is really important in France so we all had our own public transportation card which was pretty affordable. I only had to pay 25 euros a month. It made transportation really easy. Most of us were within the city center, so it was very easy to walk to each other’s apartments.

Stephanie wears a dark red winter hat to the cold beach in Le Havre, France.
Beach of Le Havre

Could you describe what it was like going from graduation to the pandemic to going to France? 

It was such a stressful experience. From the time I graduated to the time I was actually on the plane to France, I didn’t know if I would still be doing the program. We didn’t get our acceptance letters until the end of June, because of Covid delays, and our actual placements until the end of July. And even though we got our acceptance letters, we still weren’t sure if we could leave the country because of the pandemic. The visa center did not open until mid-September. They were not accepting applications to apply for a visa until mid-September, and I had to be in France by mid-October. After I was able to schedule my appointment time for the visa center it took a little bit of time for my visa to process. I got my visa about one week before I had my flight to France. 

Even after I got my visa, I had a lot of other things to do before my flight to France. I had to get a background check, my fingerprints scanned, and I had to get my COVID test done 72 hours before boarding. Until I was on the flight, it was stressful, but I made it! Thankfully, it was a lot easier to come back to the US.

Stephanie poses under a transportation sign in Bordeux, France with a reflective structure in the background.
Bordeux

What did you do as a teaching assistant?

I taught English and American culture. I taught at two different high schools. One was a hotel and service trade school, where they taught things like culinary, restaurant service. All of the classes I taught for that school were centered around things like food and drinks, holidays and traditions, nutrition, and service dialogues. The other high school I taught at was a technical and professional high school, where they have programs for Biotechnology, Health, and Social Science. I got to talk a lot about things I was passionate about like U.S. healthcare, our education system, civil rights, nutrition, designing experiments, ethics, biotechnology, and general American culture and traditions. 

I incorporated a lot of things they were interested in learning about. I would do different kinds of presentations and activities about American culture. I helped them prepare for their oral presentations and would give them feedback.

Did you get to decide that or was there a guideline from TAPIF?                

When you’re filling out your application, you get to check off a few boxes about your background. I majored in biology and I did bench and clinical research, so that’s what I included in my application.

I think TAPIF also tries to decide your placement based on your hobbies. For example, I put on my application that I really enjoy cooking so they placed me in a school with a culinary program. For the most part, they put you where they think you’d fit in best and what high school you are able to give the most to.

Stephanie sits on a wall overlooking the whole city of Marseilles, France.
Marseille from Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde

What was your favorite memory as a teaching assistant?                             

I really liked getting to know all of my students and seeing their growth from when I first began teaching to the end. I remember when I first met them, they were so shy and scared to speak to me. By the end of the program, they were so excited to speak in class and we were able to have a lot of fun conversations together.

I loved being able to actually talk to them about what they’re interested in and seeing them build their confidence in being able to speak English. I had them pick what topics they’d be interested in learning. I really liked that because they also had a lot to teach me in return, through our discussions. I would always ask them about things like what kind of music, shows, food, stores, and activities they like. It was like an inside scoop to their culture.

Stephanie poses happily while holding a Rowan umbrella in the air in France.
Vieille Ville (Bordeaux)

How did Rowan’s French program help prepare you for this experience?

I loved how small Rowan’s French program was. I had a lot more opportunities to practice speaking with the students in my class because there were only five or six students. There’s also more one-on-one help from your professors.

The support I got from the faculty was huge. I wouldn’t have gotten the position if it wasn’t for Dr. Hernandez. She encouraged me to pursue the French minor and apply to the program. In the beginning, I was debating on whether or not I should go to France because I am also applying to medical school. Dr. Hernandez walked me through the pros and cons of going to France in the midst of a pandemic. Eventually, I made my decision to go based on the idea that I’ll never get to experience and learn about France the way I did in those seven months. It truly would’ve been an opportunity of a lifetime.

Stephanie wears a custom stole with the Filipino and French flags on the sunny and green Rowan campus near Bunce Hall.

In the end, I was honestly so thankful that I went this year. Even though everything was closed the entire time I was there, I don’t think I would have built such a strong bond with all the other assistants if everything was open. We would have each been doing our own thing. Being able to experience big cities like Paris with fewer people on the streets was also really cool.

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Story by: 
Marian Suganob, public relations and advertising graduate

Photos by:
Stephanie Batista, junior music industry major

and Stephanie Ibe, biological sciences graduate

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Beyond the Classroom: Rowan Global Wellness and Lifestyle Management Major Discovers Passion for Research

Jenna stands by the entrance sign for the Williamstown Organic Community Garden.

Meet Jenna Bottiglieri, who graduated from Rowan with a degree in Exercise Science and is now pursuing her master’s degree in Wellness and Lifestyle Management through Rowan GlobalLearn more about Jenna and how her work with two health research and grant programs helped her zero in on her career goals.

Seeing a new installation of wheelchair-accessible raised beds for the first time while visiting the Williamstown Organic Community Garden, Jenna Bottiglieri witnessed part of her research come to fruition. 

Jenna, a student in the M.A. in Wellness and Lifestyle Management program, serves as project coordinator for Inclusive Healthy Communities, a grant-funded initiative that works with South Jersey towns on projects that make spaces more welcoming for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

Jenna talks with the Borgersen family by the raised garden beds.
Jenna (second from right) checks out one of the new, accessible raised beds in the Williamstown Organic Community Garden with the Borgersen family, clients whom she worked with from both Rowan’s Get FIT program and the Inclusive Healthy Communities project. Standing, from left: Kim and Brenda. Seated, from left: Charlotte and Nathan.

She also coordinates the Shop Fresh Foods Rx program, a research study combining nutrition outreach and education for South Jersey residents who are pre-diabetic and food insecure. 

Jenna’s work on these research projects has altered her academic career trajectory; she now wants to pursue another advanced degree in public health policy either at the master’s or doctoral level.

“I think that it’s so interesting being involved in research. And that’s definitely something I would like to continue, in my next degree, and after that, and actually, in my career … continuing some kind of research,” Jenna says. 

A chance discussion set Jenna on a continued path at Rowan in graduate studies and sparked her passion for health research. As an undergraduate Exercise Science major, Jenna headed into her last two semesters unsure of where to go next. One of the highlights of her college career had been volunteering and then working for Get FIT, a Rowan fitness and nutrition program for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

She describes the program as “fitness oriented but also very socially oriented.” Rowan students and volunteer staff work one-on-one with each client. “They’re able to exercise together, they talk together. And it’s really just a great program for everyone,” she says.

Jenna at the Williamstown Organic Community Garden.
“I definitely see myself leading a nonprofit organization or working for a state Department of Health,” Jenna says.

Jenna worked all the way up to program coordinator for Get FIT, run by Dr. Leslie Spencer, professor of Health Promotion and Wellness Management. She and Jenna were to conduct a study on the social impact of Get FIT on clients and caregivers before the Covid-19 pandemic paused both their research and the in-person client sessions. At the height of the pandemic, Jenna then organized a virtual Get FIT program

When Jenna shared her uncertainty about her future with Dr. Spencer, the professor suggested Jenna look into the Wellness and Lifestyle Management master’s program through Rowan Global. Here, Jenna says she could expand her health and wellness knowledge beyond the anatomy and kinesiology-based training she received as an undergraduate. She also appreciated the online format that allows her to craft a flexible schedule around her research.

“That was really helpful, because I wasn’t really ready for that commitment of going back onto campus right after I graduated. So this ended up being perfect from not only just the criteria that I’m learning in the curriculum, but also the structure of the courses definitely just aligned with my schedule,” Jenna says.  

She now works with Dr. Spencer on the Inclusive Healthy Communities project, a grant from the Division of Disability Services, NJ Department of Human Services. Jenna explains the university’s work has three main components. A Rowan team, working with master gardeners, has partnered with seven area community gardens, reviewing each and making changes such as reducing sensory stimuli, adding Braille and images to signage and designing paths and beds that are more accessible. 

Jenna poses with the Borgersen family, Backyard Gardens LLC and the Sustainable Monroe Township.
Jenna (fourth from left) with the Borgersen family, Patrick McDevitt of Sustainable Monroe Township (center) and Alex Seidel and Brian Pearsall (standing, left) of Backyard Gardens, LLC, who designed and built the garden’s accessible raised beds.

Jenna says the second and third parts of the project include a collaboration with five area group homes; the Rowan team has subcontracted area master gardeners to build garden spaces and organized cooking classes for its residents. 

“The goal is to hopefully use what they grow in the garden,” Jenna adds.

Her work with Dr. Nicole Vaughn, assistant professor of Community Health, on the Shop Fresh Foods Rx program analyzes data collected throughout a four-month period with 20 participants, whom Jenna recruited throughout South Jersey. Participants receive groceries and dietician-created recipes, then attend sessions on food, fitness, nutrition and managing stress. For the last four weeks of the program, Jenna says participants will shop for their own healthy groceries using the skills they learned from the program. 

“The goal is to see if this lifestyle change will prevent their onset of type 2 diabetes,” she explains. 

Jenna speaks highly of her faculty, recalling: “My friend Brianna … we work together in Dr. Vaughn’s lab, and we met working together on Shop Fresh Foods Rx. We had been discussing a topic like nutrition knowledge and social media, because we go on social media, [and] there’s so many things that are just not true. And we actually ended up presenting this to two professors in our department (Dr. Dara LoBuono and Dr. Dylan Klein). 

Jenna chats with the Borgersen family.

“And they were extremely happy to hear us out there even though it sounded very ambitious, they were all very supportive. The professors are so helpful at Rowan, they really want you to succeed and get involved within the research.”

She adds, “I just wish other students would get involved in research because it really is a really great experience, especially at Rowan. There’s so many opportunities.”

See Jenna’s work with the Inclusive Gardens project in this video: 

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Queer Representation In the Media: Mandi Devers’ “Flip The Script”

“Flip the Script,” by Rowan alumna Mandi Devers, is an award-winning audio documentary on queer representation in the media. Mandi’s doc covers how much representation is out there, how characters in media are being represented, and the ways in which queer representation still needs to improve. Mandi graduated from Rowan in May 2020 with a Radio/Television/Film degree and Audio Recording minor, which she completed in three years.

How did you become involved with Rowan Radio?

“I went to a vocational high school and I was part of the video/audio editing program. When I got to college I wanted to do as much as I could with that because I had a lot of fun doing it in high school, but I started late. I didn’t want to miss out again, so in my first semester I signed up for Rowan Radio and I was there the entirety of my college career.”

How would you describe your experience with Rowan Radio?

“It was a very fun place to hang out. Even when we were doing serious work it was still fun work to do, and the amount of things I have learned from there, I don’t know if I could have gotten that anywhere else.”

Rowan Radio is a licensed radio station and club opportunity for students. Anyone can join and undergo training to learn the necessary skills and knowledge about radio and production. “At that time it was the closest I would get to how an actual radio station runs and it needed to be treated as such, which is why training is so necessary,” says Mandi.

Mandi outside Bozorth Hall with Rowan Radio sign.

What was the process of the documentary like and how long did it take?

“It took a couple of months. It started off as a semester-long project for a class. Some of the process included figuring out what topic I wanted to do, how I wanted to explain it, and what I wanted to say. Also, I had to find people to interview and then come up with questions to ask them. I gathered examples I wanted to include and then it was another month of editing. It got tricky at times, for example, it took an entire day to select the outro music because nothing felt right. The professor of that class was the Assistant Station Manager for Rowan Radio. He selected a couple of documentaries from the class to play on air, mine being one of them.”

Mandi shared that she grew up having a lot of queer friends and she found herself wanting to educate others on the topic. Even in high school and all through college, Mandi took every opportunity she had for a class project to talk about the LGBTQ+ community. “I want people to know about these things so they’re less stigmatized and less misunderstood.”

Since releasing “Flip The Script,” do you feel Hollywood and the media have improved queer representation in TV and film? 

“A bit. I think there is still a way to go, but I think it’s becoming more mainstream. A big step is media, TV, film, and books having queer protoganists and characters without making the story about that. Making queer just another characteristic like hair color or eye color.”

What are some ways you think the media could do better in regards to queer representation?

“Just expanding on the types of representation that are out there and the identities being represented. There is a lot of representation for lesbians, gays, and we’re seeing more transgender roles, but there are many more identities that are often left out. It’s important to show these, because the more they’re shown, the more normalized they become to the audience and the closer they become to ending the stigma surrounding these identities.”

What do you think is a good, diverse example of queer representation in TV or Film?

“In the documentary, I talked about [the TV show] ‘One Day At A Time,’ and I think that’s a really good one because it has one of the main characters written as a lesbian and when she finds a partner, the partner is nonbinary and so the show includes pronouns as well. It was really refreshing since I had never seen a nonbinary character on TV.”

Mandi earned three awards for the documentary, including third place under the Radio Feature category in the 2020 Garden State Journalism Association Memorial Journalism Awards, first place for the Society of Professional Journalists (Region 1) and a Hermes Creative Platinum Award. 

Mandi in cap and gown.

I see your radio documentary received three awards, could you expand a little on what these awards mean to you?

“All of these awards proved to myself that I made quality work because I was more stressed about the quality and the editing of my work, than making it. I was very concerned with making it the best product I could put out or making it the best story in the most efficient way.”

How did you come about submitting your documentary? 

“A lot of the submitting was through the professors and advisors who allowed me to do so. Leo Kirschner and Derek Jones, who work at the radio station, helped put my submission through to the organizations to be nominated, judged and awarded.”

Mandi hopes her listeners will understand that these identities are normal and are prevalent in our society today. “In order to accept that we need to show it being accepted. And the more we show it’s accepted, the more accepted it already will be. With all the media that we consume, I think that’s one of the best ways to do so,” she says.

For more information and to listen to “Flip The Script,” visit here.

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Story by:
Caitlyn Dickinson, public relations and advertising graduate 

Photos courtesy of:
Mandi Devers

Alumni Success: Photography Studio Owner Gabi Previtera

Gabi stands in front of the Endless Smiles Photography Sign

Gabi Previtera, alumna and current photographer and business owner, shares her experience at Rowan and her journey starting her own business from the ground up. Gabi graduated from Rowan in winter of 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in graphic design, but her story only starts there.

“I actually started out shooting portraits in a mere 200-square-foot space in my parents’ dining studio!” Gabi reminisces, who now works as a full-time photographer. “As my business started to grow, I knew I’d need to move into a larger studio and now I’m excited to have a much bigger space.” 

Not sure what she wanted to pursue at first, Gabi changed her major while at Rowan. “I originally wanted to be a marine biologist, but I was doodling too much in biology classes and not paying attention at all. I realized I probably shouldn’t pursue this route anymore and maybe go into the art field since I’ve always been an artsy person. I tried that, and of course my parents told me that I need to go into a degree that makes money, so that’s where the graphic design part came in.”

Gabi sitting in a green chair looking out the window.

Gabi started her business, Endless Smiles Photography LLC, after she realized that she wanted to do more than graphic design and expand into working as her own boss. 

“Being a business owner is tough, but is great. You never stop working!” Gabi explains. “I’m a perfectionist so I really like to be able to do what I want, how I want, and on my own schedule.” Some months she has more than 100 shoots while other months are dedicated solely to newborn sessions.

Gabi poses with her hands on her hips.“My proudest moment actually happened early today. I finally reached a big financial goal I thought I’d never make. I did this all on my own. I paid my own bills, got my own clients, built up referrals through word of mouth because of how I treat my clients and the service I offer,” says Gabi.

Gabi believes in investing in education each year because you never stop learning in the field. Whether it be art classes, finding a strong mentor, or getting your first camera and watching videos to learn, education is important.

“For anyone starting out, please don’t go into debt for this. You don’t have to have the best equipment, don’t let others fool you. Pay whatever you can to learn through workshops and practice. Learn what you can, replicate your favorites, and never stop growing.”

Gabi sits in front of newborn photos.

Looking back at her time at Rowan, Gabi reminisces about the lifelong friendships she’s made. “I absolutely love my friends that I made at Rowan. We would all hangout in the art areas together and just make stuff. I keep in touch with them still.”

The biggest advice Gabi shares with creatives is, “Charge your worth, figure out what you want to do and make it happen. Art is a field with careers, so choose the major you want. Don’t just give out photoshoots or give your work out for free — know your worth.”

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Story by:
Caitlyn Dickinson, senior public relations and advertising double major

Alumni Success: Ryan Geiger, Creative Media Business Owner and Accomplished Filmmaker

Ryan types at his a work table on his laptop.

Today we speak with Ryan Geiger, who attended Rowan from 2004 to 2008. He was an RTF major and advertising minor. He now owns his own media studio called Pinch located in North Jersey. Ryan also is an independent filmmaker and has won awards in several film festivals, including the Cannes Film Festival.

Can you tell us more about where you currently work? 

Ryan Geiger recently opened his own media studio called Pinch. With 15 years of experience in the creative industry, Ryan created a strong network with many creative professionals. Ryan previously worked at Bingley Digital in Connecticut as the Creative Director. Bingley was bought by one of their clients, and the owner of Bingley trusted Ryan with its remaining clients.

He strongly encourages students to forge strong connections as early as possible and opportunities like this can be in their future. 

Ryan remembers his first job immediately after college, proving the power of connections. Through one of his connections, Ryan went to work as an Assistant Director for Center City Film & Video (CCFV) in Philadelphia, which films commercials. Ryan enjoyed the feeling of being on a stage set with actors and how it felt so professional. Ryan shared the news about opening Pinch studio with his network and received a request from CCFV to work with that same client he worked with at CCFV. 

“You never know when someone from your past is going to come to you for more work!”

Starting your own business is way harder than it looks. You see people on Instagram; they sell cookies and go viral because [a] celebrity posts about their [product]. In all life, you [either] get lucky or you work, grind, hustle, and you make a name for yourself.” 

Ryan poses confidently wearing blue plaid.

What does your day-to-day work look like? 

“When you start your own business, a lot of it is me reaching out to previous clients and new clients trying to get work. Then, it’s directing all the current workload. Working with the clients to direct digital ads, web design, a video series, or social media videos. 

It’s navigating when things are due, how things get done, and who needs to work on them. I still have my hand in a lot of it. I was editing up until the minute I took this call. I’m always working on something. We [creatives] are always working, always tormented. We’re always trying to do better things. We are obsessed with looking at what other people are making and learning how they made it. It’s not an easy job.”

Can you tell me about your experience as an undergrad?

“I had a wonderful four years and that was partially due to the fact that I engrossed myself in everything. I dabbled in Rowan Radio (89.7 WGLS-FM) and had a morning radio show. I had a  television show on RTN called The Rowan Update. I shot 22 episodes and it was a spin-off of “The Daily Show,” a comedy show that reports on the news. I was a Student Ambassador and I ended up becoming the Ambassador Coordinator my senior year being the leader of all of the tour guides. I could walk around campus blindfolded! I knew everything about every single building! Landmark was my local watering hole as an undergrad.”

Ryan attends The Art of Brooklyn Film Festival in a suit.

Did you have a favorite class or professor? 

As a freshman, Ryan took a philosophy class and fondly remembers the professor treating every student as an adult. The professor’s honesty, seriousness and curtness left such an impression on Ryan.  

“He was the classic idea of a professor who comes in barreling through the door, yells at everybody, and writes things on the wall. It really opened my eye to philosophy, to the phrasing of sentences, and to the thought process of decision-making.”

Ryan’s favorite professor was Prof. Sheri Chinen Bieson, who wrote a book about film noir called “Blackout: World War II and the Origins of Film Noir.” Her contagious passion and giddiness about film made the class more engaging and exciting.

What was one thing about Rowan that was a happy surprise for you? 

“I think the Student University Programmers really did an amazing job in finding a lot of really funny things to do and keeping people engaged. I remember a lot of my fun memories are going to all the comedian shows. They had Bob Saget to Zach Galifianakis. They had a ton of bus trips to go to Philly and to Broadway shows. All the tickets were so cheap! Coming from a guy who grew up in North Jersey, there were a lot of really funny things that I never experienced before. I hope it’s still being funded and that they are still doing awesome stuff because they really did some great programming.”

Ryan sits at his desk at work, typing on his laptop.

What was your journey like after Rowan? 

“My journey after Rowan has been nothing but completely tumultuous, challenging and exciting times. I graduated in 2008, during the collapse of the economy and the housing market crash. It was a real psychological struggle to realize that it wasn’t as simple as I thought it was going to be.” 

Ryan hustled and worked on a few TV shows and movies, but never got the breakthrough he was looking for. He continued to chase his passions in 2009, making his first feature film called “Stealing God’s Money.” It went on to win Best Feature at the Garden State Film Festival

“It was such an encouraging and amazing thing. I was at the awards ceremony and sitting at a table with production companies that spent $100,000 on their film. One guy leaned over and he asked, ‘What was your film budget?’ I said, ‘A thousand bucks. What was yours?’ He said, ‘A hundred thousand.’” 

Ryan continues: “You can do it on a scrappy budget. I made some more movies and that went on to also win film festivals and awards. Most notably, my film ‘Town Red screened at the Cannes Film Festival in 2013. That was a massive moment for me to go there, walk the red carpet, be in the same building as Leonardo DiCaprio (who was showing ‘The Great Gatsby’ that year). I even got an interview on NBC about Town Red. But, the phone doesn’t just ring because you get an interview. You still have to hustle and work hard. I didn’t let that discourage me and I still kept going down the creative direction.”

….

Although Ryan loves Rowan, the journey after was not the easiest. Rowan taught him so many things but most importantly to never give up. As an alumnus, Ryan would like to help current students get involved in more real-world productions. He also hopes to offer his mentorship through the Alumni Association, offering a valuable connection to students now and in the future. 

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Story by: 
Marian Suganob, senior public relations and advertising double major

Advice from Cannes Festival Award-Winning Filmmaker to Radio/TV/Film Majors

Ryan types on a laptop at a work table in the office.

Today we speak with Ryan Geiger, who attended Rowan from 2004 to 2008. He was a Radio/TV/Film major and Advertising minor. He now owns his own media studio called Pinch located in North Jersey. Ryan also is an independent filmmaker and has won awards in several film festivals, including the Cannes Film Festival 

What advice would you give to students about starting their own business? 

Pinch is going really well, but starting a business was so much harder than I thought it would be. When you start small, you wear all of the hats. It can make for a very stressful work environment. You have to juggle all of the balls all at once. If I had $1,000,000 in seed money, I would hire 100 people. You have to think about every single step because there is little room for mistakes.

I was a Creative Director for nine years, and after Bingley was bought out, I finally decided that I did not want to put my career in the hands of somebody else. I know this [field], and I know what I want to do. It just made sense at that moment, with the handful of clients I was trusted with, to start my own marketing studio. Earning those clients was the ultimate push to start building Pinch. Now, I’m making an animated logo for the Yankees and filming commercials for Roadwarez Backpacks, Natural Delights Medjool Dates and Vinglace Wine Chillers. I get to be a director every single day!

Ryan wears a tuxedo to the Cannes Film Festival.

I think like a storyteller, not a marketer that’s focused on the numbers and packing in as much information as possible. I want people to connect with the story we show the people they’re watching and the name of the brand. Part of this has to do with the fact that I am a perfectionist and my love for the craft of making compelling stories gets me up every morning.

Every single day I’m learning something new, whether it’s how to better interact with a client or finding the right conditions to film with a drone. In my last commercial, it happened to be raining that day and the street we wanted to film on had too many wires for flying a drone. I’m problem-solving every day. I really look forward to seeing Pinch continue to grow. I hope one day to make more industry connections and possibly pivot into producing a television show or an animation.

Ryan Geiger directing his independent film, Death By Scrabble.

How did you learn to be your own boss?

All of my bosses over the years have played a role in shaping the professional I am today. Also, knowing what I want to accomplish gives me drive. I want to feel proud at the end of the day, knowing that my clients are happy is what motivates me every day.

What was the most important lesson you learned after you graduated? 

When I was the Creative Director at an animation studio in Brooklyn, we were always recruiting local talent or talent that came from college. It was really important to me to onboard them correctly and prepare them for the real world. This means you’re making creative [meaning creative projects or materials] for clients. You’re not making your own personal little project. In any kind of art, you go from being told by professors to look deep within yourself and create wonderful art. When you start working in the real world, you’re making art for other people. You have to start thinking about that. It’s a hard thing to accept when you step right out of college. It’s really critical that we prepare our oncoming workforce to be ready for the challenges.

When Ryan graduated and became an art director for a magazine called Hometown Quarterly in Cranford, N.J., he made ads for local businesses. He remembers the creative director slashed through his designs because they were not geared for the client’s taste. He quickly learned how to adapt to this expectation in the creative industry. 

What advice would you give to a student today, especially a RTF major?

I could write a book about advice for RTF majors. I was a huge part of the RTF program. I was part of RTN and Rowan Radio. I really tried to take full advantage of everything while I was there. 

If you feel embarrassed to join RTN late, it doesn’t matter. Get in there and make friends. These people are going to be your peers in the future. These people are going to eventually find work. Make friends with everybody in the RTF network. Before you graduate get their email and contact information. Don’t just rely on Facebook. People get off Facebook or become married and change their names. Go around all to all the people that you admire and have done really great stuff. Say, ‘Hey, I want to stay in contact.’

Get behind a camera. Mess with a camera. Go shoot some birds. It doesn’t matter. Write a really short little movie. This is the time to take advantage of the fact that you have all of this free work at your disposal to make movies. Always be creating because you need to walk away with something to show for yourself. All I had was my resume. I thought it was a good one because it had NBC on it. I still had done nothing to show for it. I had no real website. It’s so crucial to showcase some of your work. Post your videos. 

Ryan attends the Cannes Film Festival photo op.

I wish I made more movies in college. I wish I’d kept in contact with a lot of my friends and not just watched what they did on Facebook. I wish I actively kept calling them and picking their brain about how they got out to L.A. Once you go five to 10 years without talking to them, it’s hard to build a relationship back up again. 

You have to think of yourself as your own little business. Even in college, you need to start building a repertoire of work. Nobody goes to art school, just takes a class and says, ‘I’ll start painting when I get my degree.’ You gotta have a gallery of work by the time you graduate.

There are so many options and roles for RTF majors. I was so pigeonholed and determined on directing films. There should be constant filmmaking on campus and pushing students to utilize the bubble that they’re in. You have talent all around you, friends who can help, and scriptwriters [from any background]. Once I graduated, no one could help me anymore with filmmaking.

At the same time, the film wasn’t like it is now with DSLRs and 4K cameras. You can grab your iPhone 12 and you can make a movie. It’s come such a long way since I graduated. You have to get on set and realize that it’s not just about directing. There are 1,000 roles on set.

Who do you hope to work with one day? 

I really hope to work with Apple, Pixar and Nickelodeon one day. I created a script for Nickelodeon in the past, but I’m holding onto it because I hope to line up the right stars and the right budget for this idea. From the film festival circuit, I learned festival judges have to be very selective because almost anybody can make a movie. When recognizable names are attached to a project, they often get more attention than projects without those names. Being a perfectionist, I want to have all of my ducks lined up, and it would be really great for Pinch to be able to financially host those big names one day.

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Story by:
Marian Suganob, senior public relations and advertising double major

Rowan Alumna Shares Advice with Future Profs

Amanda wears a cap and gown in front of a brick building.

Amanda Paton, a recent Rowan alumna, graduated summa cum laude as a triple major from the School of Earth and Environment. Here, she shares her experience and advice with future Profs!

How did Rowan prepare you for your professional goals?

My professors encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone and taught me important skills outside of the standard curriculum.

Were you involved in any impactful pre-professional opportunities? 

My internship at Rowan was very helpful in preparing me for my professional career. My internship was with the National Guard GIS program run by Steve Berg. I did fieldwork to GPS various assets on the national guard bases in New Jersey, digitized the assets in the office using GIS, kept an inventory of the assets and created maps showing the assets on the bases. 

Amanda Paton in front of Henry Rowan Statue
Amanda Paton stands next to the Henry Rowan statue at her 2018 commencement from Rowan’s School of Earth and Environment.

What is your advice for those who are either preparing to attend or are transferring to Rowan?

Participate in as much as you can and get out of your comfort zone. There are so many people in the same position as you and feeling the same way as you.

What was your favorite accomplishment you achieved at Rowan?

My favorite accomplishment was graduating in three years, with three majors, summa cum laude. My three majors were Geographic Information Systems, Planning and Geography

Amanda at her School of Earth and Environment commencement
Amanda at her School of Earth and Environment commencement.

Was there a specific mentor who you would turn to if you had any problems along the way?

Megan Bucknum Ferrigno and Jen Kitson were always there to listen and offer advice for any issues I may have had.

What clubs/organizations (on- or off-campus) would you recommend to future Rowan first-year/transfer students?

Anything in the Geography department.

Did you use Rowan connections or networking opportunities to get you to the next professional step? If so, how?

I made a connection with my intern lead. They heard about a job opportunity from a previous intern. I applied to Colliers Engineering & Design, and that’s where I’ve worked for the past three years as a GIS Specialist.

I create, edit and manage various types of data specifically utilities and parcels. I create figures (maps) for site analysis showing wetlands, streams, flood zones, contours, etc. I create and maintain parcels and tax maps. I do fieldwork in which I collect GPS locations of various utilities, mainly assets for municipalities. I utilize ArcGIS Online to create web maps, story maps, dashboards, survey123 forms and more. 

Amanda with friends and fellow students at her commencement.

What should be on every Rowan student’s bucket list?

Go to Hollybash! 

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Story by:
Loredonna Fiore, junior public relations and advertising major

Alumni Success: Nah’Ja Washington Shares How Rowan Helped Her Succeed In The Advertising Industry

Rowan arch near Bunce Hall.

What are some of your responsibilities at DDB? I have a lot of different responsibilities. One of them is being aware of different trends and what’s going on in the market and creating a newsletter with my manager to keep her up to date on those things. I also, as the junior strategist, essentially do […]

Leading Innovation: Rowan Engineering, MBA Grad Brandon Graham Launches Startup Venture, Mentors Future Entrepreneurs

Brandon poses inside Business Hall.

Today we feature Brandon Graham, a recent graduate of Rowan Global’s Master of Business Administration program. Brandon co-founded the company Arke Aeronautics while still an undergraduate Mechanical Engineering student at Rowan. Learn more about Brandon, his business and his contributions to the Rowan community. Brandon Graham defined his own education at Rowan. Now, as a […]

Rowan Global Alum Kristi Lancaster Realizes New Career Goal Through Education Programs

Today we feature Rowan Global alumna Kristi Lancaster, who recently earned both her master’s degree in Learning Disabilities and a Learning Disabilities Teacher Consultant (LDTC) certification. Kristi discovered the programs through the New Jersey Teacher Outreach Program (NJTOP®), which supports state educators by making accelerated, graduate-level programs accessible either online at satellite locations, at a discounted rate. Kristi works as a master teacher for a Cumberland County elementary school district. 

Kristi sitting in a rocking chair on her front porch.

Can you explain what a master teacher is?

A master teacher is an instructional coach. We support the teachers by setting up or delivering  professional development, modeling or co-teaching lessons, and assisting with district programs.  We also analyze and share out on school and district-level data. We assist with the communication between the curriculum, instruction and assessment team and the teachers.

What made you decide to go for your master’s degree?

At that time, I was a general education teacher assigned to teach in an inclusion classroom, and I saw a lot of things going on in the special education program that I thought could be improved. I decided I wanted to get my LDTC certification, and in doing that I needed to get my master’s in learning disabilities. 

Why Rowan?

Well, I wanted to stay local. I have two children, so I didn’t want to be far from them. Completing classes and classwork online really helped. The combination of the master’s degree and the LDTC certification [at the time] helped also. The NJTOP program, with accelerated online classes and discounted tuition, tipped the scales and finalized my decision to pursue my degree at Rowan.  

Has there been a class that has been impactful for you?

There was a class on positive behavior supports that really helped to kind of change the way that I think about behavior issues and offered me a different perspective. 

A portrait photo of Kristi.

What is one thing you wish people knew about your academic discipline?

This is really specific to the LDTC, [but] a lot of times there’s friction between teachers and the LDTC, and I guess the biggest thing I’d like people to know is that we’re all on the side of the kids. It’s about everyone working together for the sake of the students involved, and functioning as a team in the child study team is extremely important. 

Where do you see yourself after earning your degree? 

Right now, I’m in a position that I love. I do love where I am right now, but where I see myself next is I would like to transition from the role of a teacher to the LDTC. So I would be doing more of the testing, child study team meetings, and things along those lines.

I’m also interested in pursuing a doctorate eventually, so that’s something I may be looking into. I may want to one day pursue opportunities in administration.  At this moment, I’m not really sure. It’s exciting to know that there are still unknowns. 

On your busiest day, what academic, non-academic and social responsibilities are you juggling? 

I am a mother of two kids. I’m married. We have an English bulldog named Tank. During the school day, I check in with teachers, answer emails about any curriculum-based questions they may have, and visit classrooms. If I have a model lesson set up, I would go and do that. I may have a meeting with [someone from] administration, whether it’s building level or district level. I have different data-based projects throughout the year that I am responsible for, so I try to keep my school assessment data as up-to-date as possible. I’m also responsible for delivering online professional development for teachings, so I spend time planning those presentations. 

I live about an hour from work, so the commute also takes up a lot of time. My children both play sports, so that takes up the rest of my time after school. My son has a lot of food allergies, so I have been promoted to head chef here at our house. I do a lot of allergy-friendly cooking. I typically work on my academic responsibilities once the kids are in bed so that I can focus as much as possible. 

Kristi holding her English Bull Dog named Tank.
Kristi playing with her dog, Tank.

What is one thing this field has allowed you to do that you either dreamed of or you never thought you’d get to do?

I always saw myself in the classroom. I always wanted to be a classroom teacher, that was my number one goal all throughout high school, college. And then as I matured in my career, I started wondering about other options that were available. My preferences started to change. Rowan really opened up the door for me to explore those other opportunities that I didn’t think I’d be interested in. At this point in my life, showing up in a classroom every day is really difficult to do, but Rowan allowed me to do that through their online degree options. 

Final thoughts?

The reason teachers don’t go after the master’s is they think there’s not a way to do it. You can do this. It’s an accelerated course, it takes eight weeks rather than 16. I went slowly. But if you wanted to go quickly and take your classes back to back, it’s a two-year program if you design it that way. And Rowan, they’ve been supportive with all of my needs, my professors, anything, they’re flexible with deadlines. 

As teachers, we have so much on our plates right now you can’t think about adding one more thing. But our plates are big, and you can add one more thing. Rowan makes it doable. I thought it would be impossible, but it’s not.

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Alumni Success: Student-Athlete, Trailblazer Brad K. Leak

Today, we feature alumnus Brad K. Leak ’94, who earned a bachelor of science degree in Business with a specialization in Accounting. He also led the men’s Track & Field team as captain from 1991-94. As a three-time all-American champion, Brad wisely balanced the many responsibilities of being a student, an athlete and a leader.

Brad posing with a friend outside the track field while wearing a Glassboro State Track sweatshirt.

Where do you currently work? 

“I am the Associate Managing Director of Financial Aid at Kean University, but I still love my school [as Brad proudly shows he’s wearing Glassboro State College apparel]. Although it was awkward for me, accepting a job at one of my school’s rivals, my wife and I were excited at the opportunity for my kids to attend college for free. I’m also going to run the EOF program for Kean University! I was equally blessed that my fraternity brother is the first African American president of Kean University. He was putting together a diverse team [to lead Kean]; my name came to his mind as someone who would not only relate to the students of today but also knew how to go about understanding federal compliance as it relates to financial aid and helping students to graduate. Just three weeks previous, I was offered to be the first African American Director of Finance of Union Township, but the local politicians wanted to ensure they put all options of the table for the betterment of my career. I could not turn down the opportunity to assist in molding the future minds of society.” 

What was your experience as an undergrad? 

“I received a bachelor of science in business with a specialization in accounting. As an only child, my mother said I always [pretended] to have a business office and clients. I also excelled in mathematics in school. [Although] I wasn’t interested in the complicated formulas, numbers had always interested me. In the church, anytime the offering was going to be taken, I wanted to help manage the finances of the church.” 

Eventually, somebody pointed Brad toward accounting. In high school, he took an accounting class, learning the concepts of debits and credits. From a young age, Brad “knew [he] wanted to study accounting, become an accountant, and build a whole career as an accountant.”

Brad’s favorite class was Accounting 102 with Dr. Diane Hughes, one of the few African American teachers he met in his entire educational experience. Brad later became the president of the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) at Rowan from 1993-94. Brad earned the position by impressing IMA’s advisor at the time, Dr. George Romeo, through class and one-to-one basketball sessions. 

Coming through the EOF program, built solid friendships and learned more about the campus environment. Brad credits his start in EOF in helping him make it through college because it was a major adjustment from his hometown in North Jersey. Living only six minutes from the Newark airport and 20 minutes from New York (on a good day), he remembers being surprised Glassboro only had one Wawa in the area.

Brad posing for a group photo with his wife and daughter on a track field.
Here Brad stands with his daughter Akayla (center) at her high school graduation, alongside his wife Kim.

Can you tell me more about your extracurricular activities? 

“I specialized in the 800-meter race and ran the anchor leg in the 4×400 relay. The anchor leg was tough, especially at nationals where everybody gets excited. I [also] ran run cross country because as a middle-distance runner, you have to be fast and strong. 

“I am a member of the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. I pledged in the spring of 1990, and that network has led me to have a fraternity brother who is the president of a major university in the state of New Jersey. The model of our fraternity is focused on service for humanity. Phi Beta Sigma recruited you so that you could become a leader of the community. It was less about yourself and more about what you could do for other people. There’s a difference between aspiring to be a leader, and already being a leader who wants to serve people. I stayed active through the alumni ranks.

“As one of the historically Black fraternities and sororities, the alumni portion of [Phi Beta Sigma] is as strong if not stronger than the collegiate ranks. [As an alumni], it’s less about college parties and more about community service, networking, and conferences; and, because of that, we’ve become an intellectual thinktank.” 

Brad remembers being a social butterfly and recruiting members for Phi Beta Sigma, starting off with five to six members and gaining up to 25 new recruits. This experience helped shape Brad into the leader he is now. He believes that intentionally creating positive situations will lead to positive results and that “iron sharpens iron.” 

Could you share with us a little bit about racial inclusion and the student culture while you attended Rowan? 

“In my day, the only diversity that came through the campus was from the EOF/MAP programs. In 1992, the Rodney King verdict was released, and we marched down 322 onto the football field during a game. We tried to stop the game. After that, we immediately went to the President’s house [Hollybush Mansion] and camped out. I also went to NAACP events in Clayton and Camden as well as Black Cultural League once a month.” 

Coming from North Jersey, Brad remembers driving back home and about 35% of the time he drove up the highway home, he was pulled over by NJ state troopers. It happened so often with one state trooper, he eventually remembered Brad as “the college kid.” 

Brad posing with the Shady Rest Clubhouse sign and pointing to the name 'John Matthe Shippen'.
Brad plays golf at the first African American-owned golf course in the world. John Shippen is the first African American golf pro recognized by the USGA.

What advice would you give to students, especially Black students?

“Always understand that you want to be the change that you want to see. The blessing is, with [the culture] today, I can comfortably speak about the Black Lives Matter Movement. Where in my day, you didn’t want to be so radical. We were being trained to assimilate to corporate America. You didn’t see a lot of African American CEOs or presidents of major corporations, you only really ever saw us in sports and entertainment. Now, we have had an African American president [and now a Vice President] of the United States. So, I would tell those students — especially the males — to understand that if Black Lives Matter then Black education MUST matter. I want them to value their education first and foremost.

“Education is more than just the process of going to class and going back to your dorm and playing the PS5 or whatever kids are playing with today. Education means you have to join a professional organization. Make sure you not only do sports but also participate in academia and build a relationship with your professors. Ask them about their professional experiences. 

“I challenge them, [especially] African American males, to set the example and change ‘perception.’ Make sure you’re holistically involved in the campus, be involved in the ENTIRE process of being a college student. You’re only going to be able to do that for four or five years. If I had the chance to do it all over again, I would do it all over again. I would do a couple of things differently and I could make my career that much greater just by the basis of my college education and experience at Rowan University.” 

Brad has always appreciated the power of education, especially being the second person in his immediate family to attend college. His aunt, Dr. Violet Martin, was the first to go to college and also calls Rowan her alma mater. Brad and Dr. Martin now have six other collegiate-level students or graduates in their family. 

Brad proudly stands with his son Kyndell, who graduated from college.
Brad proudly stands with his son Kyndell, who graduated from college.

What was your journey like after college? 

“When I graduated from college, I had applied to a lot of the Big Six accounting firms. I wasn’t getting the opportunities I really wanted. Because, at that time, if you didn’t go to one of the Ivy League schools where the Big Six recruited on those campuses and where they have associations set up, they did not look at you. Being the president of IMA, I got sent to a three-day weekend at UPenn. [Even] being one of the most outgoing people in the organization and having a down-to-earth attitude (coming from Rowan), the only kids they were recruiting from were from UPenn, Drexel, or Villanova. I didn’t let it bother me. Long story short, I found out I have a second cousin, Walter Frye, who owns a CPA (Certified Public Accountant) firm. Walter brought me into his firm, and I’ve continuously worked with him for 25 years at the same time as my other jobs. The firm had a contract with KPMG to audit New York City. We made sure to send diverse accountants because the people auditing the city should look like the public. I received training by KPMG in Denver, Colorado. This opportunity set up my whole career. I became a top executive for Atlantic City Housing Authority. I began my own firm and worked with housing authorities all over America, traveling 80% of the time. I would not have believed a small kid from North Jersey would become a key figure in the housing authority. Now, I’ve pivoted back to college and higher education.” 

What do you hope to see in the future of Rowan? 

Brad appreciates the fact that the minority base at Rowan is growing. He hopes that everyone feels accepted at Rowan and that diversity will not be treated as just a statistic. He also hopes to see the faculty one day look like the people they are teaching.

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Story by:
Marian Suganob, senior public relations and advertising major

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Alumni Success: New Jersey State Police Sergeant Danyel Barnes

Sgt. Barnes stands in front of a bank of windows.

Danyel Barnes, a 1994 alumnus, shares his Rowan story and how it shaped his life today as a Sergeant with the New Jersey State Police.

Danyel’s college journey is an amazing story in and of itself.

In high school, Danyel considered joining the military and was being recruited by the Army and Air Force. A guidance counselor at Camden High School, Ms. Sanders, encouraged him to apply to college. After getting into Rowan (then Glassboro State College), he told his grandmother that he got accepted but didn’t have the money for school, so he’d have to choose the military. That same day, his grandmother wrote him a check and told him to go to college. 

As you can tell, education was very important in the Barnes’ family. Danyel comes from three generations of college, so he was happy to keep the legacy going. 

Danyel standing by window

When Danyel got to campus, he had an awesome experience. He lived in Chestnut Hall his freshman year and got involved in Greek life early on. Being in a fraternity was one of Danyel’s “musts” going into college, so his second-semester freshman year he pledged Phi Beta Sigma. Danyel speaks about the strength of this brotherhood. “Our kids call each other aunties and uncles. We all keep in touch and are close to this day,” he says.

When asked about any influential people at Rowan, Danyel easily recited a whole list. One of the people mentioned was a former Rowan president. “Herman James was always on the ground with students — we would see him every day in the Student Center just walking around and talking to people, he had a quiet calm about him,” he says. “I learned a lot from the way he carried himself. Professors and staff at Rowan really taught me how to be a benevolent leader.”

Headshot of Sgt. Barnes wearing a state police mask.

Danyel, who majored in Sociology, also mentioned a really influential Women’s and Gender studies course. “Dr. Gallant taught me all about real feminism. I was the only boy who didn’t drop the class because I really wanted to learn.” 

Currently, Danyel serves as a Sergeant for New Jersey State Police. He got into law enforcement from inspiration from his brother and recruiters who visited Rowan’s campus. Danyel got information from the recruiters, passed a written exam, and went to the New Jersey Department of Corrections to start his career. Danyel felt that Rowan prepared him for his career by giving him a strong foundation in writing. He also learned a lot about human behaviors from being a sociology major and taking courses like anthropology. 

Sgt. Barnes stands in front of a bank of windows.

When asked what his advice to graduating Rowan students would be, Danyel says, “Everything you do isn’t about you, it’s about everyone else — you have to give back.” 

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Story by:
Loredonna Fiore, junior public relations and advertising major

Photos by: Rachel Rumsby, sophomore communication studies and public relations double major

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Alumni Success: Dr. Janelle Alexander, Director of Diversity, Inclusion, Equity, and Belonging at Washington Township Public Schools

Alumni Success: Teacher and Soror Kathleen Gordy-Mathis

Kathleen Gordy-Mathis, an alumna and current preschool teacher, tells us about her amazing experiences since graduating. Kathleen graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in Communications with a specialization in Public Relations in 1990. 

Kathleen smiling and wearing her sorority jacket.

What was your experience like as an undergraduate at Glassboro State College?

“As an undergrad, my experience was absolutely awesome. It was a bit of a culture shock for me because it was rural and something I wasn’t accustomed to. Deer and rabbits were basically escorting you across [Route] 322 to get to the Student Center.

Originally, I’m from Atlantic City and though there are casinos, to me [Atlantic City] is still a small town with big city money. To go from that to Glassboro, was very different. To me, there were enough students but there weren’t too many. It wasn’t overwhelming. 

I chose communications because I like to talk and I love to write. Glassboro was known for being one of the best communications schools out there. [I chose Glassboro] because it was far enough away but yet close enough to go back home. 

I learned, as a freshman, not to take 8 a.m. classes and to opt for 9:30 a.m. classes instead! It was an interesting experience trying to get up every morning and get myself to class. I learned to enjoy the moment and not to put too much pressure on myself. Though school was very serious [to me], I didn’t stress out about it to the point where I would make myself anxious or nervous. I truly enjoyed my experience at Glassboro.”

Can you tell us about your journey from graduation to now?

“In my senior year, I took the PRAXIS or the National Teachers’ Exam and I passed it on my first go-around. Right out of college, I was a substitute high school teacher for one year. Then, I worked for a nonprofit. Then, I went on to work for Computer Sciences Corporation as a corporate trainer, contracted with the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration). [I realized my passion for teaching in] becoming a corporate trainer, where you get to interact, facilitate and answer questions. You get the opportunity to see people’s thought patterns and mindsets. You have the opportunity to provide [others] with the tools to navigate anything.

I left the corporate sector to become a full-time teacher. I am currently a preschool teacher in Atlantic City. I love working in pre-K because they are willing to learn anything you teach them! They are so hungry for knowledge!”

Working with the FAA, Kathleen trained people in interpersonal skills, navigating change, proactive listening and teamwork dynamics. As a corporate trainer, she discovered her passion for teaching and became a full-time teacher in 2003. Kathleen has taught first and second grade, but loves pre-K the best.

Kathleen smiling while wearing sunglasses and her sorority jacket.

What do you remember the most about Glassboro State? 

“Black History with Dr. Gary Hunter was very informative and his style caused you to reflect upon what was presented to you and what you had gained before going into his class.” 

Kathleen’s memories of Dr. Hunter’s popular class on black history was also enriched by her experiences of pledging to Alpha Kappa Alpha in the same semester. For Kathleen, the most significant lesson she learned from Dr. Hunter was how to be a continuous learner.

“The motto I try to mold my life after is: you cease to learn, you cease to grow.”

What was your experience like in the sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA)?

“I pledged as a freshman. So for the most part, my entire career at Glassboro, I was a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha. It was an awesome, life-changing experience. It gave me the opportunity to, not only network with sorors but also with other people in the greek family. They are lifetime bonds. [That experience] was truly worth it.” 

Kathleen served as president of AKA and has been an active member of AKA for 33 and a half years (34 years in May)! She fondly remembers practicing for step performances in the kitchen of an Evergreen apartment. Kathleen’s solid sorority connections have continued to bring her skill-strengthening opportunities, such as mentoring Kathleen in her first permanent teaching job. She has had sorority sisters working by her side and cheering on her success. 

Another fond memory Kathleen shares with her sorority sisters is the absolute elation they felt when Kamala Harris was elected Vice President of the United States. 

Kathleen smiling while wearing sunglasses and her sorority jacket.
Kathleen is a local minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion church. She earned her master’s degree in teaching from Montclair State University in 2016.

Could you share a little bit about racial inclusion and the student culture while you were a student?

“We kind of stuck to ourselves, as far as like-minded people and groups that we were ‘a member of.’ We didn’t really venture outside of that dynamic. It definitely was not as diverse as it is now.” 

Kathleen remembers being inspired by Herman James, the first African American president of Rowan, saying “he always went out of his way to make you feel welcomed.” Kathleen remembers protesting with AKA against Coca Cola’s involvement in South Africa regarding apartheid and against other social issues, whether local, national, or international. AKA made themselves known.

Kathleen’s time with the Black Cultural League helped share valuable information focused on the African American experience ranging from the nuances of college life or life post-graduation. Kathleen continues to be involved in the Rowan community, including Homecoming and the Rowan University Black Alumni Network (RUBAN) panel discussions which span the 80’s to the 00’s. She enjoys annual Homecoming tailgate parties and celebrating with lifelong friends.

Kathleen remains excited about the future of Rowan, knowing that Dr. Penny McPherson-Myers, her fellow soror and the Vice President of Rowan’s Division of Equity and Inclusion, works to make sure that the efforts in working with the student population are balanced and focused on providing the tools students need to be successful. 

“[I hope] to see a continued level of diversity and also, what is needed to sustain it. As our general population changes, I feel that Rowan also has to adapt in order to properly serve those who come through its doors.”

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Story by: Marian Suganob, senior public relations and advertising major

Alumni Success: Attorney Jennifer Webb-McRae

Rowan alumna Jennifer Webb-McRae shares how impactful her college experience was to her current career as an attorney.

Jennifer admits that Rowan (Glassboro State College at the time) was not her first choice going into college. Growing up in Vineland, she didn’t think she could possibly have her ideal college experience living 30 minutes away from campus.

Sure enough, Jennifer ended up exactly where she was meant to be and made Rowan her home. “I stayed on campus, I rarely went home, and was a part of a phenomenal little community.” 

Headshot of Jennifer in front of flag

On campus, Jennifer was a Resident Assistant her junior and senior years, a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, and was part of the Gamma Tau Sigma law and justice society of Rowan University. 

Coming into college, Jennifer knew she wanted to be a lawyer and felt that way all her life. “My parents would tease me and say I would argue every point, so I had that idea since I was a little girl,” she says.

During her time at Rowan, Jennifer made impactful connections that helped catapult her to that goal. “My advisor Dr. Douglass from the Law & Justice department really helped me get into law school by preparing me and guiding me through the process. He steered me in the right direction and gave me advice on taking the appropriate classes and getting good grades so I would be a competitive applicant to get into law school.”

Jennifer got accepted and attended Rutgers Law School after graduating from Rowan. 

Jennifer in front of county prosecutor crest.

Jennifer says her education from Rowan really helped her transition to law school. “I was definitely prepared for law school. It was really the mentors I had at Rowan that pushed me, supported me, and made me feel like I could do it.” Jennifer says she still keeps in touch with those people to this day. 

Jennifer serves as Cumberland County prosecutor, the first female and first African American appointed to this role.

She also teaches classes at Rowan for the Law & Justice Studies department. During our interview, Jennifer personally offered herself as a resource to this contributor and any other Rowan student. “I was very fortunate to have mentors in my life at every step of my career, and that starts in college,” she says. 

Jennifer in front of child advocacy office.

Jennifer’s advice for graduating Rowan students would be “go for it, plan for it, and take advantage of opportunities college has to offer you.”

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Story by:
Loredonna Fiore, junior public relations and advertising major

Header photo by:
Anthony Raisley, senior history major

Black Lives Matter Poem by Peterson Dossous

Peterson wearing a black suit and white shirt with the collar open.

Today we feature Peterson Dossous, a recent Rowan Sociology graduate from Jersey City, NJ (Hudson County). Peterson wrote this piece in regards to racial division in the United States.

Peterson poses, sitting on stairs.
Peterson Dossous, the writer of this poem.

The world we live in is a monopoly, it speaks for itself. The greed, the power, and ambition of having it all. It’s sad, what the government says to keep us civilians contained, to have a sense of control … how can you overpower others if your home is not taken care of first … our home; what we call earth is camouflaged to manipulate humans to appeal to their satisfaction through government aspirations and it starts early; to the simplicity of smacking a baby’s butt, to see if it meets the qualifications of falling in line to following the government set guidelines; it’s crazy. It consists of schooling, teaching a child their ABC’s to having intelligence, money to form ambition and greed, order to be obedient, torture to understand setbacks, religion to provide a sense of hope when all is wrong. The structure is what they call it, so you can be used as a utility. That’s messed up, in my opinion. Life itself is its own whooping, but they pull the strings in every event to accommodate their foolishness. They figure why to worry if there would be a replacement in a matter of seconds but when we overpopulate they form disease or send us off to war to manage the economic pole and space … the purge was always in effect, it’s just we haven’t realized it yet … there isn’t enough space for us or money and I find that crazy we are our worlds virus and we are killing it slowly it’s just a matter of time where there isn’t enough space in the dirt to even be buried and it’s all the cause of one-word; POWER …

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Story written by:
Peterson Dossous, Rowan sociology May 2020 graduate

Thank you to New Jersey Digest for recognizing Rowan Blog as one of the best university blogs in the state.

Alumni Success: NJ to London, Beatrice Carey

Beatrice smiles with her head tilted slightly back.

Beatrice Carey, a class of 2013 Art major graduate, shares how Rowan University catapulted her international travel experience.  Beatrice’s journey at Rowan began from advice she received from an influential high school teacher of hers. Beatrice’s sister also attended Rowan, so she decided that it would be a good fit.  Beatrice came through the Educational […]

Alumni Success: B.A. in Mathematics Grad Bri Arnold

Bri surrounded by leaves.

Today we feature Bri Arnold, an alumna from the Class of 2019 who holds a B.A. in Mathematics. Bri transferred to Rowan from Monmouth University in 2016. She lived on campus during her sophomore year in Holly Pointe Commons and lived off-campus during her junior and senior years. Bri is from Toms River, NJ (Ocean County), and currently lives in West Chester, PA. 

Bri poses by a white door.

What made you want to come to Rowan? I met my current fiance, who is also a Rowan graduate, while he was a student at Rowan and I was a freshman at a different university. After visiting the campus so much and seeing all that Rowan has to offer, I fell in love with the University and I transferred. It was the best decision I ever made.

Bri and her fiancé pose in front of a sunset in their Rowan gear.

What field are you in? I graduated with a degree in Mathematics, but I am in the field of data analytics. I work for Chemours, a DuPont spin-off, based in Wilmington, Delaware, in internal audit, but I’m not really an auditor. I just do the fun stuff.

Bri poses by the Rowan Arch in her graduation attire.

How did your degree help you get into the field of internal audit? My math degree helped me, but what really helped the most was my minor in Statistics. When you have mathematics as a degree, you usually go in one of two directions, which are theory math and applied math. I chose to go the route of applied math, and I went into the industry. The statistics helped me out because I learned how to analyze data sets; take large data sets and draw conclusions in the ways that my auditors want to see it. 

Did you have any internships while you were at Rowan? The summer before my Junior year, I participated in a research program with the College of Science and Mathematics. When I was a senior, I was an intern at Chemours. They offered me a full-time job, and I am still working there today.

Bri poses with friends at Rowan.

What did you love about Rowan? The best decision I ever made was transferring to Rowan. The location of Rowan is great, because it’s so close to Philly, it’s pretty close to Atlantic City, and Wilmington, and all these other places where there are job opportunities. It’s in a good area, and I don’t think I would have had the opportunities I had at Rowan at any other college. My professors were open and wanted to help, and they wanted to make sure that you knew the material, and not just that you went to class and then took an exam. They were totally invested in your education. Transferring to Rowan is the best decision I ever made, and I don’t think I would be where I am now if I never went to Rowan. I’m so grateful I transferred. 

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Story by:
Rachel Rumsby, sophomore communication studies and public relations double major

Photos provided by:
Bri Arnold

Shop Local? Shop Rowan Grad

Rowan Boulevard and the Glassblower statue.

Shop Rowan Grad this winter! Today we feature Rowan alumni who have started their own businesses. Wider Awake Alumna Courtney Stevenson graduated from Rowan in 2008 with a B.A. in Printmaking & Illustration. She and her husband Justin, also a Rowan alum, own a printmaking company called Wider Awake. https://www.widerawake.com/ | Instagram @widerawakeprint “I learned […]

Flying and Finance: It’s All in a Week’s Work for Business Grad Colin Cox

Colin smiles in front of Business Hall.

Today we feature Colin Cox, a Rowan Global alumnus with both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Finance from the Rohrer College of Business. Colin, from Camden County, is a Corporal in the Army National Guard. When not on duty, he works as a proposal analyst for Lockheed Martin. Learn more about how Colin navigates his military and civilian positions — and how he says Rowan brought out his true passion for finance. 

Recent M.S. in Finance graduate Colin Cox could not attend his commencement ceremony this summer for a good reason — he was serving his country.

Colin, a Corporal in the Army National Guard, had been on a one-month special assignment as a crew chief aboard a Black Hawk helicopter in California. 

Since he enrolled at Rowan’s Rohrer College of Business in 2016, the Camden County native frequently found himself balancing his military responsibilities and academics … often at the same time. But since earning his degrees, Colin has mapped out new plans that leverage his military discipline and skills toward a bright future in finance. 

Colin with his M.S. in Finance degree.
Colin earned his M.S. in Finance degree while on special assignment for the U.S. Army.

Since eighth grade, Colin had always envisioned his career path as an Army pilot, circling around a college experience. He enrolled in junior ROTC in high school. After graduation, he joined the New Jersey National Guard, leaving for basic training in South Carolina and then advanced individual training in Virginia, where he learned how to be a UH-60 (or “Black Hawk”) helicopter mechanic. 

When he returned home, Colin admits he had little interest in attending college. With a bit of prodding from his family and friends, several of whom were attending Rowan, he hesitantly gave it a shot. He applied as an undergraduate to the College of Business, and his course changed from there. 

“When I started Rowan, I loved it. And that kind of changed my career path, kind of wanting to follow the military [path for] 20 years to actually wanting to get into finance,” he says. 

Colin completed his undergraduate degree in three years while still serving in the military.

“I ended up loving finance. It’s so much fun. I love the professors and I loved the degree program itself,” he says.

The same week he graduated with his bachelor’s degree, Colin began the M.S. in Finance program. With the master’s degree, he wanted to hone his finance skills and, if he were to seek leadership roles down the line, pursue a broader MBA degree long-term. 

The fully-online program also appealed to Colin, who was working full-time and in the military and structured his classes around both to complete the graduate degree. He explains: “You can’t put it all off, but it gives you the flexibility to do it on your time whether it’s early morning, late at night or in the middle of the day.” 

Colin's helmet and degree on a Black Hawk helicopter wing.

Colin speaks highly of the College of Business’s many mentorship programs and networking events, where at such gatherings he met two alumni who helped forge his future business career. One alumnus helped him decide to apply for the M.S. in Finance program. Another connected him with Lockheed Martin; the defense contractor hired Colin as a proposal analyst soon after he graduated with his bachelor’s degree.

In this role, Colin is part of a team which, working with engineers and supply chain personnel, develops pricing and estimating strategies for government defense projects. It is here that his Army background circles back again. 

“Sometimes it’s a missile defense system, and you get to meet the engineers on all these things I got to use in the military. I got to experience some of this stuff, I got to be the customer. And now I’m delivering the product. So it’s fulfilling. It’s kind of like rounding out the military experience,” he says.

Colin has logged more than 222 flight hours in his Army career. According to him, serving onboard the aircraft demands more training than a typical member of the Reserves. On active duty in California last summer, he says his special assignment’s purpose was to give commanders experience leading troops into battle without the consequences of real combat. 

Professional headshot of Colin Cox.

Colin’s military contract expires early next year, and he says he will not renew it nor train after that date with the Army reserves. He explains: “As you get into your career in the military, you take on more responsibility — and then the same thing on the civilian side. So I would just be nervous about trying to do both and not excelling at either.” 

Colin says Rowan University changed his mind about the corporate world — he calls his position with Lockheed Martin his “dream job” and is poised to climb the company’s ranks. He’s returned to Rowan as an active alumnus, working alongside current and former Rohrer College of Business graduate students as a founding member of the Rohrer Graduate Student and Alumni Advisory Board, which aims to enhance the student and alumni experience by hosting networking events, seminars and industry nights.

He’s also channeled his finance know-how toward a new passion project called More Money Maintenance, a financial literacy blog aimed to helping young adults making better decisions with their finances.

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Rowan’s Business Certificate, MBA Programs an Ideal Pairing for Marc Castrillon, Future HR Pro

Marc stands outside Business Hall.

Today we feature Marc Castrillon, a Rowan Global student pursuing his master’s degree in business administration (MBA). Here, Marc talks about his Rowan experience and how completing the Business Certificate of Graduate Study launched him into the MBA program and, soon, a dream career. 

Marc Castrillon didn’t envision himself in a Rowan MBA cohort when he first entered the Rohrer College of Business as an undergraduate just five short years ago. Yet by this spring, he will have amassed three degrees, one certificate of graduate study, two field experiences and numerous professional connections through a student leadership role. 

He’s now confidently on his way to a career in human resources management. “If I knew what I know now, two years ago, or a year ago, I would have had even less hesitation and been even more excited for the graduate program,” he says.

Marc leans against a railing inside Business Hall.

Marc’s graduate journey began with a major change as a business undergrad. He arrived to the Rowan as a Marketing major. In speaking with his sister, whose career is in human resources, and others in the profession, Marc discovered he was interested in the same line of work. After taking HR-intensive courses, Marc added the Human Resources Management major to his undergraduate degree in Management.

With a path in motion, Marc initially researched human resources advanced degrees to build upon his knowledge base; but he discovered other area HR master’s programs were “three or four times the price and a lot of extra requirements.” 

Casting a wider net, Marc found an option with Rowan Global’s Business Certificate of Graduate Study (COGS), which checked off a few boxes. He took the required five courses and, upon admittance into the MBA, transferred the credits into its larger, broader business degree. The accelerated pace of just 15 credits also meant Marc could complete the program quickly, which he says he felt compelled to do soon after graduation. 

“At the time, I was already on a roll with school, and I was performing at a really high pace and getting good grades. I didn’t want to go and work for a few years and then come back and lose that momentum,” he says.

Through the COGS program, students who apply and are accepted into Rowan’s MBA may enter without a standardized test requirement  — an admissions component Marc also appreciated. “I knew that if I went through the COGS program, and I performed as well as I had been doing in my undergraduate, I wouldn’t have to take the GMAT. And I did not want to take off three to six or … however many months it would take for me to prepare for that test. So that was a major factor in me deciding to go straight into my graduate program,” he explains. 

Marc sits inside an workspace inside Business Hall.

Marc’s choice to pursue the broader Rowan MBA paid off in other ways as well; he’s taken classes outside his human resources track and notes faculty are quick to deliver on new courses based on student feedback he may not have had access to in a more narrow program. 

“I think how wide the scale the classes are in the MBA program really shows how much the school cares about its students,” he says. “They recently added entrepreneurship courses that were not previously available — and they became available because a lot of students have been asking for entrepreneurship-type courses.” 

The College of Business has tapped Marc to serve as the inaugural Director of Community and Membership for the Rohrer Graduate Student and Alumni Advisory Board. According to its website, “Members are actively engaged in academics and shared community connections that elevate the student experience and the reputation of Rohrer Graduate Programs.” 

In this new role, Marc has leveraged his business skills to lead recruiting, outreach and engagement efforts. He also co-manages a lively LinkedIn account for MBA and M.S. in Finance students and alumni. He enjoys his new position as it closely aligns with his future goals. 

“It’s really good for someone who is working within human resources recruiting and retaining membership,” Marc says. “That’s a big component of it — networking events. For now we’re trying to work on online networking events. But I would [also] love the opportunity to create a networking event in person.” 

A pandemic has not slowed down Marc’s year-long internship experience with the healthcare company LabCorp, where he is learning to determine executive and sales compensation for employees at the vice president level or above both domestically and abroad. 

“I don’t know if I want to stay in compensation; there are other parts of human resources that I want to get into. So following my MBA, I want to get SHRM [Society of Human Resource Management] certification,” Marc says.

Marc sits inside a workspace inside Business Hall.

Zeroing in on his future, Marc is acutely aware of the importance networking and professional connections have played in his academic life. Until entering the graduate program, he says: “I didn’t realize how much farther [faculty] are willing to go with you to make sure that you succeed. 

“Even if it’s outside of their office hours, they will sit with you after class and they’ll explain a problem to you. And they make everybody feel welcome … the whole graduate program feels very inclusive, which to my understanding with my friends who are in other graduate programs, I don’t know if they can say the same.”

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Rowan Alum, Aspiring Professor Continues Education in Criminal Justice Graduate Studies

Marlo Rossi sits by a tree with her computer speaking to another student

A prospective career change brought Marlo Rossi back to Rowan and on a brand-new professional path in the university’s Criminal Justice master’s degree program.

Marlo, from Gloucester County, NJ, transferred to Rowan and earned her bachelor’s degree in Political Science in 2019. She graduated with her sights set on law school. Through substitute teaching in public schools, Marlo found a new calling that drew from her civil service knowledge base and interests in both education and the justice system. 

Her future goals now include completing not one but two advanced academic degrees.

Marlo sits outside up against a black fence

“I thought I was going to get my four-year degree and then go right into the workforce or go to law school,” Marlo says. “But this program has allowed me to learn more in-depth information about a subject that I was interested in initially. This has really narrowed that focus on what I want to do.”

Just one semester in, Marlo says she loved the program from the first class she had.

“I left with a sense of pride in knowing I’m going to continue to learn more. It’s only my first semester; it that was that good, I can’t wait for the rest,” she adds. 

Rowan offers both face-to-face and fully online criminal justice master’s programs for adults returning to college. Enrolled in the on-campus experience, Marlo says she prefers face-to-face courses — though COVID-19 shifted how she took classes in the spring 2020 semester. 

“With the pandemic, I had to go online. I prefer the interaction with the professors and with other students in the program. I like that interaction. I was homeschooled my whole life, so I was used to the online, at-home kind of schooling. But I’d prefer face-to-face,” she says. 

Marlo sits outside with a laptop and talks to another student

“Getting to know people” in smaller classes, on a close-knit campus with restaurants and nightlife, are a few things that initially drew Marlo to Rowan as an undergraduate — and still do. Now, the graduate program affords her a work-life balance she enjoys. 

“I like that the program was only one day a week. It was later in the afternoon, so you could work during the day, which I really liked because I would [teach] in the afternoon and go to school at night,” she says.

Marlo’s advice for prospective students is to be ready to work hard and be prepared to learn a lot in “such a short time.”

“For instance, I started with only two classes, and the amount that I’ve learned in terms of writing and critical thinking, has been mind-blowing,” she says. 

Her long-term goal is to pursue a Ph.D. in an interdisciplinary program blending political science and criminal justice. After she earns her master’s degree, she hopes to become “an adjunct [professor] at Rowan so that I could give back to the school I’ve learned so much from.” 

Marlo sits outside next to a tree

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Senior Reflects: Sociology Major Peterson Dossous Strives to “Never Stop Thinking and Learning” in His Field

Sociology graduate Peterson stands outside wearing a suit

Today we feature Peterson Dossous, a recent Rowan graduate who studied Sociology from Jersey City, NJ (Hudson County). Peterson reflects on his experience as a Prof and how he made the most out of his college experience.

Peterson celebrates his commencement with family

Did you have an on-campus job?

I worked for the Office of Career Advancement, which consisted of filing documents, answering phones, managing meetings, preparing career fairs, engaging and interacting with students. It was a great opportunity to acquire well-rounded skills to apply in an office setting post-grad. It enhanced my customer service, Excel sheet and interpersonal communication skills. 

Do you have any mentors at Rowan?

Mr. Richard Jones, [Vice President of Student Engagement], has been a mentor of mine. I was part of a new program he was starting up to best interact with students and increase student participation on campus, which helped to broaden my horizon.

What is your favorite academic or professional accomplishment?

That I graduated and am in the position I’m in. Not everyone gets the opportunity or finds the motivation to go to college where I’m from.

Peterson stands outside wearing a business suit

What got you interested in your intended field?

I was always interested in finding the reasons why people do the things they do. Originally, I was a psych major but changed due to the amount of school you need to go through and knowing how much money people pay psychologists to receive help. I want to figure out the common problem a group of people have and create a space for them to relate and resolve the problem.

Sociology keeps the mind running and I love it. I will never stop thinking and learning in my field. I get to live and learn through everybody else. I will use their testimonies for future experiences.

Eventually, I’d love to help traumatized soldiers transition into society. Every group of people is institutionalized in their own way. Students in school, inmates in prison, soldiers in combat. Soldiers don’t have an accessible outlet. Most people can call a friend, parent, or mentor to mellow you out; but as a soldier, not many people can relate to the suffering or they have difficulty opening up. Talking to a counselor engages everyone in the discussion. It teaches them the tools to reclaim a “normal” lifestyle and how to handle and cope with certain environments. 

Peterson stands outside wearing a business suit

What knowledge or skills have you developed through your time at Rowan that you will take into you for future endeavors?

The most important lesson I’ve learned at Rowan is exercising social skills — articulating a conversation, guiding important discussions, interacting in the corporate world … being punctual, organized and accountable.

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Story by:
Alyssa Bauer, public relations graduate

Photos courtesy of:
Peterson Dossous

Senior Reflects: Bio Major Aaron Krivchenia Prepares for a Career in Ecology

Aaron standing outside science hall

Today we feature recent Biological Sciences graduate Aaron Krivchenia. Aaron is from Aaron poses for a portrait.Cherry Hill, NJ (Camden County) and shares his research experience during his time at Rowan.

Are you involved in any academic or social clubs?

I am a Brother of Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity. We do not have many brothers who study biology, but they are always there to extend a helping hand and aid in networking. I’ve done plenty of mock presentations in front of them, which helped me prepare for conferences I’ve attended. 

What got you interested in your intended field?

I’ve always been interested in ecology. I grew up in the woods and would always search for stream beds. It grew my passion. 

What is your favorite accomplishment?

When I presented a poster at the ESA International Conference in Kentucky summer of 2019. The poster covered a high-resolution spatial survey of cyanobacterial indicators: phycocyanin and chlorophyll in a small reservoir, Dow Lake, in Athens, Ohio. The data was from Dr. Ruhl’s dissertation, so old data but new questions. For ESA, about seven of us presented and for AAAS it was just me and Dr. Ruhl in attendance. For these, I mostly went to panels where people discussed their research. I’m more interested in the science being done. I wish I tried doing some more professional development, but now I have a better idea of what to do for next time. 

Aaron poses outside by Science Hall.What did your research beyond the classroom entail?

I worked in environmental conservation, which I started in second semester sophomore year. Professor Dr. Richmond of Bio 4: Intro to Ecology promoted the position and I immediately showed interest. My work at the lab includes seasonal sampling of small polymictic reservoirs for: seasonal zooplankton community composition, environmental tests, water quality tests, water temperature, dissolved oxygen, total dissolved solids, ph level, nitrogen, and phosphorus. For seasonal sampling, we went out weekly during the summer, typically on Mondays, to five reservoirs in South Jersey: Malaga, Elmer, Palantine, Parvin, and Rainbow, of which the latter four are in a series meaning they are a part of the same watershed, kind of like Russian nesting dolls. At each site we would toss buckets into the damn and outfall, collecting the data using a variety of probes and chemicals. We also ran 10L of water from each site through a mesh strainer to collect zooplankton for subsequent taxonomic identification in the lab.

Aaron poses by a gazebo.We have a variety of projects being done with the data we collect. My specific project involved conducting a study with an ultimate goal of creating a predictive model for cyanobacterial Harmful Algal Blooms (cHABs) across South Jersey. I surveyed 26 small reservoirs collecting data for various environmental variables and photo indicators phycocyanin and chlorophyll. We also took raw water samples back to Science Hall and with the help of Dr. Carone, developed a qPCR (quantitative polymerase chain reaction) to account for cyanobacterial cell densities. This was also done for the weekly sampling which gave us temporal data — how the cyanobacterial composition varies across the season. 

What knowledge or skills have you developed through this opportunity that you will take with you for future endeavors?

Everything I’ve done is applicable to my future in ecology. I learned GIS, analysis software, and my writing and public speaking abilities have improved. I’m more confident talking about science and my work in a way people outside of my industry can understand. I’ve also learned how to conduct good science, be diligent about methods and materials I’m working with. 

What are your next steps or goals?

Right now, I’m searching for jobs in wildlife, private entries and eventually will attend graduate school.

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#Rowan2020 Instagram Contest Winner Jodi Heady

Jodi holding her decorated Graduation cap that says, "It takes a big step to shape little minds."

Meet #Rowan2020 Instagram Contest winner and recent graduate, Jodi Heady! Jodi graduated in Literacy Studies under Subject-matter Education with two minors in Education and Psychology. Jodi commuted to Rowan during her last semester from her home in Mantua, NJ (Gloucester County). She’s a first-generation college student who transferred to Rowan University from Rowan College of South Jersey. She reflects on her time at Rowan and tells us where she’s headed next.

How does it feel to be an official college graduate?

It feels great! I am a first-generation college student, so to be able to have this accomplishment for not only myself but for my family as well is a great achievement. I worked very hard to graduate, and although I loved my time at Rowan, I am excited to see what is next for me.

What was your most memorable experience at Rowan?

My most memorable experiences at Rowan are the times I was able to work with the amazing students and staff in the Reading Clinic and the Rowan University Early Childhood Demonstration Center. The Reading Clinic is where I had my classes School Reading Problems and Supervised Clinical Practice in Reading. In those classes, I was able to tutor children with reading comprehension, fluency, writing and word study. I loved seeing how much the children’s literacy skills grew by the end of each semester.

In this class, I worked with amazing people who guided me in my journey to become a teacher. Those people include my classmates, Kelly the secretary, and my professor the amazing Dr. Valarie Lee. I also loved my time at the Rowan University Early Childhood Demonstration Center. The children and staff there were all so sweet, and it was the best way to either start or end my school day! I loved seeing how creative the children could be. And I loved having little dance parties with the children. I do not think I ever had a day there where I was not laughing or smiling.

What are the things you will miss the most about Rowan?

I will definitely miss the staff and students at Rowan University Early Childhood Demonstration Center. I will also miss my advisor (April Ellerbe), and my professors I had throughout my years here at Rowan. I will also miss HollyBash, it was always something I looked forward to during the Spring semester.

What’s next for you?

I have been applying to many daycares to become a teacher lead, and I am just waiting to hear back from them. I heard back from one daycare, and they told me when they are open again they will get in touch with me!

Any advice for those who are graduating next year?

Be proud of this accomplishment no matter how long it took you. I am graduating with my bachelor’s in Literacy Studies after six years of college, and I am very proud of myself. No matter if you graduate in four years or six years or more than that, what you have done is amazing and I want you to celebrate this milestone. You deserve it!

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#Rowan2020 Instagram Contest Winner Megan Miller

Megan poses in front of the Rec Center in her graduation cap and gown.

Today we feature #Rowan2020 Instagram contest winner Megan Miller. Megan is a recent graduate with a bachelor of fine arts in Biomedical Art and Visualization from Cherry Hill, NJ (Camden County). Megan lived on campus during her freshman and sophomore years and lived off-campus during her junior and senior years. 

Please tell us about your favorite moment with a faculty member or a favorite experience in one of your classes? 

My favorite experience in a class was my Surgical Illustration class. Being able to go into surgery and stand right next to the doctor was incredible, especially being able to see what happens during a surgery first-hand.

Megan wears a Rowan shirt outdoors

What was your favorite or most meaningful personal moment at Rowan? 

My favorite personal moment from Rowan was being on the Rowan University Swim Team and winning our fourth straight NJAC title and third straight Metropolitan Conference Championship!

How did being a student-athlete enhance your Rowan experience?

Being a student-athlete was the best decision I could have ever made when coming to Rowan. It took up a lot of time and was a lot of hard work, but all the amazing memories and friends that were made along the way made it all worth it. I would do it all again in a heartbeat. Rowan Athletics just feels like a giant family, and I can’t wait to come back and continue to support them as an alum!

Megan poses in her graduation cap and gown.

What are your career aspirations and how did the people or programs at Rowan help to support you with those aspirations? 

I aspire to be a medical illustrator. Being a medical illustrator will allow me to see and experience things I would never have the opportunity of seeing while being able to draw. I’ve always found the medical world very interesting but loved drawing and wanted to go to school for it. I was lucky enough to find out that Rowan has the Biomedical Art and Visualization program, which combines the medical world with drawing. 

Do you want to give a thank you shout out to your family, friends, advisors, or mentors?

I would like to shout of my parents for always being my # 1 supporters. I also want to thank my friends, I wouldn’t have been able to make it through the past four years without them!

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Story by:
Rachel Rumsby, rising sophomore communication studies and public relations double major

Behind the Scenes with #Rowan2020 Contest Winner Edgar Aquino Huerta, Creator of the Viral Graduation Video

Meet recent graduate and #Rowan2020 Social Media contest winner, Edgar Aquino HuertaEdgar, from Bridgeton, NJ (Cumberland County), earned a bachelor’s degree in Radio/TV/Film. His virtual commencement video became a viral sensation and caught the attention of national media outlets. Read more about Edgar and his plans after Rowan. 

Edgar Aquino Huerta wants to be famous for creating videos and films, but he never expected popularity to come so soon.

His 15-second video has racked up over 600,000 views on TikTok, over 34,000 views on Instagram, and over 3,500 views on Facebook.

Edgar working inside Lucas Greenhouse, where he shot the viral graduation video

Edgar’s video features him celebrating his graduation at the farm where he works. In it, he watches Rowan’s “virtual commencement,” and then walks down the center aisle of a greenhouse as his coworkers applaud. This is set to the tune of Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood,” a song that makes Edgar think of the Golden Age of Hollywood — fitting, since he dreams of making it big as a screenwriter and director.

When Rowan announced a social media contest, Edgar started brainstorming. The best five posts from graduating Profs would win $100 Target gift cards, and Edgar thought that “sounded good.” At first, he struggled to come up with an original idea. Then, his boss made a joke about holding commencement at the farm.

Edgar ran with that idea and drew up storyboards. He says, “Although my video was 15 seconds, I still wanted to use my skills to make it cinematic.” He learned a lot as a Radio/TV/Film major at Rowan, and wanted to make the best contest entry possible.

Edgar says that two of his coworkers, Maria and Jose, were especially important to the video’s production. Maria helped organize everyone by telling the other workers where to stand. Jose assumed the role of cameraman — despite having never used an iPhone before! Edgar taught him on the fly and was impressed with how quickly Jose caught on.

At first, Edgar says his coworkers didn’t understand the video they were making. He says, “It wasn’t until they saw the final picture that they understood the purpose of the video.” That said, they were always enthusiastic to help celebrate his achievement. And later on, some coworkers “even made their kids download TikTok so they could show their families.”

Edgar in the greenhouse in the graduation filmEdgar also received support from his mother, who has been in Mexico for the past 10 years. She got “sentimental because she couldn’t be with [him] during that little ceremony.” The image on Edgar’s cap is actually a picture he drew of his mother. He included that as a way to recognize all she’s done for him over the years.

Edgar’s video got very popular overnight, and only got more buzz from there. He says, “The next morning, I noticed the video was going viral.” His phone was going off constantly with notifications. It wasn’t before long that news stations caught wind of the sensation. He has now been featured on several platforms, including Good Morning America, Un Nuevo Dia (Telemundo), and Despierta America (Univision). Edgar says, “I was making headlines for one week straight, and getting to talk to people I never thought I would meet.” He was even contacted about a few work opportunities in Los Angeles.

Edgar in a scene from the viral graduation videoEdgar attributes the video’s viral success to a couple different factors. For one, it was uploaded at just the right time. With the COVID-19 pandemic ruining gatherings of all kinds, these are unprecedented times. Edgar’s uniquely safe way of celebrating acts as a much-needed ray of hope. Edgar says, “I turned a bad situation into something great.” Additionally, the video encourages pride in underappreciated workers. Greenhouses are places of hard manual labor, but Edgar chose to celebrate its beauty instead. Edgar says, “I was aiming at inspiring my community into being proud of where they come from, and to never feel ashamed of our own people.”

In the future, Edgar plans to move to Los Angeles and write screenplays. He credits Rowan’s Professor Keir Politz with helping him decide to pursue this path. Edgar wants to expose his “audience to these worlds that are being ignored.” For now, Edgar and his friends are working on projects to show appreciation for farm workers in their community. They do this though organizing caravans and collecting donations to meet the workers’ needs. Edgar wants everyone to know that farm workers are essential.

You can hear about Edgar’s immigration story in this audio documentary from Rowan Radio.

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Story by: 
Adam Clark, senior radio/television/film major

#Rowan2020 Instagram Contest Winner Gianna Floria

Gianna poses in front of a freshman residence hall in her graduation regalia.

Today we feature #Rowan2020 Instagram contest winner Gianna Floria. Gianna is a recent graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Lakewood, NJ (Ocean County). Gianna lived on campus during her time at Rowan.

Please tell us about your favorite moment with a faculty member or a favorite experience in one of your classes. 

My favorite experience with a faculty member was going to New Orleans with Dr. Chelsie Young and two of the other research assistants in my lab for the Society of Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) research conference this past February. It was my first time at a research conference and in New Orleans so it was thrilling!

Gianna presents her research poster with her professor.

What was your favorite or most meaningful personal moment at Rowan?

My favorite personal moment at Rowan was giving my first lecture as a learning assistant this past fall. In preparation for this class, I was so anxious and I asked my roommates to sit through my lecture to rehearse at least four times. Each time they gave me feedback and empowered me to be the best I could be. The morning of, my roommate Jenna made me coffee and each of my roommates made sure to do something to wish me luck. The lecture went better than I could’ve ever expected, and seeing the students’ reactions as well as the reaction of the professor I was assisting, was incredible. I will never forget that feeling and each person that contributed to it. 

What are your career aspirations and how did the people or programs at Rowan help to support you with those aspirations? 

After Rowan, I plan to go to graduate school to get a Ph.D. in research social psychology with a research emphasis in human sexuality studies. I want to use this research to eventually curate a more progressive, comprehensive, and inclusive sex education program in America. Rowan’s incredible psychology department introduced me to the broad spectrum of psychological studies and I’m forever grateful for it.

Dr. Lisa Farkas teaches the best Psychology as a Professions and Practice course and because of her, I had my curriculum vitae and personal statement ready for grad school! Kristine Sietz’s Psychology of Human Sexuality class opened my eyes to the enticing academic world of human sexuality and how truly awful the state of sex education is in America, which gave me my drive to change it. Dr. Chelsie Young introduced me to the world of social psychology when I became a student in her class during her first semester here at Rowan. After a couple of meetings with Dr. Young, she had helped me figure out my entire career path. I then became a learning assistant in her social psychology classes, discovered my love for teaching, joined her Rowan Emotions, Alcohol, and College Health  (R.E.A.C.H.) Lab and discovered my love for research.

Gianna sits in front of Robinson Hall wearing her graduation gown and holding her cap.

How did the clubs and organizations you joined at Rowan enhance your experience?

I didn’t join many clubs throughout my time at Rowan and that is the one thing I do regret. I was in the Animal Advocacy club for a short period of time, which introduced me to many friends. Joining the R.E.A.C.H. lab was probably one of the best things I have done at Rowan, as I met amazing peers and was able to learn so much from them. I also got vital research experience and career development skills through our weekly labs, and through this, I was able to submit research for and go to the SPSP research conference.

Do you want to give a thank you shout out to your family, friends, advisors, or mentors? 

I’d love to thank my parents and family of course, for supporting me unconditionally throughout my college career. I’d like to thank my three roommates, Rachel, Jenna, and Elena, for not only being my friends and roommates, but for being the brilliant, ambitious, and admirable women they are. They have always pushed me to be the best I can be, and I’m so grateful for it. I’d like to thank my group of best friends in my hometown for being a safe haven of love and laughter when being on-campus became way too stressful for me. I’d like to also thank Dr. Chelsie Young for taking a chance on me. I had no idea what I was going to do with my degree when I met Dr. Young, and through her guidance, I know exactly what I want and how to get it. I aspire to one day be the patient and incredible mentor that she is.

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Story by:
Rachel Rumsby, rising sophomore communication studies and public relations double major

#Rowan2020 Instagram Contest Winner Enzo Ronchi

Enzo stands against a brick building on campus
Enzo in his cap and gown sitting on a chair outside a house. He is holding a dog who is wearing a matching cap and gown.

Meet recent graduate and #Rowan2020 Instagram Contest winner, Enzo Ronchi! Enzo graduated with a degree in Public Relations and is originally from Ventnor, NJ (Atlantic County). He transferred from Atlantic Cape Community College and has spent the past two years at Rowan University. He reflects on the past two years of his Rowan University journey!

Tell us about your favorite moment with a faculty member or a favorite experience in one of your classes.

One of my favorite moments during my time at Rowan was with a faculty member was taking Ad Copywriting with Professor Rodolico. We had to do various PowerPoint presentations, and he makes every student feel very comfortable and confident during a presentation and gives great constructive criticism. I took this class fall 2019. I also really enjoyed my experience in Intro to PR with Cristin Farney! She made me feel super at home when I first transferred here. That was during fall 2018.

What was your favorite or most meaningful personal moment at Rowan?

My most meaningful and personal moments were performing at Rowan Alt Music’s and 4333 Collective shows with my band Transfer Post. Ever since quarantine started, the one thing I miss the most is playing and attending live music shows go any kind.

What are your career aspirations, and how did the people or programs at Rowan help to support you with those aspirations?

I think my career aspirations lie within PR/social media in the music industry. That would be my ideal career after college. But working with any form of social media marketing management would be great! I can say almost all of my classes I took between 2018 and 2020 really shaped me and gave me the resources to make myself a better student of PR. This past semester, I interned at 4333 Collective as its social media marketing manager, and I had an amazing experience doing that.

Shout outs:

My family, my friends, The Hamilton House, 4333, Rowan Alt, Jersey Mike’s Italian Subs, Transfer Post, RowanBlog, RoBo, Wilson Hall Studio 1, Pizza Hut, 301 High Street, Rowan PRSSAPRaction, Rodolico, Farney, Schoenstein, Novak, Fitzgerald.

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#KeepinLocalOpen: Printmaking & Illustration Alum Supports Small Businesses Like Her Own During COVID Crisis

stock image of screen printing

Today we speak with 2008 graduate Courtney Stevenson, who earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Printmaking & Illustration, with a minor in Art History. She and her husband, Justin, also a Rowan alum, started developing their successful screen printing business, Wider Awake, soon after graduation. Now they are working with other local businesses to support their campaign, #KeepinLocalOpen, to raise money to “help keep everyone’s lights on” despite financial losses due to COVID-19.

How did you start your business and spread the word as a recent college graduate?

The short answer is: A website and social media, friends and family, and networking! The long answer: I wanted to make and sell artwork after graduating, so we kept an ear out for local art and craft shows where we felt like my artwork might be a good fit. The first art show that we did post-graduation was at a local taco shop. We sold some artwork, but we also began meeting some great people who we still work with on printing projects. Someone might come up to our booth at an art show and
be interested in our artwork, but also have a personal project that they needed printed.

So while we were making and selling our own work, we were beginning to really build up a client base for custom printing without even realizing it. As many times as we were told in college that networking is incredibly important, we didn’t realize it until years down the line when the people we had been meeting, became our long-time clients and supporters! 

Justin and Courtney stand in a tent showcasing their work.
Justin and Courtney showcase their work at a craft show.

Our friends and fellow Rowan graduates have also been a huge inspiration to us and a huge help. Their websites and social media presence were also an inspiration for us, things we quickly realized we needed. And these same friends have also referred our printing services out to others. Other non-art related friends and family members who work at schools or for different businesses began using our print services as well. And then there are the ever-supportive and beloved friends and family who continue to purchase our posters and shirts and spread the word about us on social media. We cannot stress enough how much other people have helped us continue to grow this business. We have put a lot of work into Wider Awake, but spreading the word about the business and garnering support has largely been a group effort!

What’s the story behind the name Wider Awake?
My favorite book growing up was The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The name comes from a passage in that book. The idea of Wider Awake is that we are doing something that we love and rather than dulling our senses or putting us to sleep, it makes us feel Wider Awake every day (even though sometimes the work is exhausting). Over time, the print shop has also become a little like my secret garden because I’m often working alone behind its quiet walls. I’m introverted and find great delight in this type of environment. When Justin is in the shop with me, it usually has a much louder and less secretive vibe.

According to your website, you and Justin built your first printing press. Can you tell us more about how the press works, and what inspired you to build your own?

When we graduated from Rowan, [Justin and I] initially moved back into our parent’s houses for a few months. Since I could no longer ride my bicycle over to Westby Hall and use the printmaking facility whenever I pleased and couldn’t afford to rent a studio space, I realized I needed to come up with some way to print from home. Justin is very handy and enjoys a good DIY project on a budget. He researched plans online for a DIY press, which we built in his parent’s backyard in Toms River, NJ. We took over a small room in Justin’s parent’s house as a temporary ‘studio’ space so that I could continue to make custom silkscreen prints.

Simultaneously, Justin began researching other ways to utilize the press so that we could work with customers who might need other items printed, such as reusable bags and shirts. We hoped this might help us generate some additional income so that we could move this operation out of his parent’s house for our sake and his parents’. We still have our DIY press, who we named “Priscilla Press-ley,” but it is no longer a staple in our print shop. Currently, we print on a Riley Hopkins 4 station/4 color manual press (aka “Elvis Press-ley”) that we use for smaller shirt jobs and poster printing and an Anatol Volt 6 color/8 station automatic press (aka “Machine”).

Justin folds a stack of purple t-shirts at Wider Awake.
Justin folds a stack of purple t-shirts at Wider Awake.

Did you have any transformative experiences and/or instructors at Rowan that inspired you to create your business?
I studied abroad in Florence, Italy for my spring semester of my sophomore year. I cannot recommend this enough. Being flung into a different culture, among new people, a new language and thousands of years of history at the age of 19 was awesome. I would never do it any differently and I would do it a thousand times over!
I loved my professors at Rowan and in the art department. Doc Appelson was my initial motivation for pursuing art as my major. I came into Rowan undecided. It was recommended that I take an art class to see if I wanted to move forward as an artist. Doc taught a drawing class that I was able to get an override into because he is awesome. I love him, he is like a Dad and a grandfather and mentor to every art student.
As my major progressed and I met so many wonderful people, it becomes difficult to narrow it down to just a few great professors. Jen Thwing taught my graphic design and stop motion class, one of my favorites, and she was incredibly knowledgeable, resourceful and supportive. I still follow her amazing work on social media and very much appreciate all of her know-how and help to get things done when I didn’t have a clue. And Nancy Ohanian, my illustration teacher, encouraged me endlessly and was a completely positive pioneer for her students, taking us on amazing field trips and introducing us to friends in the art field. I think a combination of all of these experiences and people helped fuel the fire for persevering in this field and also believing it was possible.

How did #KeepinLocalOpen come to fruition, and what are the goals of this campaign?
Green playful letters spell out "Keepin Local Open."We essentially came up with the idea out of a need to drum up business. The idea is that while businesses are struggling because of canceled events and loss of income from store closings, this provides a small (or large in some cases) way to make up for some of the loss.

The spring is by far our busiest time of year, but almost 100% of our work is for large events (park cleanups, races, concerts, art shows, etc.). Almost overnight, all of our orders were either postponed or cancelled [due to the economic fallout of COVID-19]. Justin woke up one morning with the idea of doing a pre-sale fundraiser. We thought that there were lots of people who would be willing to buy a shirt if they knew they would also be supporting someone in need. The same day, we sat in on a screen printing webinar held by a company called PrintAvo about ways to keep your print shop going during difficult economic times. There was some discussion about running pre-sales, but with the idea of marketing it toward local, small businesses. We immediately started adjusting our website, designing and reaching out to people that afternoon.

We have been really amazed by how supportive people have been with this campaign. Its clear that there is strong support for keeping small businesses alive! Our goal is pretty simple at this point: Keep signing people up, keep printing shirts.

How does #KeepinLocalOpen work? What other local businesses are involved?

a stack of six t-shirt designs from Wider Awake
Just a few of the designs being produced as part of #KeepinLocalOpen.

#KeepinLocalOpen is a fundraising campaign we have been running since the end of March. Essentially, this is a t-shirt fundraiser for small/local businesses, artists, or musicians who have been negatively impacted by COVID-19, including Wider Awake. It’s a way for businesses, artists, musicians, and more to sell t-shirts to their supporters without having to put out any money.

Participants send us a design that they would like printed on a t-shirt (i.e. their logo or their artwork). We put together a mock-up for them and set up an online ‘pop-up’ store hosted on our website where their t-shirt will be for sale for their fans and supporters to purchase. They share and promote the link for their shirt sale but we handle all of the other stuff: orders, shipping, and customer service. We sell their shirts on our website as a presale for about two weeks. Once the sale ends, we print and ship all the shirts for them and mail them a check from their sales. For every shirt they sell, they receive $10. 

Currently, there are 36 businesses and artists involved, some of them located right here in Mullica Hill, NJ. They range from salons to restaurants to individual artists. Besides the folks in our town, some of the others are located in Atlantic City, Philadelphia, one in New York City, and we are working with an outdoor Bluegrass festival in Baltimore, MD.

How do you think your experience in the College of Communication and Creative Arts at Rowan contributed to your success? What valuable lessons did you learn as a Prof that got you where you are today?
I learned a lot of technical skills at Rowan as relates to the field of art/design because of my wonderful professors and their knowledge. I also learned that the community within your field of study is invaluable, especially what I found at Rowan and within Westby Hall. The classes were small and extremely personal. We were working right alongside our professors and we all became very close. You could pop into your professor’s office during off-class hours with questions. They were in constant communication with us. And then there were your peers who were working alongside of you in class and in the studio for hours and hours on end. We spent a very large portion of our time at Rowan in our studio space in Westby Hall, so we were like a family. I loved the people in my department and as mentioned, still love those same friends today. I feel like the experience I had at Rowan as an art major was completely unique and has stuck with me all these years, just like the community and support that began there.

Any advice or resources for current students studying art and/or looking to start a business?
Take advantage of your time in the studio with your professors and peers! It’s likely that you will not have such an opportune time again to be immersed in the studio with so many amazing and like-minded people by your side. Get to know them and support each other! Justin and I both also dabbled in internships and part-time jobs within our field. During our summers and in between our full-time jobs, we worked at art non-profits and in small print shops to sharpen our skills. Meeting new people and building relationships has been invaluable to us!

We love working with and meeting all sorts of people. #KeepinLocalOpen has allowed us to meet new people and to encourage one another during very uncertain times and we are so grateful for all of those involved. So thanks!!

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Story by:
Nicole Cier, writing arts graduate

Header photo courtesy of:
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Biology Alum Thanks Professors for Guiding Him Toward Medical School

Today we speak with Nick San Juan, a former transfer student and biological sciences major who graduated in 2019. Nick commuted to Rowan for his undergraduate studies from his home in Deptford, NJ (Gloucester County), and is working his way toward medical school to continue his education.

You mentioned you were a transfer student and a commuter. Where did you transfer from, and why did you choose Rowan?

I went to Rowan College at Gloucester County originally, then transferred to Rutgers New Brunswick for a year and realized that it didn’t fit me personally. I wanted a school closer to home in South Jersey that was smaller and more personal, and so that’s why I chose Rowan.

My first class at Rowan was with Dr. Gregory Eaton. On the first day of classes, most professors like to get to know students, so we did one of those ice breaker activities. I told the class that I was a transfer and this was my first day at Rowan and that I was a little nervous. He took the time to ask me questions about where I transferred from. He shared that he also transferred to Rowan from RCGC, and said that if I had any questions about campus or the biology department to ask him. I really appreciate the time he took to make me feel comfortable.

Nick leans against the bridge by the Henry M. Rowan College of Engineering.How did you meet new people and stay involved on campus as a commuter? 

I went to several club meetings and tried my hand in a few different clubs I was interested in. Because Rowan is a smaller campus, you get to see certain faces regularly and recognize them, and eventually build relationships with some of these people.

Do you have any advice for future transfer students or commuters?

I definitely recommend going to events and trying to be more involved. It can be lonely as a commuter and a transfer student because you don’t really know too many people right away and don’t stay on campus, so you have the mindset that you’re just here for class and not to make friends. But I think that’s a negative outlook, and I’d recommend getting out of your comfort zone and building up the courage to make new friends. College is a unique experience for everyone, and the way to get the most out of that experience is to meet new and different kinds of people.

How did you get involved in your major?

I didn’t have a linear path to biology or a conventional desire to pursue it out of high school. I initially studied math and engineering, until I realized that particular branch of science wasn’t for me. I decided to take a look into biology, and once I considered the potential careers [I could pursue], I decided that this was the major for me. 

What has your career path looked like since you finished your undergrad? 

I am applying to medical school this summer. I will be pursuing medicine, and aim to become a physician at some point. It’s still up in the air for me, which branch of medicine I want to practice, but I know I’ll have plenty of time to explore the different branches of medicine. The two institutions I’m primarily considering are Rowan School of Osteopathic Medicine and Cooper Medical School of Rowan University.

[On the day these photos were captured], I [am] actually on campus to ask Dr. Gregory Hecht for a letter of recommendation. He’s very approachable and personable. My experience in his class was very positive. I’d go to his office hours every week and ask him questions. I think we definitely built a relationship to the point that I felt I could approach him to ask for a recommendation, because we got to know each other over the course of the semester I was in his class, and I think he was someone who took note of my work ethic. 

What are your goals for the future? How do you feel that Rowan has prepared you?

I really enjoyed my time in the science courses at Rowan. My professors really developed me professionally and taught the material in ways that just made sense. Almost everything I was able to learn really stuck with me, and I think I can use that background and the things I have learned here in the medical education I will be fortunate enough to receive in the future.

photo of Nick on the bridge

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Story by:
Nicole Cier, senior writing arts major

How Construction Management Major Jeremiah Cason Earned a Degree From Across the Country

Photo of a banner located in the College of Engineering.

Jeremiah takes a selfie at a construction site.Name: Jeremiah Ryan Cason

Class of: 2019

Degree: B.A. in Construction Management

Hometown and county: I live in Beaumont, CA with my wife and 3 kids.

First-generation college student? Yes, I am the first student in my family to earn a bachelor’s degree.

What inspired you to choose Construction Management?

Honestly, it was the need to provide for my family that caused me to enter the field. Money as a union tradesman was good, and I knew I was good at building things and putting things together with my hands. It felt natural and I have excelled at the field of construction. I now work for the 4th largest general construction management firm in the U.S. I love seeing the final result of a project and knowing I was a part of the greater picture. I feel like a conductor of a concert hall music symphony, and I love knowing I made this group of people come together to make a beautiful sounds (or building).

Jeremiah poses with a coworker.What would you share with a future student interested in Construction Management?

This program is a great way to get your feet and mind into this line of work. The teachers are great, and they have amazing experience in the line of work that they can offer great advice and even suggestions on paths toward future employment. However, don’t go into construction management unless you understand it is challenging, stressful, and you work a lot of hours. There are a lot of times where you are going to struggle to and even fail, but that is how you learn and become better and grow.

Did you ever have a moment of uncertainty within your major? How did you get through the challenge?

I never had any uncertainty, I was and am fully invested in this line of work. I have poured myself into this career. I did not go to college like most at a young age, I went back to school in my 30s to finish my degree after I had already started my path in construction. I knew I wanted to advance and I knew I was going to need a degree to do it, so I had to go back to school.

Did you feel supported throughout your college career by the Rowan community? 

I took a study abroad class and got to meet some Rowan students face-to-face for the first time. I live in Beaumont, CA and I never got to meet anyone or even any teachers at Rowan until this study abroad class. Not only did the students and teachers from the study abroad class embrace me and help me, they have all been there for me after the class and given me help and advice after in other classes as well. If fact, Dr. Hague from the WWII Study abroad class and I have stayed in touch since my graduation and we still text back and forth. My fellow students (Dan Cirino) even came to graduation and gave me a personal tour of the campus during my trip out to Rowan [for] graduation.

How does your field impact the world? What impact would you like to have on the world in your field?

I think my line of work (and what I do) is the cornerstone of building America’s infrastructure. I am proud of what I do, and I look forward to being a part of my line of work in the years to come because I think methods for construction are going to get very high tech and demanding for new, “greener,” methods to improve building life cycles and reducing waste in the industry.

What is your biggest career accomplishment so far?Jeremiah takes a selfie with his family in Hong Kong, Korea.

Aside from providing for my family (because that was my whole motivation and drive when I started my line of work), I think it was, and is, earning my degree. I think that it’s going to open doors to finally get to the next step and place in my career. Not only that, but I also felt so blessed and proud that my family (especially my children) got to see me earn my degree. My kids now know that you can never be too old to go back to school and better yourself and your chances at advancing your career.

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Story by:
Alyssa Bauer, senior public relations major

Photos courtesy of Jeremiah Cason

Alumni Success: Psychology Major Natalie Torres

A headshot of Natalie Torres.

Today, we speak to Natalie Torres, from Morris County, NJ, who is a Rowan alumna. She graduated with a Psychology undergraduate degree in May 2016 and then earned her master’s degree in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) in August 2018.

We speak to Natalie about why she originally chose Rowan and how Rowan has prepared her for her success as a child psychologist and her current pursuit in becoming a board-certified behavior analyst. 

“I originally chose Rowan because I felt like I would not be just another number. The size of campus and the size of the classes were perfect for me. I didn’t have to take a packed bus to different locations just to get to class, and everything was close by.”

Natalie also had heard that Rowan had a great Psychology program. She instantly knew that with the distance, size, affordability and the great reputation, that this was the school for her. 

“I always knew from a young age that I had wanted to go into psychology. So many people would come up to me asking me for advice, I enjoyed helping them and working through their problems. I find psychology to be extremely fascinating and helpful! When it came time to start thinking about college and what route I wanted to take, I discussed the possibilities with a teacher of mine. I told her I wanted to go into psychology but more specifically, I wanted to work with children who have autism.” 

Natalie feels passionate about helping the education, growth and development of children with disabilities and behavioral disorders. 

“Autism hits close to home for me and my family. So when she told me that Rowan had an applied behavior analysis concentration and a master’s program as well, I knew that Rowan was where I needed to be!” 

When Natalie wasn’t studying Psychology in her classes, she was pushing her education even further with her on-campus job. 

“I first worked for the payroll services at Rowan, then the Rowan mailroom for two more years after that. Then, I finally began working as a research assistant for my professors in the ABA program. During my master’s, I worked for the ABA center as well.” 

However, Natalie admits, she has had her fair share of obstacles during her time as a college student.

“The biggest thing I had to overcome was my time management skills. Once I knew that I had successfully gotten into the master’s program, I knew that I had to juggle doing hours of research, staying on top of my classes and doing my assignments on time. Time management was essential for me!”

Natalie has achieved so much during her time at Rowan, so we had to ask, did the future seem bright? 

“Throughout my time at Rowan, I was fortunate enough to have amazing professors who were willing to help me at any time. My professors were extremely credible and well-known in the field, so that gave my classmates and I the advantage of receiving great advice and mentoring. I not only felt prepared, but extremely confident that I would succeed!” 

Natalie was not only successful in finding a great education at Rowan, but she also made an amazing connection and relationship too. 

Gene sitting on the living room couch with his dog, Carsen sitting in-between his legs.
Gene and their dog, Carsen.

“I believe Rowan has not only prepared me, but also my boyfriend of seven years, Gene.”

Natalie’s boyfriend, Gene Maier, is also a Rowan alumnus with two degrees in accounting and finance. He now works for the accounting firm Baker Tilly in Philadelphia.

Natalie shares: “Rowan has really helped us both in building our careers. Currently, I’m working for a specialized school for children with disabilities in their autism campus. There, I work with children from various locations ranging from toddlers to adolescents. We bought our first house a year and a half ago here in Cherry Hill. We also got our first dog together too, Carsen!” 

While Natalie has so much success around her currently, we still wanted to know what she has planned for the future.

“I’m currently working on taking the test to get my BCBA certification. Once I become a board-certified behavioral analyst, I can continue to help and support so many more families and children.” 

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Story and photography by:
Bianca Torres, junior music industry major



Alumni Success: Chemical Engineering Major Brad Johnson

a drone photo of engineering hall at sunset.

Brad Johnson is a Chemical Engineering alumnus from the Class of 2016, from Langhorne, PA (Bucks County). Brad was part of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society, University Orchestra, String Ensemble and Republican Club. He is currently a Ph.D. candidate for the Department of Chemical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University.

What inspired you to choose Chemical Engineering?Brad Johnson lecturing in a chemical engineering room.

“In high school I was interested in chemistry and, in particular, physics. I was drawn to engineering in general because of its hands-on nature and emphasis on applying scientific principles to improve the world.”

What would you share with a future student interested in Chemical Engineering?

“Chemical engineering unit operations and processes are pretty cool. There are so many inventive ways to transport, transform, separate and combine different materials.”

How does your field impact the world? What impact would you like to have on the world in your field?

“Chemical engineers have a hand in developing and producing almost anything you can imagine: energy, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, food and advanced materials to name a few. We excel at process modeling, utilizing math, chemistry and physics to create products in a safe and economical fashion.

“My sub-field is process systems engineering. We develop and apply rigorous mathematical optimization and modeling methods to improve the design, operation and control of chemical engineering processes.”

Can you share a current research project you’re working on?

“I’m currently developing computationally efficient dynamic models for powder flow in pharmaceutical drug product continuous manufacturing. For example, one model leverages our knowledge of powder properties to predict how fast a powder can be fed through different screw feeders and under different process conditions. Predictive models can speed up a new drug’s time to market by reducing the need for experimental data to begin process development.”

What is your biggest academic/career accomplishment so far?

“Successfully proposing my thesis, ‘Theory and Application in Best Subset Selection and Constrained Regression,’ last September.”

Tell us about your transition into graduate school and how you pushed through any challenges.

Exterior shot of Engineering pond“The biggest difference between undergraduate coursework and graduate research is the switch from solving curated, self-contained problems with well-tested methods to having to pose your own problems and solutions with no guarantee they will work. This difference, in part, made it challenging to transition my strong undergraduate work ethic into my graduate work. To combat this, I’ve scheduled a period of time each day to focus on meeting small research goals. This helps me keep momentum even when unexpected challenges arise.”

Do you have any plans after graduation? 

“I don’t have firm plans for after graduation. In the future, I hope to continue developing technical software and algorithms. I’d also like to help teach the next generation of engineers.”

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Story by:
Alyssa Bauer, senior public relations major

Alumni Success: Staff Engineer for Hershey Company’s Reese Plant Christopher Dromgoole

Christopher Dromgoole, a chemical engineering alumnus, graduated with his B.S. in 2000 and M.S. in 2003. He is from Gloucester Township, NJ (Camden County). During his time at Rowan, he was an Undergraduate Lab Assistant and Graduate Assistant. He is a Staff Engineer at The Hershey Company’s Reese Plant. 

Chris Dromgoole smiles for a selfie on the beach.What would you share with a future student interested in Chemical Engineering?

“There are many career opportunities and pathways to choose from for those with a Chemical Engineering degree such as: food and beverage, pharmaceutical, energy, medical, legal and sales.  Don’t just focus on the word ‘chemical’!”

Did you ever have a moment of uncertainty within your major? How did you get through the challenge?

“Sure, Chemical Engineering was difficult and required a lot of hard work, which made me question whether I really wanted to be an engineer. The key for me to overcome this challenge was to maintain focus and persevere through the rough times knowing that graduation was right on the horizon.”

Did you feel supported throughout your college career by the Rowan community? If so, explain.

“Yes, I most definitely felt supported by the Rowan community, especially my professors and classmates. I was part of the first graduating engineering class, so at that time, the program was small and each semester only had one section per course due to the minimal amount of faculty. This forced our class to be together for every required course, and we became like a second family. If anyone had trouble understanding classwork, homework or projects, there was always someone willing to sit down and explain things differently in hopes of making you understand.”

Chris Dromgoole poses with his children.Tell us about your transition into the work field and how you pushed through any challenges.

“I had a relatively smooth transition into the work field having been well prepared by learning how to work in teams during my various Rowan Engineering Clinic projects. As an engineer, one of the most important skills that you will need to learn is how to effectively troubleshoot an issue or a problem. This skill will greatly improve over time as you become immersed within your field of concentration or industry, but as a new engineer, you can’t be afraid or too proud to ask others for help or advice…”

What is your biggest career accomplishment so far?

“My biggest career accomplishment so far was the commercialization of the Hershey’s Air Delight Bars and Kisses. I worked together with the marketing and product development teams to create and scale up the production of aerated milk chocolate products in multiple plants that were located within different countries.”

How did you begin working for Hershey?

“I believe that working on one of my Senior Engineering Clinic projects, which was the reassembly of a donated, Specialty Chemical Pilot Plant, helped me to stand out from other Chemical Engineering candidates that applied for the entry level position of Associate Process Design Engineer. The clinic project had required me to learn how to read Process Flow Diagrams (PFDs) and Process & Instrumentation Diagrams (P&IDs), which was needed for the role at Hershey.”

Can you explain your duties for the External Advisory Board?

“I help to advise the Rowan University Chemical Engineering department on ways that they could improve their curriculum based on the skills that are needed and preferred for the Food & Beverage Industry.”

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Story by:
Alyssa Bauer, senior public relations major

Photos courtesy of Christopher Dromgoole.

From ‘Sister of Justice’ to Court Service Supervisor

concrete facade of Mercer County Court House with flag in background

The daughter of a welder/steamfitter father and a mother who did a little bit of everything, Kristen Cunningham knew she wanted to continue her education after high school, but wasn’t sure what she wanted to do. She also wanted to make her parents proud and be the first person in her family to go to college. Initially drawn to education and journalism, she shied away from those options when her hearing began to deteriorate as a young adult and she felt her hearing loss may hinder her in those areas. 

She completed her associate degree at Mercer County College, while working full-time as a cook in a restaurant. Her colleague there, Cheryl Buono, a waitress, told her about then-Glassboro State College and said, “You’ve got to come to this awesome school with me.” Kristen checked out a few options, including other state schools and an art school, but ultimately decided, “If Cheryl’s there, sure. That will make the transition to campus life much easier. I didn’t want to risk not getting a degree.”

Kristen Cunningham smiles outdoors, wearing a purple shirt while leaning against a concrete building.Once at Rowan, something just clicked with Kristen with criminology. “It blew my mind. I could still do the writing and the research that I enjoyed, but also focus on justice.” The law and justice studies alumna graduated in 1998, saying that the advice of her professors “saved” her. “I had one professor, Salerno, who asked me, ‘What do you want to do?’ We talked about it for a bit and he said, ‘I can see with your personality you’d be better at this, you’d be better at that.’ And he was right. He definitely geared me toward something that was a fit for me. He cared.”

Another professor taught her the importance of observation. “People never look up and that’s what criminals take advantage of. There’s a lot happening outside of your eyesight. To this day, when I’m walking down the street I always have eyes up. Those little nuggets, those were real-life experiences in that department. It was amazing and I loved it. We had people with years of experience in the field, being investigators, police officers and they were teaching these classes.”

Kristen also considers her involvement in Greek life to be paramount to her success at Rowan. “You went to classes and learned, but after class it was like family. Greek life made me feel like a part of the school.” Kristen affectionately earned the nickname “Sister of Justice” (something she is still sometimes called to this day) and led her sorority, Alpha Delta Epsilon, as president. 

Kristen Cunningham stands outside the concrete building of the Mercer County Courthouse on a sunny dayToday, Kristen is a 20-year employee of the judiciary within Mercer County. She started as an investigator, moving up to a probation officer after a year. She was voted Probation Worker of the Year in 2003. Two years later she was promoted to supervisor, a position she still holds today. As a court service supervisor in Probation/Child Support, she manages a team of six probation officers. “You get a lot of complaints. But as a civil servant you take the good with the bad. It’s rewarding because once in awhile I’ll get a letter that says that their lives changed for the better. That’s better than a bonus, when you hear that someone’s life has been bettered by an action you did – you go to bed that night feeling pretty good about yourself.”

As for her friend and waitress Cheryl? Successful in her own right as a leader in the marketing industry, she and Kristen are still dear friends 20+ years later.

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Where is He Now? Computer and Electrical Engineering Grad Becomes COO

Twilight exterior shot of Rowan Hall

College of Engineering alumnus Ken Whelan at his job at ESS

Meet Kenneth Whelan, a 2002- and third-class graduate from the Henry M. Rowan College of Engineering. Kenneth is the chief operating officer (COO) of Engineered Security Systems, one of the top 100 security integrators in the country. Today, he will share with us his journey, from picking Rowan University to becoming COO.

What inspired you to go into engineering?

My cousin, who is also my godmother, graduated from NJIT (New Jersey Institute of Technology) in engineering when I was 8 years old. I thought it was really cool to know what an engineer actually does. As I got older, I got into computers, so I kind of put them together and got into electrical and computer engineering.

How did you know Rowan University was for you?

Nighttime exterior shot of Rowan HallWhen I was looking at colleges, I really thought I was going to go to NJIT like my godmother. I went to two NJIT open houses and two open houses for Rowan. NJIT was a nice sunny day, nice weather, and it still didn’t feel like home. When I went down to Rowan, it was cold, windy and rainy, and yet it still felt like home. I went with Rowan because even on a day like that, it seemed like a nice place to be.

How did Rowan University impact your life?

I was very shy and not outgoing. Between the classes and student community, I really got out of my shell. Every class in the engineering department had a presentation we had to do and work in groups. It really taught me to work with other people and be able to stand up and present what I’ve done and really advocate for myself. I was also active in the electrical engineering society.

I learned to round myself, and it really helped me out in my career. I went from just being an engineer when I first got out to now being COO for a nationwide security company. I really attribute everything Rowan taught me to get here. 

Can you tell us more about Engineered Security Systems and your role in the company?

It’s a family-run company, and it was founded in 1971. I’m the first person to be leading it who is not part of the family. We do electronic security like access control, fire alarm systems, burglar alarm systems for businesses, colleges and hospitals. We do very high-end systems that are customized for each client.

Interior shot of a College of Engineering banner inside Rowan HallIn the morning I first come in and talk with the engineering department, I ask what they’re working on and what products are coming down the pike. As the day goes on, I spend time with the operations department. Same thing, I ask what they’re working on, what service call popped up. And I also check in with our sensor monitoring center to see how everything is going and how our clients are doing. As the afternoon goes along, I have meetings and conference calls with our clients and vendors. And I kind of spend my time rotating around all functions of the business.

Any advice for students interested or who are currently pursuing a degree in engineering?

Try to get involved in as much as you can. Don’t try to do just one type of project with engineering projects. Get involved in student organizations on campus and definitely get out of your comfort zone. Join something you don’t think you’ll enjoy — whether it is a fraternity, sorority or some other activity group — just to broaden your horizons and meet people who are not in your major.

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Story by:
Iridian Gonzalez, senior journalism major

Photo courtesy of:
Kenneth Whelan

Full-Circle Moment: Communications Alumna Finds New Role at Rowan as Parent Advocate

Wilson Hall, on the campus of Rowan University

Two generations of #RowanPROUD alumni live in the Wilner household. 

Lisa, from West Deptford (Gloucester County), earned her degree from Glassboro State College (now Rowan University) in Communications — with a minor in Advertising and concentration in Marketing — in 1986. Her son, Ben, graduated with a Music degree in 2018 and is currently pursuing his master’s degree in Higher Education at the College of Education

Bunce Hall at Rowan University
Lisa Ann Wilner graduated from Glassboro State College, now Rowan University, in 1986.

Lisa’s seasoned career included high-level management roles among nonprofits such as the Children’s Miracle Network and the Arthritis Foundation and production credits for Warner Brothers and Suburban Cable (now Comcast). 

“I had access to things because Rowan was on my résumé,” Lisa said. “At that point I was competing with students from Syracuse and other [top-tier communication] schools.”

When it came time for her son to choose a college, Lisa’s alma mater was one of a few on Ben’s radar. He was also accepted to nearby Temple and received scholarship money from several other universities. But it was a chance meeting with John Woodruff, director of the Academic Success Center, that changed everything for Ben and soon, for Lisa, too.

“When [Ben] came to the Accepted Students Reception, and he sat down with John, he said, ‘They have the support systems here that I need to be successful.’ And obviously there are because he graduated magna cum laude,” Lisa proudly shared. 

As a student with disabilities, Ben required individualized help for his specific needs, and the Academic Success Center was there to guide him. He utilized extra test-taking time in the Testing Center and sought the help of an academic coach. The Academic Success Center coordinated with the the Music department, which took great care in pairing Ben with an appropriate advisor. Lisa also noted that although Ben ultimately opted to commute, the Center had matched him with a roommate.

“These are steps above and beyond that Rowan does. What I have seen here through the Academic Success Center has just been outstanding,” she said.  

Lisa is a featured speaker for the Academic Success Center’s College Prep Transition Conference and a parent network member with Rowan’s Autism PATH program, which aims to strengthen employment outcomes and networking opportunities for neurodiverse students. 

Lisa and Ben Wilner, both Rowan alumni, at their home
Ben Wilner ’18 (left) and Lisa Ann Wilner at home. Ben is pursuing his master’s degree at the College of Education. Lisa speaks at parents’ groups and conferences for Rowan’s Academic Success Center.

“What I’ve seen [at Rowan] in the last four years, as a parent who sat through IEP (Individualized Education Plan) meetings for 14 years … I have never seen services like exist here. They may exist at other places, but it’s done right here. I talk to parents’ groups. Ben talks to high school students for New Jersey’s Dare to Dream conferences every year. He talks to students and says ‘You can go to college, this is the route to get there.’”

Lisa shared that, through his own academic advisor experience, Ben enrolled in the Higher Education advising track program so he could help fellow students down the road. In addition to his coursework, he’s now working as a part-time academic advisor at an area community college. She said there is “no doubt in [her] mind” Ben will find employment after earning his graduate degree this spring. Lisa also hopes Ben will eventually complete his doctorate in music theory after his successful undergraduate work in Rowan’s “incredible” music program.

“Rowan’s growth and support of all students make me incredibly proud to be an [alumna],” she said.

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Higher Education Master’s Program Sounds Like Sweet Success For Rowan Music Alum Ben Wilner

Ben Wilner stands outside James Hall

Future college students will be fortunate to have Ben Wilner as their academic advisor. 

The Gloucester County native and aspiring academic counselor, who will complete his master’s degree in the College of Education’s Higher Education track this spring, didn’t initially set his sights on the program until his own interaction with an advisor. 

“He’s been nothing but a huge help during the undergraduate process,” Ben says. “I want to give back because of my experiences in the undergraduate setting.” 

Ben Wilner on the first floor of James HallBen graduated magna cum laude from Rowan’s highly competitive Music program after what he revealed was a difficult transition to college life as a student with disabilities. He’s now empowered to “inspire students with disabilities to stay in college, so they can break obstacles to get where they need to go in the college setting because I’ve broken every obstacle up until this point,” Ben explains. 

Ben says he wouldn’t be in college without a love of music, for which he’s a triple threat in voice, guitar and piano. He had just graduated from high school to pursue music at Rowan when the overwhelm set in. 

“I overcame it that first semester, and my entire undergraduate years I got help when I needed it and asked for assistance for the resources I need to obtain, like the Disability Resources office [also called the Academic Success Center] or academic coaching or my professors,” Ben says. “I always say to have connections with your professors. I feel like this transition showed me that it’s a lot different.”

After his first semester, Ben, working with the Academic Success Center, met regularly with his academic coach, who he says honed his writing, editing and organizational skills. 

He also registered with the Testing Center, which he says helped him with both test-taking and studying. The Testing Center was “welcoming and allowed me to do my tests and quizzes in a quieter space,” Ben adds. 

Ben Wilner standing on the third floor of James HallBen’s academic career flourished after that first semester. He joined the Delta Alpha Pi Honor Society and Sigma Alpha Lambda, a national leadership honor society. He presented at Rowan’s College Prep Transition Conference, which offers workshops and tools to support students with disabilities and their families as they head toward college life. 

His own advising experience, along with the guidance he received through the Academic Success Center, pivoted Ben’s career path from music to counseling. He’s applying his graduate coursework to an internship this year with the Academic Success Center, working with students who may be struggling as he once was — which speaks to why he’s so passionate about his future career: 

“I really was inspired by how much I have learned in the college setting, the resources I used to succeed in the college environment,” Ben says. He hopes to “help students advocate for themselves, making sure they do what they need to do to succeed. It’s not easy, but they’ve got to take one day at a time to break those obstacles. 

“I’d like to help those students to keep going and never give up. Every student, no matter their differences are.”

Wide shot of Ben Wilner on the first floor of James Hall

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Smaller Classes, Industry Connections Set Biochemistry Grad Jennifer Chin up for Success

Jennifer Chin biochem major sitting outside Barnes and Nobles

Meet Jennifer Chin, a 2015 graduate from the College of Science & Mathematics. She is from Clarksboro, NJ (Gloucester County) and works for FMC Corporation, an agricultural sciences company, as an associate scientist doing formulations. Today, she will share with us her journey from her Rowan University experience to her work at FMC. 

What inspired you to major in BioChem?Rowan alumna Jennifer Chin, a biochemistry major, sitting outside on a bench on Rowan Boulevard

Initially when I started, I was pursuing teaching math. As I took courses, I felt like I needed something more. Then I switched to bio and then after that I was like, ‘I think this is OK.’

Then I saw biochemistry and said, ‘Wow, this is interesting.’ I switched to BioChem and I really loved it. I feel like at Rowan especially when I was here, it was much more chemistry based for biochemistry, which I really enjoyed and liked.

Why did you choose Rowan University?

I chose to come to Rowan because they offered smaller classes. I could get more information, it was more one-on-one. I know that for [larger schools] they have massive classes and I felt like I would have drowned, especially when I was first starting out because of my personality. I wanted something smaller, I didn’t want to get overwhelmed.

How has Rowan University impacted your life?

Rowan has given me more exposure — meaning, the people I have been connecting with, networking. When I was here at Rowan, I was under [Dr. Gregory] Caputo, he was my research adviser. It was my junior and senior year that I was in his research lab. In his research lab there were other students, and we all got really close. After college we all diversified, but we are still constantly learning from each other and meet up. Every person has their own industry experiences and we all talk about science. So, now post-college I still have all those connections and networks and still count with them.

Rowan alumna Jennifer Chin takes a selfie with Dr. Gregory Caputo
Rowan alumna Jennifer Chin with Associate Dean Dr. Gregory Caputo.

How has Dr. Caputo impacted you?

I can’t even begin to say how much he has helped me. I think Dr. Caputo was my very first instance of how the industry actually works because there is a huge difference between academics and industry. By being in his lab, you get exposed to experiments that aren’t always going to work out 100% of the time, like they are supposed to. And I think that really helped me realize what to actually expect and to have that scientific mind of going through the process.

How well do you think Rowan prepared you to go into the industry?

I would say it prepared me in terms of knowing how to do research or how to figure out an answer. Academically it did prepare me for basic knowledge, but when you go out in the industry is a lot of how you figure out how you’re going to figure it out. So, I think Rowan helped me by knowing how to research a problem and how to figure it out.

What are you currently doing?

I work at FMC, and it’s an agricultural company. We make crop protection products like fungicide, insecticides and herbicides. Graduating college agriculture was nowhere on my list, I didn’t even know it was a thing. But then I got hired for a temporary position and I was under formulations. I got exposed to a lot of chemistry formulations and I absolutely fell in love with it.

What I tell a lot of people is yes, you want to enjoy your work, but find an environment where you are comfortable with the culture. It’s the people you work with and I feel like any job is 70% the people and 30% the job.

As a formulation chemist, what does your daily routine look like?Rowan alumna Jennifer Chin working at FMC

Recently, it has been going in really early, but it depends how much chaos happens during the day. The earliest I’ve gotten in, has been between 5:30 and 6 a.m. There have been times where I have been doing 80 to 90 hours a week. That is why you have to love what your doing.

My day consists of going in and checking emails, then I stay at the lab from sun up to sun down trying to get lots of things done. There’s formulation making, then physicals are performed on them, to see if they actually turned out the way you wanted them to be.

What is your favorite thing about Rowan or your favorite experience?

The people, and I think what I really loved was my research group. I would definitely recommend it to new students of biology and chemistry to join a research group, because that definitely has helped me a lot in the industry and it’s just great exposure to science.       

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Story by:
Iridian Gonzalez, senior journalism major

Ed.D. Graduate, Community College President on His Game-Changing Rowan Experience

As public relations and marketing spokesperson for New York Transit, communicating news for the bus division that transported seven million passengers a day, Stephen Nacco saw his long-term career prospects heading on a different path — toward higher education. 

Nacco traded media for academia, where he rose to top administrative positions at two New Jersey-based community colleges. 

Rowan alumnus Dr. Stephen Nacco, president of Danville Area Community College in Illinois
Rowan alumnus Dr. Stephen Nacco (above)

His career moved further ahead while enrolled in Rowan’s Ed.D. in Educational Leadership: Community College Leadership Initiative (CCLI). “I never wanted to be a community college president until that program,” he said. 

Now, Dr. Stephen Nacco uses the skills he learned in his cohort from more than 750 miles away. 

As president of Danville Area Community College (DACC), about 2.5 hours south of Chicago, Dr. Nacco leads a school that serves more than 6,100 part-time and full-time students. While the city of Danville has seen its population steadily decline over the years, DACC has seen its enrollment and graduation rates increase — which Dr. Nacco credits to his faculty and board, with whom he has built a collaborative leadership team. 

Rowan alumnus Dr. Stephen Nacco (second from right) at Danville Area Community College, where he is president“It’s the coalescing of ideas here, and that to me is what makes working at this college rewarding,” Dr. Nacco said. “Every month we do something — this is straight out of something I learned at Rowan — where a different department comes out with a ‘Big Hairy Audacious Goal.’ And it’s got to be out there. It might seem impossible, but you’re going to try to figure out a way to make it work.

“I think collaboratively in a small community college, it’s really a lot of fun to be able to work this way,” he added. 

Convenient classes, offered right on the campus in which he worked at the time, initially attracted Dr. Nacco to the Ed.D. in Educational Leadership program. Yet the longer he immersed himself in his coursework, the more Stephen felt compelled to seek a community college president position post-grad. 

Rowan alumnus Dr. Stephen Nacco (right), president of Danville Area Community College in Illinois“I was able to study my own leadership and look at leadership theory,” he said. “As I was in the program more and more, I wanted to continue to move up in community colleges … that they’re not ‘junior colleges,’ what they do for workforce development and what they do for turning around lives.”

Dr. Nacco noted Rowan’s teaching faculty included community college presidents, who enhanced the program through their “war stories” and mentorship. He also acknowledged Dr. James Coaxum, associate professor in the College of Education, whom he said had “a style that was calm for people, not just with me, but for many students who were anxious to go back to college.” 

After completing the Ed.D. degree part-time in three years, Dr. Nacco ultimately secured the top spot at DACC in 2016. The importance of the job is not lost on him.

“Being in DACC, you can’t imagine how important this college is to this community,” he said. 

For future students considering the Ed.D. program, Dr. Nacco offers this advice: “Whatever your niche is, don’t be constrained by that niche. Go into it with the idea with you can be surprised with what you want to do. It doesn’t matter what your job is, if you know what you’re doing is important to the people around you, then it’s a good career. And Rowan can help you get there.”

Rowan alumnus Dr. Stephen Nacco's school, Danville Area Community College, offers a Wind Tech program
Rowan Ed.D. alumnus Dr. Stephen Nacco, president of Danville Area Community College in Illinois, is especially proud of his school’s Wind Tech program, one of few in the country that trains students to maintain wind turbines and prepares graduates for work in the emerging wind energy industry.

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Alumni Success: Health Promotion and Wellness Management Major Cory Bennett

Gym equipment in the Rowan Fitness Center

“Rowan was actually my transfer institution. I went to another school for my first three semesters,” says Cory. “It was a liberal arts school, so I realized that it wasn’t the right place for me.” Cory had friends who attended Rowan and were raving about how they liked it. Since it was an in-state school, […]

First Disaster Preparedness & Emergency Management Graduate Reflects on His Rowan Experience

Jeff Dever, a 2017 alum from Moorestown, NJ (Burlington County), has many reasons to be #RowanPROUD. He made Rowan history as the first student to graduate with a degree in Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management, and has made countless contributions to campus safety throughout his undergraduate years. But where did his success begin?

The walls of Robinson Hall were the sign he was looking for to launch a successful career. During his sophomore year, they were adorned with posters advertising the new Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management program at Rowan University.

At the time, I was a volunteer firefighter, working part-time in emergency medical services (EMS). I’d always had an interest in the field, so I thought, why not go talk to my advisor and give it a try?” he recalls.

Jeff Dever, an alumnus of the Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management program, stands in front of a Rowan University EMS truck.The advisors and faculty within the department were eager to help an interested — and experienced, as a bonus — student transition into this exciting new major. 

“I had originally started at Rowan with a dual major in History and Education. I was headed down the teaching track when I realized maybe that wasn’t what I wanted to pursue,” Jeff says. “I spent a lot of time that semester in their offices as they helped me figure out how to incorporate the credits that I had already earned as an Education major into my progress in the emergency management program, as well as my experience as a first responder.”

The role models Jeff grew close with over the next few years in the program shaped the positive experience he had as one of the first students to enter the realm of disaster preparedness and emergency management. He credits his professors and advisors within the major for helping him explore careers in the field and find his place in the program. 

“They wanted me to graduate on time and grow as a person, but also encouraged me to bring my outside experiences as a first responder into their learning environment,” he says. “I don’t think you get such personalized attention and assistance like that at many other universities, especially one that is growing as quickly [as Rowan is].”

One of the first professors Jeff met in the program, Len Clark, quickly became a mentor throughout his college experience. 

“At the time [I was in Clark’s class], I was working part-time at the Gloucester County EMS. He was the former emergency management coordinator of Gloucester County, so we would always go into class and swap stories about our experiences,” Jeff shares. He stayed in touch with Clark beyond graduation, as he continued on to work with the Camden EMS and with FEMA.

Jeff Dever, an alumnus of the Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management program, reunites with a former mentor from his undergraduate days with Rowan EMS.
Jeff reunites with a former mentor from his undergraduate days with Rowan EMS.

Jeff credits the outstanding education he earned in the major to the variety of wise, experienced faculty members who taught him. Many of his professors were first responders and emergency management authorities throughout South Jersey themselves, as were his peers and classmates in the program. This is what contributed to such a tight-knit, collaborative environment within the program that led to lifelong friendships and impactful careers.

“The professors I had were all very invested in the success of their students, because they realized that these were the students who would be taking over their roles once they’ve retired. They want to leave people in good hands,” Jeff says. 

“You see a lot more camaraderie in the program, because you have professors who are retired firefighters or police officers teaching current or aspiring firefighters and police officers. Of course you have professional expectations to get your work done and come to class, but you also know that these people genuinely care about your wellbeing and your success.”

Jeff attributes his accomplishments in his career so far to the rich experiences he gained through an on-campus internship with the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) at Rowan and as a line officer in the Rowan EMS. As an intern with the OEM, Jeff made numerous contributions to the safe environment Rowan students appreciate today, such as managing inventory for Rowan’s shelter stockpile and updating the campus emergency operations plan, in the case of any major incident on campus.

But his most memorable accomplishment as an intern was his role in Rowan earning the HeartSafe Campus status, which there are signs posted for throughout campus. Through this program, a certain percentage of students are trained in CPR, and CPR training events are held regularly on campus. It’s one of the many ways Rowan sets itself apart from other universities in terms of safety.

Jeff Dever, an alumnus of the Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management program, stands proud with one of the HeartSafe Campus stations he helped bring to Rowan.
Jeff stands proud with one of the HeartSafe Campus stations he helped bring to Rowan.

“All these experiences I had as a disaster preparedness and emergency management student not only helped me in my professional development, but it made the campus that I love a safer place. It was a really cool, win-win experience — and something I take a lot of pride in.”

As Jeff sets off to continue his career as an Emergency Management Specialist at the Wake County Department of Fire Services in Raleigh, North Carolina, he encourages more students to look into the disaster preparedness and emergency management program at Rowan.

“As we see more disasters being declared in the United States, a lot of jurisdictions and nonprofit agencies are seeking more formal education with their emergency management team.

What Rowan offers in this program — with accessibility to opportunities like Rowan EMS and internships — is a mix of that formal education as well as practical experience, which is so important in this field.”

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Story and photography by:
Nicole Cier, senior writing arts major

“First Class” Graduate Howard Beder

Rowan alumnus Howard Beder Howard (center) with actor Federico Castelluccio from "The Sopranos" and actor/comedian Jeff Pirrami
Rowan alumnus Howard Beder with KISS Demon
Rowan alumnus Howard Beder with KISS Demon

Meet Howard Beder, a 1988 Rowan alumnus from the College of Communication and Creative Arts and past president (1986) of the Alpha Phi Delta fraternity. Today, he shares how his experience as a Communication major helped him achieve his goals.

Howard chose Rowan University (then Glassboro State College) because it was merely two hours away from his hometown of Maplewood (Essex County). He admired the environment offered at Rowan and decided to attend.

 He believes that communications courses offered at Rowan enhanced his ability to convey information effectively both verbally and in written form. According to Howard, “interacting with people is paramount.” Although unsure of his major at first, he understood that a degree in communications can apply to any line of work.

“Ultimately in the end, no matter what your expertise, no matter how great your grades are, a lot of your success and achievements will depend on how you deal with people,” Howard said.

Alumnus Howard Beder with actor Wesley Eure from the "Land of the Lost" TV series.
Howard with actor Wesley Eure from the “Land of the Lost” TV series

Now, Howard is the CEO and president of First Class Entertainment Inc., an entertainment booking agency founded in 1990 in New Jersey that represents performing artists from all over the globe from the worlds of stage, television and film. Within the agency there are branch offices in California, France and Canada. The company books entertainment for a number of international cruise lines, performing art centers, theaters and casinos. Over the years, First Class Entertainment Inc. has grown to become one of the main specialty agencies that books headline entertainment for the cruise industry worldwide. They even represent Steven Seagal and his blues band Thunderbox, Jack Wagner, and The Platters®, among many other internationally renowned artists, and have worked over the years with numerous A-list celebrities.

Howard is also CEO and president of Howard Beder Productions, a division of First Class Entertainment Inc., representing legendary and accomplished show producers and their entire catalog of shows, as well as to create and produce large scale production shows independently. Also serving as Executive Producer, Howard represents theatrical stage shows for Broadway and other venues, as well as feature film and television projects in an effort to raise capital.

Rowan alumnus Howard Beder is president and CEO of First Class Entertainment
Howard is president and CEO of First Class Entertainment, a booking agency that represents clients from all over the globe.

Howard is additionally involved as a partner and executive producer in a philanthropy project called Tomorrow’s Child. He hopes to organize an Olympic-scale globally broadcast epic fundraising concert that features artists from every country and a child from their respective country. The event will culminate with one artist and one child from every country performing the song, “Tomorrow’s Child,” co-written by partner, executive producer, and internationally acclaimed songwriter Alan Roy Scott and Oscar and Grammy-winning songwriter Will Jennings (“My Heart Will Go On”/Titanic, etc.), accompanied by an all-star “house band,” Philharmonic Orchestra, and the renowned World’s Children Choir. This finale will show the world for a few brief moments that we are all united through the universal language of music, and our love of our children on this small planet we share.

No country will have a larger representation based on size, political power or other factors that would upset the balance. Every country’s child and artist representatives will have the same weight as all others in this moment. The proceeds of the event, through the channels of the International Federation of Red Cross & Red Crescent Societies along with UNICEF, will go to help children in need of food, clothing, medical aid, clean water, housing and more.

He believes that the key to success is always giving back — which is what Howard hopes to do on a large scale with Tomorrow’s Child. Fundraising efforts continue toward the $20 million goal necessary in order to execute this globally broadcast charity event. 

Rowan alumnus Howard Beder with wife Irena Beder
Rowan alumnus Howard Beder with wife Irena Beder

Howard wanted to give a few pieces of advice to Rowan students about achieving success:

  1. Learning is continual. Apply what you’ve learned but never have a big ego. Treat everyone with respect: your partners, secretary and your janitor. You never know who will teach you a valuable lesson.

  2. You must evolve. Learn to be adaptable. Always keep an open mind and think about where tomorrow is headed.

  3. Leadership and activity are key. Take advantage of activities, clubs and organizations that are present. Be involved because interacting with people helps you learn social dynamics and leadership skills, which are valuable for the future.

WEBSITE for FIRST CLASS ENTERTAINMENT INC.:  www.gotofirstclass.com

FACEBOOK PAGE for FIRST CLASS ENTERTAINMENT INC.:  www.facebook.com/FirstClassEntertainmentInc/

PHOTO GALLERY for FIRST CLASS ENTERTAINMENT INC.:  www.gotofirstclass.com/about/photogallery.htm  

Header photo: Howard (center) with actor Federico Castelluccio from “The Sopranos” and actor/comedian Jeff Pirrami

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Story by:
Dean Powers, sophomore radio/television/film major
Photos courtesy of:
Howard Beder 

Alumni Success: Julia Lechner, From NJ to LA

Rowan alumna Jula Lechner (at left) was the Rowan mascot, WhooRU, while a student here.

Julia Lechner is a Journalism graduate of the 2009 class from Pitman, NJ (Gloucester County). She reported for the Courier Post while she was still an undergraduate along with DJing for Rowan Radio and being the school mascot, Whoo RU. She worked for E! News after she graduated and is currently a senior writer with CBS Interactive.

Julia Lechner HeadshotWhat did you like the most about Rowan?

“I really liked the community feel on campus. It felt like professors really knew me and cared to get to know their students. There was also always a lot of stuff to do on campus.”

What were some extracurricular activities that you did?

“Along with working for the Rowan Radio and being the mascot, I tried to attend the intern fairs that they held on campus, and that’s how I attained my first job at the Courier Post.”

How did attending Rowan impact your decisions about your future career?

“Rowan is really centrally located near a lot of work opportunities because you’re right near Philly and not too far from New York. Getting my job at the Courier Post really helped me find out what career I wanted to pursue, and I have Rowan to thank for connecting me with Courier.” 

What got you interested in your field?

“I really enjoyed storytelling and that’s really the heart of journalism, I just love hearing others’ stories and what they are passionate about. I loved interviewing people who loved what they were doing.”

How did Rowan help you achieve your goals?

“I fully took advantage of all the things on campus — the career fairs, tutoring, working [with] my advisors to help me find the right workload for me. And because of that I was able to finish my degree in three years.”

How did Rowan help prepare you for your current job?

“I very much appreciate that Rowan helped me achieve my goals academically while I was still working for the Courier Post. Working and going to school taught me time management, being professional and other things that just classes won’t teach. Something that I remember from the Journalism program specifically was that all the professors were still active in the field and had insightful experience, and this was during the recession so they did not sugar coat the working world, which I appreciated. All the advisors and professors really wanted to help any way they could.”

Do you think you would have had the same career path if you attended a different university?

“No, I don’t think I would have. I would not have got my first job from the career fair at Rowan, and that job led to where I am now.”

Was there a specific mentor that you would turn to if you had a problem about anything?

“I had several, such as Kathryn Quigley, who I still keep contact with — she had extensive experience and knowledge about her field. She goes above and beyond for her students and still roots for them even after they graduate.”

What is your favorite accomplishment in your field? 

“I really love seeing people sharing on social media something that I wrote (even if it’s negative), because something in it was something that they thought was worth sharing. Another accomplishment would have to have been meeting Richard Simmons and getting a hug from him!

What would be some advice for students who are on their way to graduating?

Julia with her co-workers at CBS interactive
Julia with her co-workers at CBS interactive

“Take advantage of all the resources on campus, have resumes and portfolios ready and don’t be afraid to ask someone to look over them. Also keep in touch with people — you never know what opportunities they might have for you!”

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Story by:
Justin Borelli, senior advertising major

Alumni Success: William Moylan, Special Education Teacher

Unified Sports members posing for a photo

William Moylan graduated with his bachelor’s degree in Subject Matter Education/Math (2013) and master’s in Special Education (2015). From Park Ridge, NJ (Bergen County), William chose Rowan because he liked the small school feel and the respected education program. The distance was also perfect for him — Rowan was close enough for it to be “close to home” but also far enough away so he could “get away.”

William Moylan (top row, second from left) credits his on-campus experience with Unified Sports with his own work as a special education teacher.
William Moylan (top row, second from left) credits his on-campus experience in Unified Sports with inspiring his career as a special education teacher.

Bill worked in the Recreation Center when he attended Rowan. He says that many of the essential skills that helped him then and later in life were provided by the Rec Center, such as resume building, social skills and figuring out where he wanted to take his career. 

Bill also worked with Unified Sports, a program where Special Olympics athletes and Rowan students come together to play competitive games; it also offered students volunteer coaching opportunities. This experience led Bill down the career path he’s in now in special education. It helped him realize how important working in a positive atmosphere is, and he wanted to instill that feeling to more students.

Bill recalled his idea to have he and the other coaches start wearing suits to their games. Along with suits, they’d wear different outfits for certain events, like pink for breast cancer awareness and Hawaiian shirts for the Hawaiian Invitational event. This tradition, along with others started by Bill and his friends, carries on to this day. 

Bill said the most exciting thing he’s currently doing is working with the Special Olympics and Unified Sports, “being able to make an impact on individuals with intellectual disabilities and how that environment around Unified and the atmosphere can trickle into every day life and society,” he explained. 

The most fulfilling part of his career now is working with the intellectually disabled, being able use his youth right now to show that he’s been in their shoes and that their struggles are OK. He shows them a perspective from an inclusive atmosphere to help them be able to grow.

Rowan alumnus William Moylan speaks at a Unified Sports event
Moylan speaks at a Unified Sports event.

Bill teaches math at Whippany Park High School, where he says he always talks to his students about the positive environment you can find in college and in general how valuable the experience of college can be.

This is Bill’s fifth year teaching, and the first year that he’s seeing students he’s been with throughout their high school experience graduate and move on to college. He says 12-15 of his students are coming to Rowan for the class of 2023.

When asked if he had any advice for students interested in his career path, Bill believes the biggest thing that made his application stand out from others was his involvement with the Rec Center, Unified Sports and the Special Olympics. Bill urges any student to start joining clubs and getting these valuable experiences as soon as they can. He mentioned that he started working with Unified Sports during his junior year and wishes he had started even sooner.

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Story by:
Dean Powers, sophomore radio/TV/film major

Photos courtesy of:
William Moylan

Alumni Success Story: CEO Steve McKeon

Steve McKeon working on his desktop computer in his home office

An entrepreneurial mindset paired with an interest to solve problems prepared Steve McKeon, a first-generation college student, for a future in the technology business. As CEO of MacGuyver Media, Steve discusses how Rowan University taught him the networking skills and technical foundation that led to the success he finds today leading a software development company from his home office.

“I’m hoping that in five to 10 years MacGuyver Media will be a $50 million company with 300 employees. I hope that many of them come from Rowan University,” he said. 

Steve McKeon posing for a portrait photo on his porch.

As an Engineering major turned Computer Science major, Steve knew that problem solving would be his biggest asset in information technology and that his degree would support him. Because technology is always changing, he found it important to emphasize learning how things work so he could always stay ahead of the technology curve.

“Computer science taught me how to learn and comprehend things quickly. It’s important that I’m continuously learning and reading new things to stay on the cutting edge of technology,” says Steve. “I see what people are looking for and I always try to be a little ahead of the trend. I’m always making sure I’m not just following them, I’m leading them.”

In 2015, Steve launched MacGuyver Media, a software development company dedicated to being on the forefront of technology. To be a leader in his field, he’s immersed himself in all things technology since he wrapped up his degree in 1998.

A benefit to being a business owner is having an in-home office that allows Steve to enjoy the flexibility working from home. With his dog Lola by his side, he supports his family and business.

Steve and Lola the Dalmatian sitting on a grey couch.

Most of Steve’s day-to-day work is based on problem solving. A business may call and need a process or software streamlined, and it’s up to Steve to reverse engineer it to find a tech savvy solution, fast.

It’s most important to him that he and his team can provide value to their clients. From custom web applications that cover accounting, inventory management and reporting, to web redesigns, Steve’s team does it all.

Alumnus Steve McKeon working in his at-home officeBeing a business owner requires Steve to constantly meet other like-minded colleagues at networking events to grow professionally and personally.

“My position as social chairman in Alpha Phi Delta at Rowan helped me immensely as a business owner. In my position, I was in charge of publicity, event planning and Greek relations, which taught me how to work with all different personalities,” says Steve. “I can now confidently find value in people quickly and come up objectives and goals much quicker because of my experiences in Greek Life when I was younger.”

With now 20 years of experience in the software industry and the CEO of his own company under his belt, Steve looks to the next generation of Rowan University Computer Science majors to help support his business.

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Where is She Now? PCI Alumna and PR Grad Troi Barnes

PCI alumna Troi Barnes attended the Student Leadership Conference in the Chamberlain Student CenterMeet Pre-College Institute (PCI) alumna Troi Barnes, a 2017 graduate from the department of Public Relations and Advertising. She is from Williamstown, NJ (Gloucester County). Today, Troi will share with us what she’s up to now and how PCI helped her prepare for Rowan.

What are you currently doing? “I am a public relations account coordinator at Skai Blue Media, located in Philadelphia. I lead accounts such as The African American Museum in Philadelphia, I handle all their communications. I work with [teen activist and author] Marley Dias, I lead her account for #1000BlackGirlBooks. I also work with [author and producer] Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni, who does a one-woman show called “One Drop of Love.” She is also a consultant for Matt Damon and Ben Affleck for Pearl Street Films. So, I secure their accounts for speaking engagements and different social media partnerships.”

PCI alumna Troi Barnes attended the Student Leadership Conference in the Chamberlain Student CenterHow did PCI help you prepare for college? “It helped me a lot. My mother is Dr. Penny McPherson Myers [from the Division for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Rowan]. So, I was 12 when I started coming to the PCI summer program. It helped me to get to know people prior to even before coming to Rowan. And when I was actually in the program in 2013, I met so many lifelong friends. It also prepared me for college with being able to take courses that would eliminate me taking them in the school year, building up my GPA and just having a family going into the school year and college life in general.”

Were there any classes that stood out for you during the summer program? “I took a writing class that really helped me strengthen my writing before I entered college. I wasn’t that strong [in writing], and that helped me to eventually get where I am now, where I am writing press releases and media alerts.”

Any advice you would give to PCI students? “Give your all. As much as you give is as much as you get from the program. So, if you engage with everyone, you will become family. If you put effort to become friends with the people you are here with for six weeks, then you will definitely get a lot out from the program.”

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Story by:
Iridian Gonzalez, senior journalism major