Meet Our Researchers: Andra Garner Studies How Climate Change Impacts Natural Hazards [VIDEO]

Three globes.

How One Rowan University Climate Scientist is Shaping the Future of Coastal Cities Meet Andra Garner, a leading climate scientist and assistant professor in Rowan University’s School of Earth & Environment who focuses on investigating the effects of climate change on hurricane patterns and sea-level rise. Have you ever wondered how understanding and mitigating the […]

A Look Inside Geo Information Systems With Jackie Ganter & Danielle Miller

Four members of Geo Lab discuss a project while outside holding equipment.

Geographical Information Systems (GIS) majors and graduating seniors, Danielle Miller and Jackie Ganter, give insight into what the GIS major entails and its impact. What is GIS? According to Danielle, “geographic information science, it’s the analysis of data sets, the creation of maps, and other imagery.” She went on to give her point of view […]

Impact of Growing Up in Mumbai on Desire to Major in Environmental Science

Kriish poses for an outdoor portrait in front of a tree while wearing a bright orange shirt.

Can you describe the environmental science program? “There are both environmental studies and environmental science majors. What is unique about the environmental science program is that we are able to understand the underlying science behind the environment, while combining biology, geology, and other components. We use this technology to better map, restore, assess, and understand […]

Meet Jenna Grace: the Triple Major Making a Difference in Environmental Conservation

Jenna Grace is posing inside of the Scotland Run Nature Center, wearing a gray sweater, looking into a tank

“It’s just like the normal workload. All three of my majors are in the same department, so the classes overlap quite a bit. They all kind of blend together in the way that we talk about, like how humans are affecting the planet and ways that we can solve that.” What got you into studying […]

Exploring the Community and Environmental Planning Major with Senior Jon Hansel

Jon smiles outside in on Glassboro Town Square.

Today we feature senior Jonathan Hansel (he/him) from Burlington County. Jon is majoring in Community and Environmental Planning and pursuing a master’s in Urban and Regional Planning through Rowan’s 4+1 program. Here, he discusses the importance of planning, his personal aspirations, and the opportunities he’s found in the program. Could you tell us a little […]

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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In Foraging Course, Wild Foods Abound on Rowan University’s Campus

Today, we join Rowan University’s Foraging for Edible Plants class, led by School of Earth & Environment Assistant Professor and course founder Dr. Daniel Duran. Just steps outside their classroom on the side of the newly opened Discovery Hall building, Dr. Daniel Duran shows his students a juneberry shrub, one of dozens of edible plants […]

Rowan University Student Zachary Rouhas on the Joint Degree Program That Pairs Environmental Studies with an MBA

Today we feature Zachary Rouhas, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Environment and Sustainability Studies and a master’s degree in Sustainable Business. through an accelerated 4+1 program — the first of its kind in the state. Zachary, a veteran of the U.S. Army, discusses his journey to becoming a student within the accelerated program, his future […]

Rowan University Geography Major Hopes to Create Change For Future Generations

A landscape photo of the fountain behind engineering pond.

Jaylen Shanklin, a junior Geography major from Gloucester County, shares why he chose his major and the environmental impact that he hopes to have.

Jaylen poses for a portrait outside Science Hall.“I’ve always had an interest in geography. My dad is a major history buff and we’d watch shows together and it drew me in,” says Jaylen.

His initial interest in the major drew him to the program, but the classes and professors are what made him know it was a good fit.

“I’ve been lucky! All of my professors I’ve had, no matter the subject or the class, have all gone above and beyond the call of being a professor,” Jaylen explains. “They’ve made sure everyone succeeds professionally and personally.”

Geography students research and present ways to build and manage resources in a more sustainable way. 

“I want to make a positive change and I know this major will get me there. I want to know that I put my imprint on our local community and made this place a better, more sustainable state for my kids and future generations. My favorite class so far has been Geography in New Jersey, because it focuses on what I can do for my community.”

Jaylen, a Rowan University geography major, looks at a globe.Jaylen is currently in his junior year and has been involved with extracurricular activities in addition to things related to his major. While he looks forward to the field work and internships, he finds a lot of value in networking and making friends.

“I play Rugby and I wrestle, so my advice is to just get involved. Take classes in your major, even out of your major. Dip your toe in everything and take a wide range of exploratory classes. Do a bunch of clubs, even if you think it wouldn’t be for you. It all helps and makes you a better person, and that’s what college is about after all.”

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In Case You Missed It: Favorite Classes At Rowan

Tell us a little about what the class is. IMC goes over all the parts to an integrated marketing communications plan, such as advertising, public relations, direct marketing, digital/internet marketing, sales promotion and personal selling. You really get to work a lot of different muscles within the communications industry. Is there anything else that made […]

My Favorite Class: Fundamentals of Geographical Information Systems (GIS)

Khrissy inside Engineering building

This story is a part of the “My Favorite Class” series.

Khrissy Seay is a recent graduate and first-generation college student. While at Rowan, she was a Geographical Information Systems (GIS) major with minors in Geography and Planning. She is from Mays Landing (Atlantic County) and transferred from Atlantic Cape Community College.

What was the name of your favorite class at Rowan? 

This is not an easy question. I really like my major and narrowing it down to just one is very difficult. However, by a very small margin, Fundamentals of GIS.

What department was the class in? 

Department of Geography, Planning, and Sustainability (GPS)

Who taught the class when you took it?

Dr. Ashley York

Khrissy standing next to a tree outside on campus.

Tell us a little about what the class is.

Fundamentals is the next step up from the introductory course. This class allows the student a little more freedom to explore new tools and apply them to topics of choice.

Share with us a few details on why this class was interesting or special to you. 

I bonded with the professor and the students really well. I also worked on one of my favorite mapping projects during my time at Rowan.

What makes this professor great? 

Dr. York is very knowledgeable and she is always willing to help. I told her my idea for the project, and she helped me develop that idea. I also worked with her during my Senior Seminar project (taught by Dr. Meenar) because she is somewhat of an expert in the topic — sea ice/glaciers.

Khrissy inside the Engineering bridge.

How did this class help to support your academic or personal growth, or your professional goals? 

I learned a lot about myself and the topics that are really important to me. I also felt well prepared for the next class in the sequence – Applications of GIS.

What are your professional goals? 

I have recently secured a job as a GIS Analyst. I also want to pursue a master’s degree in Geography.

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

Photos by:
Joe Gentempo, senior art major

My Favorite Class: Earth, People, and the Environment

Ross sitting outside on steps

This story is a part of the “My Favorite Class” series.

Ross Billig is a senior Geography major with a Planning minor. He is from Marlton, NJ (Burlington County) and transferred from Rowan College at Burlington County.

What was the name of your favorite class at Rowan? 

Earth, People, and the Environment

What department was the class in?

Department of Geography, Planning, and Sustainability (GPS)

Who taught the class when you took it? 

Prof. Richard Federman

Joe sits and smiles inside Engineering Hall.

Tell us a little about what the class is.

This course revolves around the broader spectrum of geography both with the physical environment as well as social issues facing the world today.

Share with us a few details on why this class was interesting or special to you. 

I liked this class a lot because it’s a microcosm of what geography is. It includes earth science, sociology, regional issues, and so much more. If someone is considering Geography as a major, this is the class for you.

What makes this professor great? 

I took this class online, and the fact that Professor Federman can make an online course so engaging and so relatable is a huge testament to his teaching abilities. He has great lectures with very good visual aids and finds ways to make everything easy to understand.

Joe smiles and sits outside the Engineering pond.

How did this class help to support your academic or personal growth, or your professional goals? 

This was the course that let me know that I had truly selected the right major, and it was the catalyst for the rest of my undergrad experience.

What are your professional goals? 

After Rowan, I’m looking forward to attending grad school, initially for my master’s and possibly a Ph.D. program after that. My goal is to help protect the environment by better educating the public about how valuable and fragile our planet is.

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

Photos by:
Joe Gentempo, senior art 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

#PROFspective: ESS Major, Athlete and Activist Ayanna Johnson

Today we speak with Ayanna Johnson, a junior Environmental & Sustainability Studies (ESS) major under the School of Earth and Environment. She comes from Ewing, NJ in Mercer County and is the captain of the Women’s Basketball Team. She also participates in We Are One Team, Social Justice Action, and OWL (Outstanding Women Leaders) Group.

Ayanna smiles and leans against a tree outside on campus.

Why did you choose ESS? 

When I was a senior, I went on a trip to the Bahamas and studied at the Island School. I focused on environmental science and marine biology. We saw the coral reefs that were dying and how the Bahamas is being disproportionately impacted by global warming. It made me feel that this is a really important field more people need to study. 

What has been your favorite ESS class?  

My favorite ESS class was called Earth, People, and The Environment taught by Professor Richard Federman. I learned about the interconnectedness of people and their environment. 

What do you want to do in the future? 

Every company needs an Environmental Sustainability Specialist to make sure they’re following the rules and regulations from like the EPA. I want to do that in the future. 

Do you have a mentor on-campus? 

My mentor is Mandy Jiang, the former assistant coach of the Women’s Basketball Team. She helps me with school, studying, basketball and basically anything! 

Can you tell me more about the We Are One Team panel that happened in October 2020?  

The We Are One Team panel was an opportunity for me to speak on my personal experiences and also listen to different people from diverse backgrounds speak on social justice issues. We also discussed how we’ve been working to improve our communities by helping people become more educated and understanding about issues that are going on in modern-day America.

I was able to connect with other people that cared about these issues and also wanted to learn more. I made good friends with people who are dedicated to making a difference and speaking out. We bounce ideas off of each other about how we can do more to get our message across.

Ayanna smiles while sitting and leaning on a bench on campus.

What’s it like being the captain of the basketball team? 

It’s not much different than being a regular player. Everyone on my team is so awesome, and we all work together. It’s more about the responsibility of leadership. It pushes me to be more confident when speaking up and in my ability to lead. I never really looked at myself as capable of this, but it’s forcing me to face my insecurities and just do it. 

What advice would you give to newer college students? 

Appreciate the moment and enjoy it. Don’t keep thinking about the next thing. You’re going to waste your whole life thinking about the next step. You have to be in the present and enjoy the current moment. Appreciate life when you are happy because it’s not going to always last. 

If you spend your whole time stressing and not experiencing college, you’re going to regret it. You’re not going to be in your 20s forever. 

Make sure that you’re taking care of yourself because it’s a hard time for everyone. We don’t validate our own emotions or acknowledge things that we’re feeling inside. Everybody should take time to look inside yourself. 

What social justice issues are you most passionate about? 

I’m most passionate about educating people. A lot of what perpetuates injustice is people being ignorant to it. People not understanding how the small things are actually big things which allow for injustice to continue. 

On your busiest day, what academic, non-academic and social responsibilities do you juggle? 

I have practice, academics and work. I also juggle about 15 credits per semester along with basketball. This gives athletes room to stay above the 12-credit minimum and drop a class if necessary. 

How do you balance all of it?

I’m actually not very good at balancing or time management. I try my best to get organized and refocus. I try to make sure that I’m taking care of myself first because I can get caught up with so many different things. I’m not going to be able to do my best like mentally and physically if I don’t take care of myself.

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

Photos by:
Joe Gentempo, senior art major

From COVID-19 to the Neighborhood 15

Chris sitting cross-legged outside in front of the engineering lake.

Chris Tirri is a Rowan Global student in the master’s of science program for Urban and Regional Planning. The master’s program at Rowan is his third graduate program overall. Born and raised in the Mantua side of Sewell, NJ (Gloucester County) he currently resides off-campus in Mantua Township. His ideal career would be in historic preservation working with vernacular motel architecture and amusement parks, especially in the Wildwoods. If not in historic preservation specifically, then to work as part of a planning firm or board that specializes in adaptive reuse and helping to promote development that enhances local character and history. He shares with us his knowledge of the popularized concept for “15-minute neighborhoods” and how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted this plan on the global scale.

The concept of the 15-minute neighborhood has been part of planning vernacular for well over a decade as a way to promote walkability and density in urban areas. While the concept may vary by city, its core goal remains the same: residents should be able to access basic life amenities—school, affordable groceries, parks, and doctors’ offices—within a 15-minute commute by foot, bike, or public transit.

Despite its established presence in planning vernacular, the 15-minute neighborhood has yet to achieve widespread application. But the coronavirus pandemic may very well change that.

In the wake of work- and stay-at-home mandates across the globe, COVID-19 has dramatically changed the way we perceive and use our once-beloved and once-bustling cities. Our sense of place has shifted from city centers to our immediate neighborhoods, home offices, and living rooms, and in many areas, city dwellers have fled their urban enclaves to the surrounding suburbs.

While some outlets have declared the pandemic as the death of the city, the renewed interest in the 15-minute neighborhood promises a rebirth of the city as demand rises to redefine, redistribute, and redevelop city centers as more liveable and as those centers give way to neighborhood centers as more people come to prefer shopping close to home.

Chris smiling with his arms crossed inside the engineering building.

One of its main focal points is the overhaul of transportation methods and infrastructure. As peak-commuter traffic continues to trend downward as more jobs become permanently remote, the 15-minute neighborhood necessitates a flexible approach to public transit choices that better accommodate local commuters who use public transit to fulfill daily needs, especially minority commuters who have historically been the victims of divisive planning decisions.

Likewise, it calls for plans that reimagine formerly vehicle-specific streetscapes as places where pedestrians and cyclists can safely coexist and where “streateries” add a newfound vibrancy to downtown life.

Cities as we have come to know them were designed largely with those peak-commuters in mind, so available amenities operated to anticipate heavy influxes in the morning and the evening. However, as William Fulton points out, amenities like restaurants, bars, parks, and other public spaces have become increasingly vital to “daily life, not just after work or on the weekends.” Thus, the 15-minute neighborhood’s focus on resilient mixed-use spaces can support a more consistent use of and demand for recreational amenities that promote health, well-being, equity, and a greater sense of community.

The 15-minute neighborhood hopes to restore the classic planning concept of proximity: of bringing activities to individual neighborhoods rather than forcing people to relocate for those activities. Yet, it is that very sense of proximity that has inspired so many urban residents to seek refuge in private residences in the suburbs.

Chris with his arms crossed looking off to the side.

So how do we reconcile this paradox?

The 15-minute neighborhood seeks to reconfigure our notions of what it means to be a city, as well as the art and process of placemaking by drawing from tactical urbanism and creating a bottom-up approach to planning that reconnects residents in socially-distant yet socially-meaning ways, localizes urban life, and redevelops cities with future resiliency in mind, as well as one that avoids potential pitfalls that reify, rather than dismantle, systemic inequalities.

To avoid those pitfalls, such a reconfigured approach to placemaking must include an individualized approach to cities so that planning properly accounts for context- and situation-dependent differences.Community engagement is key to understanding those differences so that any implementation of the 15-minute neighborhood concept provides residents with the amenities and services they actually want or need.

Without a genuine understanding of individual needs, we risk disengaging the residents we intend to help, gentrifying neighborhoods instead of suitably improving them, and further fueling the flight to the suburbs.

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Story by: Chris Tirri, Rowan Global student, Rowan University, M.S. in Urban and Regional Planning

Leadership #PROFspective: Ayanna Johnson on Speaking Up as a Woman in Sports

Ayanna sits down and leans against a bench on campus.
Ayanna wearing a yellow dress while posing against a tree.

Today, we speak with Ayanna Johnson, captain of the Women’s Basketball Team and an active member of We Are One Team, Social Justice Action Committee, and Rowan Athletics’ OWL (Outstanding Women Leaders) Group. Ayanna is an Environmental & Sustainability Studies (ESS) major from Ewing, NJ (Mercer County). 

This story is part of a series spotlighting campus leaders during Women’s History Month. 

What is your role in your organizations? What do your organizations do? 

We are One Team gives a voice to those in sports who are not always recognized and uses the power of sports to unify people. What’s special about sports is it unites people who all come from different backgrounds and walks of life and they have the same love for the game. It really represents who we are. We are activists, we care about social justice. We’re more than just athletes. I’m an athlete representative for the club. I speak for panels that they want to have an athlete representative for. I’m very involved in my team and the club!

(OWL) Group is Outstanding Women Leaders. It’s really about empowering women in sports and shedding light on women’s sports because it’s so underrepresented and under-publicized. It’s about leadership in women’s sports and how to be good to other women as a woman. I really love that club because it sheds light on issues that need to be brought to light. As athletes, we’re already in a man’s world.

I’m also a member of Social Justice Action. I’m not on the e-board, but you don’t always have to be the one out there and organizing things. As long as you can be there and have your voice heard, there’s a lot of value in that.

    Ayanna wearing a Rowan Basketball shirt.

    What have you learned in your role as a leader? 

    I’ve learned that your impact on people is way bigger than you realize. When you talk to that [first-year student], they will probably remember that conversation for the entirety of their college career. Just doing small things can change people’s lives more than you know.

    I need to realize how small acts of kindness can make a difference in people’s lives and just speaking up. If everybody felt like their voice didn’t matter, that’s what the people who want to keep you silent want you to feel like. Once you have knowledge and education about things, that’s power.

    Knowledge is power. When you’re educated about something, you can recognize when something isn’t right. When you’re used to being ignorant about things, you want even recognize injustice. So, I take every opportunity to educate myself on history. 

    What’s your favorite memory as a leader or at Rowan in general?

    Hands down, winning the NJAC (NJ Athletic Conference) championships! In 2019-2020, we beat Montclair who has won the conference for the past 10 years. We came back from being down and we won. I ended being the defensive player of the year and broke two records that year! 

    Who inspires you and why? 

    A lot of people inspire me. My little sister inspires me a lot because she’s one of those kids that is good at everything, and she looks up to me a lot. I have to do what I can to be a good role model for her. I know my little sister will root for me, just being able to see her blossom. I just love her so much. How she views me as a good big sister, makes me want to be that. I struggle a lot with self-confidence but I love both of my sisters so much. Your siblings see your whole life. You go through all the ups and downs with your siblings!

    Ayanna wearing a yellow dress while sitting on a bench and smiling.

    What’s the most significant barrier to women today? 

    Knowing that there’s a problem. In 2021, a lot of people are complacent with the way things are. There’s still discrimination and things we need to fight for. If we’re not educated about that, and still don’t see there’s still a problem, then we won’t fight it. If you think racism and sexism is a thing of the past, you’re never going to realize what you’re facing is injustice. 

    What advice would you give to the next generation of leaders? 

    Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Don’t be afraid to have your own opinions. Just because the majority feels this way doesn’t mean you do. If you feel like you should speak up about something, speak up about it! There   are probably other people who are hiding and feel the same way. If you’re brave, you’re probably being brave for so many other people who didn’t have the courage to say the thing you said. 

    Is there anything else you would like to share?

    Take care of your mental health. It impacts your whole life. It’s something I struggle with, it impacts sports a lot. It impacts everything. Just because you’re physically healthy doesn’t mean you’re mentally healthy. There’s a lot of stigma around it, and it’s something I’m really passionate about.

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

    Photos by:
    Joe Gentempo, senior art major

    Leadership #PROFspective: Tara Lonsdorf, Managing Editor Of The Whit

    Fanned out back issues of The Whit.

    Today we feature Tara Lonsdorf, a leader at Rowan University. Tara is the managing editor for The Whit. She is a senior Geology major with a minor in Geographic Information Systems from East Windsor, NJ (Mercer County). This story is part of a series spotlighting campus leaders during Women’s History Month.  What is your role […]

    Eduardo Saba Shares Insight On Being A Geography Major

    Eduardo standing outside.

    Today we feature first-generation college senior Eduardo Saba, a Geography major with a minor in Environmental and Urban Planning. Eduardo is from the Dominican Republic and is a transfer student from Atlantic Cape Community College. How did you become interested in this major? I believe that the Dr. Zachary Christman, and Harold Thompson, played a […]

    TRANSFERmation Tuesday: Environmental and Sustainability Studies JoAnna Contarino

    JoAnna standing in between a a tree.

    Today we feature first-generation college student and recent December 2020 graduate JoAnna Contarino from Elk Township, NJ (Burlington County). JoAnna is a Environmental & Sustainability Studies major and transfer from Rowan College of South Jersey. She has minors in Ethics, Planning, Political Science and a Certificate of Undergraduate Study in Environmental Policy & Economics. Tell […]

    3 Environment and Sustainability Studies Majors Share What Excites Them About Their Major

    Photo of trees.

    Today, we speak to three Environment and Sustainability Studies majors from Rowan’s School of Earth and Environment about what gets them excited about their major.

    Selfie of Joanna.

    “I want to say that I am making a difference or at least attempting to. I am an environmental and sustainability major and there are a lot of issues revolving around that topic. I do want to make the world a better place,” says Joanna Janowski, a junior from Livingston, NJ (Essex County) who transferred to Rowan from Montclair State University. 

    Selfie of Madison.

    “The fact that there are all these ways to be sustainable in the world and we can all contribute to living in a sustainable world excites me. Also, how we can change the world to apply to all walks of life,” says Madison Kerr, a junior with a minor in Sustainable Built Environments from Marlton, NJ (Burlington County) and transfer student from Rowan College of Burlington County. 

    Headshot of Gabby Davis.

    “How incredibly relevant it always will be. Cities are constantly growing, changing and evolving. They are living things that need constant attention. Knowing that I have to keep educating myself and can never be complacent in my field of study is exciting,” says Gabby Davis, a senior double major in ESS and Community and Environmental Planning with a CUGS in Food Systems Planning. Gabby, who transferred from from Montclair State University, lives in Manahawkin, NJ (Ocean County).

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    Story by: Bianca Torres, Senior, Music Industry major

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    6 Geology Majors Share Their Long-Term Career Goals

    Kayla and her friend talking about a fossil.

    Today, we ask six Geology majors about where they would like to see themselves long-term.

    Kayla holding a small, dinosaur fossil head outside on campus.

    “To be a paleontologist and either be a college professor or a museum curator. I want to focus on either paleoneurology or paleopathologies,” says junior Kayla Bagley, a Geology major with a concentration in Paleontology and a transfer from Ocean County College from Jackson, NJ (Ocean County).

    Tara posing in front of the Badwater Basin sign.

    “I want to be a career academic researcher, professor and science writer. Doing so would combine all of my passions of discovery, community engagement and communication. In this capacity, I hope to publish some high-impact research about our planet’s processes, while also making it a better place for people,” says senior Tara Lonsdorf, a Geology major with GIS minor and Certificate of Undergraduate Studies in Technical and Professional Writing from East Windsor, NJ (Mercer County).

    James smiling for a portrait picture taken outside Wilson Hall.

    “I hope that my climate-heavy course load, research and future internship will help me join a career where I can help the environment and help people understand how important our impact on it is while doing something I’m passionate about. I would like to become a climate scientist,” says first-generation college junior James Milward, a Geology major with a Global Climate Change concentration and with a GIS and Geography minor from Pitman, NJ (Gloucester County).

    Matthew smiling and standing in front of a lake while wearing hiking gear.

    “My long-term professional goal is to be a successful professional geologist working for a government agency or a private business doing some form of hydrology, or general environmental consulting,” says senior Matthew Vitale, a Geology major from Cherry Hill, NJ (Camden County).

    Kyle posing for a portrait photo taken outside on campus.

    “I would like to be a paleontologist and do research,” says senior Kyle Macauley, a Geology major from Jackson, NJ (Ocean County).

    Mairen taking a selfie.

    “My dream goal is to become a volcanologist and work at an observatory. However, I’m open to a variety of careers, as long as I’m able to maintain a balance between time spent in the field and in the lab,” says junior Mairen Flanagan, a Geology major with a Chemistry minor from Point Pleasant, NJ (Ocean County).

    Take a look at Discovery Hall, home to our Geology program, here:

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    Story by: Bianca Torres, senior Music Industry major

    Related posts:

    Breaking New Ground with Geology/Paleontology [VIDEO]

    5 Geology Majors Share Their Short-Term Professional Goals

    Rowan Alumna Shares Advice with Future Profs

    Madison Hayes Shares Insight On Being A GIS And ESS Major

    Madison sitting near a lake.

    Today we feature senior Madison Hayes, a Geographical Information Systems and Environmental and Sustainability Studies major with a minor in planning. Madison is a first-generation college student from Hopewell, New Jersey (Mercer County) who transferred from Lebanon Valley College. How did you become interested in this major? After transferring home to be a commuter I […]

    #PROFspective: Geology Major James Milward

    James standing outside.

    Today we feature James Milward, a junior Geology major with minors in Geographic Information Science and Geography from Pitman, NJ (Gloucester County). James is a first-generation college student and has a passion for climate change. Has there been a club or group that made you feel like Rowan was home? My freshman year I played […]

    5 Geology Majors Share Their Short-Term Professional Goals

    Kelsey and her friend talking about a fossil.

    We spoke to five Geology majors about their short-term professional goals and plans.

    A portrait photo of Kelsey.

    “I am currently working on applying for summer internships. The internships I am looking into are research-based and field-based, but all revolve around Paleontology. I am set to graduate with my BA in Geology in the fall of 2021, and will be off to the graduate school I finally decide on in the fall of 2022.” – junior Kelsey Barker, a Geology major working toward a Certificate in Paleontology Foundations and transfer student from Rowan College of South Jersey (Gloucester Campus) from Hackettstown, NJ (Warren County)

    Justin wearing a Jurassic Park t-shirt.

    “In the short term, I would like to get into the Ph.D. program for Paleontology.” – junior Justin Vieira, a Geology major from Beachwood, NJ (Ocean County)

    Mallory sitting and wearing a brown coat.

    “I think this major at Rowan is really helpful in achieving my goals and will play such a huge role. We’re such a small major and we’re able to really be on good terms and close with all of our professors, which ends up leading us to great opportunities through their connections in the career field!” – first-generation college junior Mallory Osmun, a Geology major and transfer from Rowan College at Burlington County whose hometown is Mount Laurel, NJ (Burlington County)

    A selfie of Cooper.

    “My short-term goal is finishing my research project I’m doing for Rowan. I’m using mass spectrometry to figure out if 2 bone beds in Wyoming are the same. I’m looking at turtle, Hadrosaur, and Triceratops bones.” – sophomore Cooper Caputo, a Geology major with a concentration in Paleontology from Washington, DC

    Zachary smiling and wearing tan outdoors gear.

    “Currently, I’m only taking classes on Geology and, soon, Paleontology. Before the summer I plan on looking for internships that might help me. I am a member of the Delaware Valley Paleontological Society. I do have two family friends who are retired paleontologists whose advice I’ve taken.” – junior Zachary Armstrong, a Geology major with a concentration in Paleontology from Sewell, NJ (Gloucester County)

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    Story by:
    Bianca Torres, senior music industry major

    3 Geographical Information Systems Majors Share Their WOW Moment

    USGS map courtesy of Unsplash.

    Today, we speak to three Geographical Information Systems (GIS) majors and seniors from Rowan’s School of Earth and Environment about when they knew this was the right major for them.

    Elly leaning against a railing overlooking a city scenery.

    “I like [this] department as a whole because of the sense of community that it provides. Because we are a small department I have gotten to know my professors well throughout my time here at Rowan and thus they have made the learning experience fun and engaging. Because of the size of the department the professors get to know students and their interests and in my experience have been able to adapt their classes accordingly so that the learning is relevant to what the classes interests are.” – Elly Thomas, senior, GIS major with minors in Environmental and Sustainability Studies, Community and Environmental Planning, Geography CUGS: Adventure Education, Spanish, Food Systems Planning, from Monroeville, NJ (Gloucester County)

    Khrissy taking a selfie.

    “I very much enjoyed creating my final project for my Intro to GIS class. I would come home feeling happy about all the new things I was learning.”  – Khrissy Seay, senior, GIS major with minors in Geography and Planning, transfer student from Atlantic Cape Community College, Mays Landing, NJ (Atlantic County)

    Taryn smiling for a portrait photo.

    “When I transferred to Rowan, I initially went in as an Environmental and Sustainability Studies major and was minoring in GIS. After two semesters, I realized I was more interested in GIS. It was something new and different. I ended up switching my major to GIS and my minor to Planning. I’ve always been a fan of art, the environment, technology and science in general. I feel like GIS is a perfect blend of all of these. I knew GIS was right for me when I didn’t have to force myself to learn or concentrate. I was genuinely interested in the material being taught. It also came fairly easily to me as well.” – Taryn Brickner, senior, GIS major with a minor in Planning, transfer student from Rowan College at Burlington County (RCBC), Medford, NJ (Burlington County)

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    Story by:
    Bianca Torres, senior music industry major 

    Header photo courtesy of:

    TRANSFERmation Tuesday: Geology Major Callie Stockton

    Callie sitting on a wooden bench outside.

    Meet Callie Stockton, a junior Geology major with minors in Astronomy and Geographical Information Systems (GIS). She is from Tabernacle, NJ (Burlington County) and transferred from Rowan College of Burlington County (RCBC). She’s also part of the Physics & Astronomy Club and the GEO Club. Here, Callie talks about her transition to Rowan. How has […]

    Rowan Commuters: James Milward [VIDEO]

    James Milward sits on the green next to Wilson Hall

    Welcome to our new “Rowan Commuter” series, where we take an inside look at the lives and experiences of Rowan University commuters and how their overall college experience is without living on campus.

    In this video, Geology major James Milward talks about how he balances Rock Climbing Club and spending time with his group of Geology majors with being a commuter student here at Rowan. 

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    Video by:
    Tom Copsetta, radio/TV/film graduate

    #PROFspective: Javelin Thrower Daniel McAleavey

    #PROFspective: Daniel McAleavey

    Meet Daniel McAleavey, a junior community and environmental major from Howell, NJ (Monmouth County) who lived in Rowan Boulevard Apartments this past school year. Daniel throws javelin for men’s track and field.

    Daniel throwing javelin in action

    Take us to one typical day at Rowan for you: A typical Rowan day consists of me waking up in the morning to go to lift (as an athletic requirement), then class after, then afternoon javelin practice, and if I don’t have another class after practice I would go lift again. I usually do my homework at night.

    Daniel (second on right) with some teammates and coach after winning the NJAC title
    Daniel (second on right) with teammates and coach after winning the NJAC title.

    Why did you choose your major: I choose environmental planning as a major because I liked civil engineering but it was too much material. I found out that planning was a very similar field and they often work with civil engineers, so I thought it’d be a good fit for me. 

    What is the most interesting thing you learned in one of your classes this year: The most interesting thing I learned in my class is about transportation planning in urban areas.

    Daniel (right) with one of his close friends from Rowan
    Daniel (right) with one of his close friends from Rowan.

    Tell us one moment that made Rowan feel like home for you: Rowan made me feel like it was the right fit for me is when i first visited the school and met all the nice people, especially my friends on the track team. It also helped that a lot of my friends from home went to Rowan too.

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    Story by:
    Julia McAleavey, senior advertising major

    #PROFspective: Senior Environmental and Sustainability Studies Major Taylor Melillo

    Taylor Melillo in front of a sunset on the water.

    Today we speak with Taylor Melillo, a senior Environmental and Sustainability Studies major within the School of Earth and Enviroment. She also has three minors in Geographical Information Science, Sustainable Built Environments, and Community & Environmental Planning at Rowan. Taylor is from Brick, NJ (Ocean County) and has lived on campus all four years. Taylor will be the first person in her immediate family to go to college and get a bachelor’s degree. Taylor will share with us her #PROFspective with us on what it’s like to be a Rowan University student and how she’s getting the most out of her college experience as a Rowan Prof.

    How have you gotten involved at Rowan? I played club volleyball my Headshot of Environmental and Sustainability Studies Major Taylor Melillo freshman and sophomore year, and became a member of the RowanGeo Club. After playing volleyball I also became an active member of Unified Sports. I then joined Alpha Phi Omega, a co-ed national service fraternity, my sophomore year. I even held an e-board position within this organization! 

    What inspired you to choose your major? I chose to be an Environmental and Sustainability Studies major due to the hardships and damage I witnessed my hometown endure during Hurricane Sandy. I was a freshman in high school when Hurricane Sandy struck us. It was life-changing and devastating to see my whole area become destroyed. It was when I saw the cleanup and restoration process that I started focusing on learning about the environment and how I can help out in anyway possible.

    What would you share with a future student interested in your major?  To a future student interested in Environmental and Sustainability Studies: All I can say is, you’re in good hands. You will learn a new way of thinking and be able to speak your mind and opinions about topics you care about. The professors within the department are extremely helpful, accommodating and knowledgeable. You will get to know each and every one of them pretty well! They will most definitely push you to learn new material, as well as focus on your future endeavors. 

    Environmental and Sustainability Studies Major Taylor Melillo poses in her Alpha Phi Omega shirt.

    How does your field impact the world? What impact would you like to have on the world in your field? With my degree I want to be able to say I am I helping the world in a positive way, while doing what I love. I just want to feel as though I am giving back to the planet. I want to help clean up the damage humans have already done while also helping to prevent further damage. I am also a big beach girl!!

    Describe for us an experience you’ve shared with a Rowan professor in which you felt like you were working with a visionary in your field. With the department being rather small, you will get to know almost every professor within four years. One professor that has helped me endlessly was Professor Federman. Whether it was on a club hike, a lecture in one of the three classes I had with him, or just venting about my future, he was always ready to help in any way possible. I struggled a bit with what I wanted to do with my life and what career path I wanted to take, being that I’m very indecisive, just as everyone is at this time in their lives. I had moments of wanting to be a pharmacist, a dentist, or even an FBI agent. But, confiding with him throughout my four years made me realize that I needed to do what made me happy and that was something within the environmental field. Overall you will have the support and guidance you need at Rowan and I am proud to end these last four years strong and as a Prof!

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    Story by:

    Rachel Rumsby, freshman communication studies and public relations double major

    Senior Reflects: Geographical Information Science Major Jonathan Sharp

    An aerial view of land and water mass

    Today we feature Jonathan Sharp, a Geographical Information Science major from Pilesgrove, NJ (Salem County). Jonathan transferred to Rowan from Anne Arundel Community College, and before social distancing in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, he commuted to campus. 

    Could you share your favorite social memory? 

    Socially the place to be in the department is our GIS lab. This where everyone comes to print off their stuff, work on their projects, and find GIS help from the mentors. I go here to get my work done and sometimes to hang out with the other people in the department getting ready to graduate, looking for help with their resumes, or just grabbing a bite to eat. I also always had a blast on the GeoClub hikes.

    Jonathan and two colleagues stand in front of a black background with the Earth on it.
    Jonathan, center, with classmate Kristina Wallace, left, and Dr. Ashley York, right.

    Could you share your favorite moment with a faculty member or a favorite experience in one of your classes?

    The Department of Geography, Planning, and Sustainability has the best faculty by far. Most have an open door policy and always have time to work through a hard problem or just check in with how you are doing. They also fill the department with extracurricular activities like the GeoClub and Planning Club so that even on the weekends they are giving their time and attention to the students. Even during the quarantine, it seemed like I’d talk to the faculty every day as I attended class online or was looking for help on a project. 

    Do you want to give a thank you shout out to your family, friends, advisors or mentors?

    My biggest mentors: Dr. Ashley York, Prof. Richard Federman, and Dr. Zachary Christman and Kristina Wallace. They got me through this last semester. My sister Becky got me through the last two years. She’s my favorite sister by far.

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    Senior Reflects: Samantha Maynard Shares How Her Double Major Supports Her Aspirations

    Students working on a disaster prepardness project.

    Meet Samantha Maynard, a graduating senior who double majored in disaster preparedness and emergency management, and community health. Samantha lived on campus and is originally from West Milford (Passaic County.)

    Favorite Faculty Memory: My favorite moment with a faculty member is when Dr. Willis helped me plan my big trip to Europe. Thank you!

    Samantha in front of a world map.Favorite Personal Memory: My favorite personal moments were the nights my roommates and I, from this past year, would hang out and just talk about random things, and have a blast doing it. We would talk about anything and everything and have the best conversations that we somehow never remembered the next day, but were amazing to be a part of when they happened. 

    Career Aspirations: My career aspirations are to work in communities that often need the most help, whether they are or have been underserved for some time, lack health foods, are not safe or accessible. I want to support people who are often neglected due to racism or other prejudicial acts. I am also open to working in a position where I can help underserved communities better recover after a disaster and finding ways to help them get back on their feet. Being able to work in both the community health and emergency management field is a dream.

    The professors at Rowan helped to support my ideas by just having experience working in both fields and seeing how beneficial having both Samantha's family photo.backgrounds can be for jobs, or even just or educational components. Whenever I would remind my professors of this other major I was pursuing, they would always include it as something to consider when making a plan. I learnt that we shouldn’t exclude ourselves from the most obvious answers or career paths but that we have to consider everything that can effect this one thing. 

    Shout Outs! I want to say thank you to Dr. Willis, Dr. Vaughn, Dr. Miller, and Professor Kneeshaw-Price because they were the ones who helped me out the most, were there to answer all my questions, and were the ones who really helped me to push myself and do the best I could. 

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    Meet #Rowan2024: Environmental & Sustainability Studies Major Aarushi Gupta

    A headshot of Aarushi with a white background.

    Today we feature incoming freshman Aarushi Gupta, an Environmental & Sustainability Studies major from Marlton, NJ (Burlington County) who plans to live on campus. 

    Aarushi wears a brown Rowan t-shirt and holds up her admissions package.

    What are a few things you are looking forward to next year at Rowan?
    I’m looking forward to decorating my dorm room the most! I’m also very excited to meet new people and make some friends!

    How or why did you choose your major?
    I chose Environmental & Sustainability Studies because I have always loved nature and I am concerned for what the future holds. I am also interested in the 4+1 program that allows me to complete an MBA. I believe that understanding the finances of businesses and industry is integral to getting them to follow the proper environmental policies and regulations. 

    Female student stands in the sunshine looking over her shoulder. What is one activity that you did in high school that you’d like to continue with at Rowan?
    I’ve played the violin since third grade and although I’m not a music major, I’d like to continue to practice and perform music. I’m also looking forward to seeing which art or graphic design clubs I want to join. 

    Why Rowan?
    I chose Rowan because it seems like a small community that offers a host of new opportunities for me. It also seems to be a solid, affordable education that will allow me to pursue my dreams in the future. But the main reason is because I don’t think I could stay away from my dog, Rancho, for too long! He’s a border collie mutt and he’ll be two years old this July!

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    Rashaun Brown Shares Project on Pop Up Night Garden [VIDEO]

    Rashaun Brown stands outside in the vacant lot.
    In his Sensing Sustainable Cities class, Rowan University junior Rashaun Brown from North Brunswick, NJ (Middlesex County) examined the use of space for a project. The Community & Environmental Planning major (School of Earth & Environment) used a vacant lot to host an event for residents of the Glassboro area, while studying foot traffic through the lot before and during the event.

    Like what you see, come visit us!


    Story and video by: Dean Powers, sophomore radio/tv/film major

    Passing the Torch: Commuter Grad’s Advice to New Students

    Cheyenne wears her graduation gown, posing with Rowan University diploma holder in front of owl statue

    Cheyenne stands in front of owl statue at Rowan University, wearing an open graduation gown and holding a brown diploma holderCommuter and first-generation college student (now graduate!) Cheyenne Rickabaugh of Cape May, NJ (Cape May County) says the best way to make friends at college is, “Show up to things! Talk in class! Not during lecture, though.” She also says that the best way to get the most out of your college experience is to, “Just get out there and do things! Have fun.” Congrats, Cheyenne, on earning your geography degree from the School of Earth & Environment!

    Like what you see? Come visit us!


    Faculty PROFile: Dr. Mahbubur Meenar

    Dr. Meenar and students sitting outside analyzing rocks and grass

    Meet Dr. Mahbubur Meenar, Assistant Professor of Planning in the Department of Geography, Planning, and Sustainability & the Director of Community Planning and Visualization Lab at Rowan University. Dr. Meenar has a multi-disciplinary background in architecture (B.Arch.), urban planning (MUP), and geography (PhD). 

    portrait of Dr. Meenar outside of Wilson Hall

    What is your area of expertise?

    My academic training comes from multiple disciplines. I studied architecture and practiced for a short period of time before I decided to get a masters degree in urban and regional planning and finally a PhD in geography and urban studies. Currently I am an assistant professor in the Department of Geography, Planning, and Sustainability within the School of Earth and Environment. I teach courses connected to three of our majors: Community and Environmental Planning, GIS, and Geography. If I had to pick a specific area of expertise, it would be environmental planning.

    I am interested in the intersection of natural and built environments and how it overlaps with the social environment. My current research projects are focused on brownfield redevelopment, green stormwater infrastructure, civic engagement, geo-spatial technology and visualization, and community food systems. My research lab website offers more information:

    Share with us one aspect of student engagement that you enjoy most, and why?

    I try to engage students using various methods suitable for different courses. I incorporate my professional planning experience in my classes as much as possible. The assignments for my “Community Planning and Site Design” course, for example, are based on real world projects—either a small part of a big research project or a replica of a mid-size project. These projects have real life clients (e.g., nonprofit organizations, local municipalities). Students visit project locations (e.g., Glassboro, Camden), meet clients or community partners, and complete site observations. They utilize that experience in class and engage in a design charrette—one of my favorite student engagement activities. 

    Dr. Meenar pointing to a camera outside with students

    I create a replica of real-world design charrettes in class where students work in groups, with the help of a lot of prompts (e.g., maps, tracing papers, drawing supplies, cutouts of design ideas). Students brainstorm, debate on ideas and visions, and finally develop a design proposal. They present their group proposals in front of the class and students vote for the best proposal. We end the class with a group discussion reflecting on the process and outcomes.           

    Dr. Meenar talking to students outside on the rocks near Wilson Hall

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

    Urban and regional planning professionals need to have intensive education and training specific to the profession, but they cannot and should not create plans on their own. In the real world they need to work together with policy makers, media representatives, and relevant professionals (e.g., architects, engineers, GIS analysts, landscape architects, public health professionals) depending on the type of plan/project. More importantly, planners must work closely with the community organizations, residents, businesses, and other stakeholders living or working in the community. They need to actively and meaningfully engage the stakeholders in the plan development process. It is not the professionals but the locals who have a greater understanding of their community’s strengths and shortcomings. We need to listen to their stories and visions in the beginning stage of any project in order to make a meaningful connection to the whole project.

    Dr. Meenar and students outside on a class trip looking up into the sky

    Do you have a favorite Rowan memory?

    It is difficult to pick just one because I have a collection of fond memories in my (almost) three years at Rowan. The success of our students—either in the classroom or in the professional field—define us in many ways. I have sweet memories attached to several class projects and students’ professional achievements.

    I try to keep in touch with my students even after their graduation as the GPS department’s small size allows for meaningful connections between our students and staff to take place. In addition, I really enjoyed some field trips and community events that I organized with the help of my students. I am looking forward to make more memories here at Rowan.

    Dr. Meenar pointing to a map inside a classroom with students and map on the board

    Like what you see? Register for an open house to learn more about the School of Earth and Environment ! 


    Photography by:
    Vanessa Vause, senior public relations and theatre major

    Student’s Stream Clean-up Supports Future Career Path

    Environmental studies major Meghin Rollins of Carney’s Point, NJ (Salem County) applies her passion about the environment any way she can. Meghin’s dedication to a clean environment goes far beyond the classroom. She planned and participated in Rowan’s Stream Clean-up, where students and faculty collected garbage from different locations on Rowan’s main campus from the stream that […]

    #PROFspective: Environmental Studies Major Meghin Rollins

    Today, we speak with Meghin Rollins, a senior environmental studies major from Carney’s Point, NJ (Salem County) who commutes. Meghin will share her #PROFspective with us on what it’s like to be a Rowan University student and how she’s getting the most out of her college experience as a Rowan Prof. Name: Meghin Rollins Major: Environmental Studies […]

    First Year Voices: Joshua Masucci

    student in Rowan hoodie outside in front of fall leaves and trees

    “Rowan has been very accepting, the people here are very open. It’s like a big campus, but feels small and everything is close together,” Joshua Masucci, environmental studies major, Nutley, NJ (Essex County). Like what you see? Come visit us! VISIT CAMPUS​​ Enter for a chance to win a Rowan t-shirt! Email RowanBlog [at] […]

    Rowan Playa Bowls & Stunited: Student Businesses Create and Collaborate

    Stunited bowl in Playa Bowls

    On a spring day just before final exams, one of the newest student-managed businesses added to the Rowan Boulevard, Playa Bowls, and student-developed business Stunited joined together for a day of creation, collaboration and promotion. “I’m a huge fan of Playa Bowls and when I heard they were coming to Rowan, I thought this would be […]

    Compare/Contrast Freshman Housing

    Scott Timko is a resident assistant in Mullica Hall, wearing a yellow sweatshirt that says Glassboro State

    Chatting with Rowan University on campus residents on a frigid, hectic morning just before finals (seriously, is it really spring yet?!), one thing was clear: the sense of community within their residence halls is what they love most. However, what “community” means in each residence hall is different. I learned that Evergreen is known for […]

    Faculty PROFile: Jordan P. Howell, Environmental & Sustainability Studies

    Professor Jordan Howell outside the Student Center

    Jordan P. Howell, Ph.D., Assistant Professor Program Coordinator: Environmental & Sustainability Studies Department/College: Geography, Planning & Sustainability; in the School of Earth & Environment His website: His Degrees: Ph.D., Geography – Michigan State University, 2013 M.S., Geography – Michigan State University, 2010 B.A., Anthropology – College of William & Mary, 2008 What is your […]

    #PROFspective: Geography Major Shane Walsh

    Shane looks up at the clouds outside of Robinson Hall

    Today, we speak with Shane Walsh, a geography major from Gloucester County, NJ, who commutes. Shane will share his #PROFspective with us on what it’s like to be an adult learner at Rowan University and how he’s getting the most out of being a Rowan Prof. Name: Shane Canyon Walsh Major: Geography Minors and Concentrations: […]

    #PROFspective: Environmental and Sustainability Studies Major Katie Elliott

    Katie standing outside of the Rec Center

    Today, we speak with Katie Elliot, a senior environmental and sustainability studies major from Hopewell (Mercer County), NJ, who rents an apartment off campus. Katie will share her #PROFspective with us on what it’s like to be a Rowan University student and how she’s getting the most out of her college experience as a Rowan […]

    #PROFspective: Environmental and Sustainability Studies Major Ryan Hamblin

    student stands on rowan football field holding a football

    Today, we speak with Ryan Hamblin, a senior environmental and sustainability studies major from Hillsborough (Somerset County), NJ, who rents a house off campus. Ryan will share his #PROFspective with us on what it’s like to be a Rowan University student and how he’s getting the most out of his college experience as a Rowan […]

    #PROFspective: Geographic Information Systems Major Tim Lemon

    Today we speak with Tim Lemon, a senior Geographic Information Systems major from Glendora (Camden County), NJ, who commutes. He will share his #PROFspective with us on what it’s like to be a Rowan University student and how he’s getting the most out of his college experience as a Rowan Prof. Your Name: Tim Lemon Your Major: Geographic […]

    2 Alumni Donate $25M to Expand Fossil Park

    yellow sign unveiled for the Jean & Ric Edelman Fossil Park, as people clap

    On Monday morning, October 17, 2016, Science Hall swarmed with curious students, faculty and media portending a big day in Rowan’s history. Two Rowan alumni, Jean and Ric Edelman, founders of Edelman Financial Services,  pledged $25 million to expand and transform the Rowan University Fossil Park into a world-class citizen science marvel and a global tourist destination.  […]