PEOPLE - Alumni Stories
Conversation with Cassie Shugart and Marie DiLeonardo
How was your Rowan experience?
Cassie: I studied Community and Environmental Planning and Geography and graduated in May 2018. I transferred into Rowan in the winter of 2016 with the intention of becoming and Environmental Studies major, but after one semester I quickly learned about the world of planning and became hooked. I have always been a passionate advocate for our environment and have had several opportunities to work on farms across the country including, New York, Washington, Oregon. Through these experiences, I was able to supplement my academic work with practical, hands-on experience in food systems and environmental planning.
Marie: I was a dual major in Spanish and Secondary Education (K-12) at Rowan University and graduated in May 2018. I transferred from Gloucester County College my sophomore year of college. Though I do not have a Hispanic background I fell in love with the spanish language at a very young age and have dedicated myself to become bilingual. Speaking spanish has afforded me the opportunity to involve social justice in my educational and professional career by working with various underserved and marginalized communities.
When did you begin working at the Community Planning + Visualization Lab? Did this help shape your future work goals?
Marie: My senior year of college I stumbled upon the “Sustainable Urbanism” CUGS at Rowan and fell in love with the GPS department. I was able to take a handful of community and environmental planning classes and work under Mahbubur Meenar as a Project Manager for the Community Planning + Visualization Lab. Working in the lab allowed me to explore the intersections of planning and social justice. After graduating I became a full-time Division Manager of Philadelphia for the Petey Greene Program, which provides academic tutoring for incarcerated individuals. Many of the organizational skills I acquired as a Project Manager in the Lab has translated in my daily responsibilities at work.
Cassie: I began working in the Community Planning and Visualization Lab my junior year at Rowan. As a Research Assistant in the lab, I was able to transform the theoretical material from class into real-life applications. After graduating, my role in the lab shifted to a Project Manager, where I was able to learn new responsibilities that have shaped my professional career goals. Recently I was able to successfully secure a job as a full-time county Planner at the Ocean County Department of Planning. My years in the lab supplied me with the appropriate tools I needed to enter into the professional world of planning.
Where do you see yourself in the near future? What about in the distant future?
Cassie: I see myself staying in my current job for the next few years to build my field experience. Soon after, I plan to achieve a Masters degree involving universal design and disability rights in order to combine my passions for social advocacy and planning.
Marie: I plan to continue my growth in the non-profit and social advocacy sector and eventually organize my own non-profit. I am interested in issues that focus on the intersection of racial and educational inequity and community engagement. I would like to explore the world of rehabilitation and re-entry services for people exiting the American prison system.
What interests/hobbies do you have?
Marie: I am an avid dancer and musician. I have been Polynesian dancing since I could walk and I help run my family’s entertainment company. I also love Latin dance and try to go out every weekend to decompress. I enjoy singing and playing music with my family and friends at every opportunity. Other than that, it is impossible for me to separate my passions for social justice from my everyday hobbies. I spend a lot of time committing myself to volunteering.
Cassie: I love crafting! I love the fact that crafts can be simultaneously beautiful AND functional, and the social community that it has created for me. I also love snail mail, and appreciate the time and love it takes to connect with far away friends via handwritten letters. I am inspired by many things in my daily life, including feminism, community, empathy, emotional intelligence, and all things environment. Being a strong advocate for all persons and rights is extremely important to me and ingrained in everything I do.