Profiles & Spotlights
Rutgers-Camden is a dynamic community, bringing together alumni, faculty, staff, and students, alongside the broader local community. In this diverse and inclusive environment, we foster a commitment to excellence, collaboration, and innovation. Our institution is more than just a campus; it’s a living, breathing community where learning and growth flourish, making Rutgers-Camden a truly unique place.
INTRODUCING YOU TO THE COMMUNITY
Shawn R. Jones, Award-Winning Creative Writing Alumnus
Shawn R. Jones, an alum of the MFA in Creative Writing program is a 2023 Civitella Ranieri Fellow, and her poetry collection, Date of Birth, has won the 2022 Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize in Poetry. Her work has appeared in Tri-Quarterly, New Ohio Review, Cider Review, Passengers Journal, Rattle, Essence, and elsewhere.
Shawn is the co-owner of Tailored Tutoring LLC and Kumbaya Academy, Inc., a dance instructor at Halliday Dance, and a member of the Langston Hughes Society and the poetry performance troupe, No River Twice.
First, I completed my first year at Arcadia University. I took a few years off before deciding to return to school. Rutgers-Camden was blocks away from my home, so I enrolled in University College-Camden. In 2001, I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology degree. Several years later, I applied to the MFA program and graduated in 2019 with a degree of MFA in Creative Writing from Rutgers-Camden.
Inspiration Behind the Book
Mostly, I have been inspired by the women in my family. They witnessed and experienced so much trauma that the unspeakable had literally become the unspeakable. I did not know much family history because my maternal grandmother was murdered when I was three. When I asked my great-aunt about their childhood, she said, “It is too horrible to even think about.”
At that moment, I thought, I was carrying generations of familial trauma, and I did not know what the details were. It is difficult to explain, but my siblings and I could feel the weight of it. I decided to talk to my grandmother’s youngest sister. She told me she had drafted a book about her family when she was younger, but her husband threw her 400-page manuscript in the trash. It was at that moment that I decided that I was not going to whisper about incest, abuse, racism, neglect, or love. I mean, honestly, for some of my family members, beautiful, consensual, adult love was not up for discussion either because it involved touch, and touch was taboo. I decided I was not going to be scared into silence. With the blessings of my family, Date of Birth was born.
Favorite Memories of Rutgers Camden
Patrick Rosal and Gregory Pardlo were both supportive and encouraging. Whenever I suffered from imposter syndrome, Patrick would remind me that my voice had value. Gregory, my thesis advisor, was a great listener. He taught me to examine my intention for using particular words and phrases in my work. I put his advice into practice, and it made me a better poet. They also wrote blurbs for my book. For that, I am eternally grateful.
Present or Next Career Steps
I have had a couple of dozen readings over the past year, and I have several readings and workshops scheduled for 2024. I also started a creative writing workshop for students at my center. They continually amaze me with their stories, and working with them also reminds me of why I must continue to listen, write, and teach. My collection can be purchased at your favorite bookstore or online at Pearson Books.
Dr. Kristin August, Prevention Science Graduate Director
Kristin August, PhD is the Founding Graduate Program Director of the Prevention Science program, she is also an Associate Professor in the Departments of Psychology and Health Sciences. A seasoned researcher who investigates connections between social relationship processes and health, she is also committed to fostering interdisciplinary collaboration in prevention science at Rutgers-Camden.
I am currently an Associate Professor in the Departments of Psychology and Health Sciences and Founding Graduate Director of the new graduate program in Prevention Science. As the Founding Director, I helped establish the fourth Ph.D. program on our campus. I oversee curriculum development, admissions, and scheduling workshops and events for students and faculty, and I also coordinate diversity cluster searches in prevention science/health equity.
I received my B.S. in Psychology from Michigan State University. I started as a biology major on the pre-medical track as an undergraduate first-generation college student. While my initial inclination was towards medicine, my academic trajectory shifted towards psychology, sparked by a captivating array of coursework. The pivotal moment came when I discovered my true passion after taking a health psychology course, which perfectly marries the fields of psychology and medicine. After taking three years off working in a variety of research and health-related settings, I moved to California to pursue my Ph.D. in Psychology and Social Behavior from the University of California, Irvine (major specialization: Health Psychology; minor specialization: Quantitative Methods). I returned to my medical roots by completing my post-doctoral training at the Health Policy Research Institute in the School of Medicine at the University of California, Irvine. I then moved across country again to join the Psychology Department at Rutgers University, Camden in 2011 and became a core faculty member of the Health Sciences Department (formerly center) in 2014. I am the Founding Director of the Graduate Program in Prevention Science (established in 2022).
My research investigates connections between social relationship processes and health, and more broadly, the interplay between psychological and physical health (e.g., topics such as body image and stress). What sets me apart from other scholars in this area is my emphasis on health in diverse populations across the adult lifespan. I have published over 50 articles and book chapters in these areas. I am committed to not only gaining a better understanding of how and why social relationships are associated with health, but also to designing and implementing culturally appropriate interventions that promote the physical, mental, and social health of individuals and their families. I recently completed two interventions – a family coaching intervention with people with type 2 diabetes and a virtual nutrition, stress reduction, and social interaction intervention with adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDDs). Given the high prevalence of diabetes in Hispanic populations, the intervention for patients with diabetes is currently being translated and culturally adapted for Spanish-speaking individuals.
Plan for the Program
The Prevention Science graduate program at Rutgers University-Camden distinguishes itself as one of the few prevention science programs in the country. We hope to see our program grow to become a nationally recognized hub for the advancement of prevention science. With a commitment to fostering interdisciplinary collaboration, we aim to attract a diverse cohort of talented students and esteemed scholars in prevention science. We will continue to equip our graduates with robust methodological and statistical skills and cultivate practical research expertise, ensuring that our students are well-prepared to navigate the complexities of developing, implementing, and evaluating evidence-based prevention strategies. Looking ahead, we envision our graduates as catalysts for position change in communities across the nation to address pressing academic, health, and social challenges. Our program will continue to forge partnerships with local communities, governmental agencies, and non-profit organizations, creating opportunities for our students to apply their knowledge in real-world settings. Through these collaborations, we aim to not only contribute to the advancement of prevention science but also to make tangible, lasting contributions to the well-being of society.
Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.Pele
Jigna Rao, EMPA Alum & CEO, Millhill Child & Family Devt
Jigna Rao, an alum of the Executive Master of Public Administration program has been appointed as the Chief Executive Officer of the Millhill Child and Family Development, where she will continue to create a lasting positive change with a ‘Focus on Educating Youth, Supporting Families and Building Partnerships’
About two decades ago, fresh-faced newlywed Rao moved from her lifelong homeland of South India to join her husband in New Jersey, eager to embark on the greatest adventure of all. Over the years, she went on to obtain a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from The College of New Jersey with a minor in public health. Rao now holds a master’s degree in public administration from Rutgers University- Camden.
Awards and Recognition
Jigna has received multiple recognitions for her community and professional involvement and for her advocacy work supporting minority health equity. Rao is the recipient of the Charles DeGraw Award for Tuberculosis Advocacy from the National Tuberculosis Controllers Association, the Women of Achievement Award from the Women in Business Alliance, Princeton Mercer Regional Chamber, and the Tribute to Women Award from the Princeton YWCA.
Prior to joining Millhill, Rao headed the Center for Continuing Education at Mercer County Community College and served as the Director of Drumthwacket, the New Jersey Governor’s Official Residence during the Corzine administration where she led operational management, and special initiatives to deepen community relationships. Having served as Millhill’s Director of Operations since 2021, in her new position as the CEO at Millhill she continues to create a lasting positive change with a ‘Focus on Educating Youth, Supporting Families and Building Partnerships’.
In her new role, Rao said she will continue to build upon the legacy of educating children, empowering youth, and supporting families, guided by the organization’s core values, and vision of building a thriving community where everyone has access to limitless possibilities.
Rebecca Mezei, Graduate School Ambassador & Law Student
Rebecca Mezei, a second-year student at Rutgers Law School with a passion for environmental law and hailing from Philadelphia, is an inaugural Graduate School Ambassador. Over the past year, she has made a lasting impact on the Rutgers-Camden Graduate School community. Her contributions have shaped the Ambassador program, notably through her initiatives in launching important social media platforms and spearheading the creation of a community garden. Her diverse perspective, enriched by her law studies, uniquely contributes to her involvement and commitment to enhancing the graduate school experience.
Before law school, I got a B.S. in Marine Science and a B.A. in environmental global studies from the University of Delaware. After I graduated, I started at Rutgers Law School-Camden in 2022 and became involved as a staff editor of Rutgers Law Review, as vice president of the Environmental Law Society, and as a graduate school ambassador at the Graduate School. In my role as the graduate ambassador, I have helped build community between graduate students by leveraging Facebook Group discussions, have helped to connect with many students, faculty, and alumni to publicize their experiences and achievements at Rutgers-Camden, and have initiated a community garden at the Graduate School.
Law school has given me the opportunity to do summer internships and semester externships to get exposed to working in the Law. This past summer, I worked as a legal intern at the Pinelands Preservation Alliance, doing environmental justice work. I look forward to being able to get more experience in the remaining year and a half I have at Rutgers Law.
Goals for the Academic Year
Firstly, I want to do well in my classes and also to write a good note for Rutgers Law Review as a staff editor I desire to help further the community of the Graduate School with more outreach and student engagement. I also want to continue expanding and growing (pun intended), the community garden.
Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.Suzy Kassem
Dr. Próspero García, Teaching Spanish Graduate Program Director
Próspero N. García, Ph.D. is the Graduate Program Director of the Master of Arts in Teaching Spanish program. Originally from Asturias, a small region in the North of Spain, he is now committed to supporting the Rutgers-Camden community, helping and mentoring in-service and pre-service teachers of Spanish as they work towards a graduate degree and a teacher certification.
After completing my B.A. at the University of Oviedo, in Spain, I moved to the United States in 2003 to continue my academic journey in Spanish Applied Linguistics and Language Program Direction at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where I obtained my M.A. and Ph.D.
From my undergraduate days, my biggest passions were learning, teaching, and helping others. I was lucky to hone in on the first two at Smith College and Amherst College, where I had my first faculty appointments. But when I was offered the opportunity to come to Rutgers-Camden back in 2012, I didn’t hesitate. This was my dream job. I would be able to design the whole curriculum for a new Master of Arts in Teaching Spanish, helping the community and mentoring in-service and pre-service teachers of Spanish as they worked towards a graduate degree and a teacher certification. This was all I have ever wanted, that’s why I had invested so many years towards a Ph.D. in Spanish Applied Linguistics and Pedagogy, to support the community and help others become the best possible educators. My happiest moment is when I walk into a class at Rutgers-Camden, and when I see that, what we do here is helping our present students and future colleagues to grow into fantastic educators and their possible selves.
As Graduate Program Director at the Spanish MAT at Rutgers-Camden, I devote most of my time to working with prospective students and mentoring current students and alumni in research, teaching, and advocacy. I really enjoy working on action research projects with the teachers in our program and bringing cutting-edge pedagogical innovations to their schools, as well as to our Spanish language program at Rutgers-Camden. Something that I am also very proud of is the creation of the Rutgers-Camden Spanish MAT series in applied linguistics, which has allowed us to bring to campus some of the foremost researchers in the fields of applied linguistics and language development and provide our students and alumni with invaluable professional development and networking opportunities.
Award and Achievements
As an applied linguist, I am interested in second language (L2) development, L2 evaluation and assessment, technology-enhanced language learning, teacher training, and bilingual education from a Neo-Vygotskian sociocultural theory of mind perspective. My most recent work has explored the role of Sociocultural Theory in Spanish L2 education, the implementation of Dynamic Assessment to promote L2 teacher’s conceptual development, the role of Conscious Conceptual Manipulation in the development of grammatical categories, the implementation of concept-based instruction (CBI) in the heritage and second language classrooms, and the role of emotion and agency in the development and internalization of scientific concepts. Currently, I am exploring the role of conscious conceptual manipulation in the teaching and learning of conceptual categories in virtual environment, the implementation of a Dynamic Assessment approach as a tool to foster L2 learning and development in secondary education, and the role of CBI in the grammatical and pedagogical development of K-12 native and heritage educators.
Plan for the Program
Our MAT in Spanish at Rutgers-Camden is one of the few MAT programs in the country that offers content credits in Spanish as well as the possibility of obtaining a teacher license upon completion of the program thanks to our collaboration with the department of Education at Rutgers-Camden. This allows us to work with already certified teachers looking for content credits in Spanish as well as with prospective teachers looking for a certification. Looking into the future, we are planning on continuing this interdisciplinary work by offering a new ESL/Bilingual endorsement stand-alone program and becoming Alternative Route Providers. We look forward to continuing to develop our student’s involvement in research, solidifying our relationship with the districts and professional organizations in the area by providing professional development opportunities to teachers across New Jersey, and continue helping certified and prospective Spanish and ESL teachers become the best possible versions of themselves.
Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.Mark Twain
Urvi Patel, Public Affairs / Comm. Development Alumna
Urvi Patel, originally from Woodbridge, Virginia, and a recent alumna of Rutgers-Camden with a Master’s degree in Public Affairs and Community Development, is passionate about driving sustainable change in communities. She is currently employed as a Policy Analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, D.C. This nonpartisan research and policy institute focuses on advancing federal and state policies aimed at creating an inclusive society. For an insight into her work, particularly on income security, you can read an article she co-authored titled “Research Reinforces: Providing Cash to Families in Poverty Reduces Risk of Family Involvement in Child Welfare.”
In 2016, I graduated from James Madison University with a B.S. in Writing, Rhetoric, and Technical Communication with minors in Humanitarian Affairs and Nonprofit Studies. I spent several years working at community-based organizations in the fields of child welfare, mental health, youth development, and poverty alleviation. This included a term as an AmeriCorps VISTA and with the U.S. Peace Corps in Tonga. When I returned to the U.S. after completing my Peace Corps service, I continued to work in the nonprofit sector during the pandemic, but soon decided to pursue graduate school. I completed my M.S. in Public Affairs and Community Development from Rutgers-Camden in 2023.
Inspiration for Choosing the Program
My decision to choose the Public Affairs and Community Development graduate program was inspired by my past experiences working locally within communities. Through feelings of burnout, I realized that community nonprofits address the social issues that plague our most marginalized communities through much needed, but short-term answers. In order to make a more sustainable impact, I decided to pursue a program that would provide me with the skills and knowledge to enter the social policy field and approach my work with an equity and justice lens.
Post Graduation Plans
Upon graduation, I now work as a Policy Analyst on the Housing and Income Security team at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a research and policy institute that promotes federal and state policies to help build a more equitable nation. On the Housing and Income Security team, I am currently working on building out the organization’s state housing policy work.
But still, like air, I’ll rise.Maya Angelou
Felix Abusah, MPA Graduate Student
Felix Abusah, a graduate student of the Master’s in Public Administration program at Rutgers-Camden was ignited by a passion for effective communication and multicultural understanding. Adapting as an international student in a different cultural and academic environment, he aspires to pursue a Ph.D., aiming to bridge theory and practice in public administration for societal impact.
My journey started with an undergraduate degree in public relations from the Ghana Institute of Journalism. In 2019, after completing my degree, I had the opportunity to work with several multinational companies in Ghana. This experience in a multicultural environment was pivotal, helping me realize the importance of understanding different communication styles and cultural nuances.
Motivations for Choosing Public Administration
My decision to study public administration was influenced by my work experience. The need for effective communication and understanding of multicultural environments in these multinational companies led me to pursue this field. I realized how significant governance and public policy are in societal development. I saw public administration as a way to bridge the gap between different cultures and enhance communication, which is vital in governance and public relations.
My experience at Rutgers-Camden has been beyond my expectations. The professors are well-prepared, and the resources are vast. The small class sizes are conducive to deeper learning and understanding. But more importantly, it’s the diverse and supportive community at Rutgers-Camden that stands out. It feels like a family here, where everyone is encouraged to be their best and respected for their unique backgrounds.
Adapting as an International Student
Adjusting to life in the United States as an international student brought its own set of challenges and learnings. The cultural and academic environment here was quite different from Ghana. I had to learn and adapt to various communication styles and professional settings. This was both challenging and rewarding, as it was crucial for effective communication and collaboration in this new, diverse setting.
Looking forward, my time at Rutgers-Camden has inspired me to consider pursuing a Ph.D. The diverse academic environment and the respect and acceptance I’ve received have been motivating. The practical knowledge and networking opportunities gained here are crucial for my future. I aim to apply what I’ve learned in public administration to bridge the gap between theory and practice, contributing meaningfully to society.
Mary Anna Evans, Creative Writing Alumnus
Mary Anna Evans leveraged the Rutgers-Camden Creative Writing M.F.A. program to transition from a career in engineering. She currently serves as an Associate Professor of Professional Writing at the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Oklahoma. In her recently released novels, “The Traitor Beside Her” and “The Physicists’ Daughter,” Evans introduces readers to the protagonist, Justine Byrne, a character born from Evans’ integration of her scientific background into her narrative. Evans’ books and other writings are available in bookstores, libraries, online retailers, and on her website, The Justine Byrne Series.
I came to creative writing as a second career. I have a Bachelor of Science in engineering physics and a Master of Science in chemical engineering. After earning my M.S., I taught math and science at a community college, later working as a consultant for an environmental engineering firm. In my spare time, I wrote poetry and short stories and, eventually, a novel called ‘Artifacts’ that was published in 2003. It began a series of crime novels featuring archaeologist Faye Longchamp. I had published seven novels in that series when I decided that I wanted to formally study this thing that I’d taught myself to do, so I returned to graduate school to study literary fiction and nonfiction at Rutgers-Camden.
My time at Rutgers-Camden was a wonderful experience in every way, and I learned a great deal about writing and literature. When I turned in my next book, my editor said, “You’ve really kicked it up a notch,” and that’s exactly what I’d hoped to do when I decided to spend two years deeply studying the art and craft of writing. In the last semester of my MFA, I wrote an article about Camden and its history for The Atlantic’s Technology Channel, which was a lovely way to say goodbye to a place that had become very special to me.
When I graduated, I took a job as an assistant professor at the University of Oklahoma, where I’ve been teaching writers since 2015, earning tenure in 2021. In the years since I graduated, I published six more books in my archaeological series, which won recognition like the Will Rogers Medallion Award Gold Medal and the Oklahoma Book Award, as well as many short stories and essays. In 2019, though, I decided it was time for something new, so I wrote a historical novel set during WWII called The Physicists’ Daughter that I pitched as Bletchley Park-meets-Rosie-the-Riveter. It won my second Oklahoma Book Award, and The Traitor Beside Her follows its protagonist, physicist Justine Byrne, as she works undercover as a codebreaker. It was released in June to a wonderful reception that included a review in the Washington Post.
During my time at the University of Oklahoma, I became interested in academic scholarship on the work of Agatha Christie, particularly in the portrayal of women and justice in the twentieth century. This work resulted in an invitation to serve as senior editor of the Bloomsbury Handbook to Agatha Christie, which was received well by the crime fiction community, being short-listed for the Edgar, Agatha, HRF Keating, and Macavity Awards.
Favorite Memories of Rutgers-Camden Experience
I lived in an apartment on the top floor of The Victor with a stupendous view of Philadelphia and the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. From there, I could walk to class and to the classes I was teaching. The River Line and the subway took me to New York and to Philadelphia and beyond, and this was a dream for a lifelong suburbanite. As an engineer, I found the historic homes and factory buildings around the university to be fascinating. My classes, too, were fascinating. My professors were kind and devoted to helping us improve our work, and my classmates were fun and talented. I wouldn’t trade my time in Camden for anything.
Inspiration Behind the Book
The protagonist of The Traitor Beside Her and The Physicists’ Daughter, Justine Byrne, was a character I had lived my whole life to write. I was able to give her my interest in science by giving her parents who were both physicists, a rare thing in 1944. In addition to her father, Gerard, there are actually two female physicists in Justine’s life, her mother Isabel and her godmother Gloria, and they taught Justine things that made her something of a secret weapon during a world war. Nobody would have expected a young woman of her day to be able to go to her factory job, look around, and think, “My boss is lying to me about what I’m making. Also, somebody’s trying to sabotage our work.” Justine’s skills save the secret military project she’s working on in The Physicists’ Daughter, and they get her a chance to go undercover in The Traitor Beside Her to root out a spy intent on learning the Allies’ military secrets.
Present or Next Career Steps
I’m working on a standalone Gothic novel set in the Hudson River Valley in 1942, featuring a young female English professor who is learning that her charming, erudite parents were lying about pretty much everything. I’m also working on an academic book called Witness to the Evolution: Agatha Christie, Women, Justice, and the Twentieth Century.
Charlotte Markey, Ph.D. Professor of Psychology.
Dr. Markey is a strong pillar of the Rutgers-Camden community. She is the Chair of the Health Sciences department, a seasoned researcher, and a mentor to graduate and undergraduate students.
Originally from San Mateo, California, I went to college in Santa Clara, CA, and had graduate studies in Riverside, CA. From my undergraduate days, I have actively researched social influences on body image, eating behaviors, and eating disorders. Since 2002, she has lived in Philadelphia, and for the last 16 years in Swarthmore, Philadelphia.
Since 2002, I’ve been a member of the Psychology Sciences Department. Since 2013, I’ve been a core faculty member of the health sciences program (now the department) and for most of that time the director/ chair of the program. Since 2002, I’ve been a core faculty member of the new Prevention Science Graduate program.
I also have an active research program that focuses on social influences on body image, eating behaviors, and eating disorders. I also have written books about body image and other health issues. I mentor undergraduate and graduate students.
I also volunteer for ANAD (Association for Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders) and offer psychoeducational presentations and webinars to help people better understand the issues I study.
I write for Psychology Today.
I did my first study examining eating attitudes as an undergraduate in 1996 and haven’t stopped since. Most of my research focuses on eating behaviors and body image and I’ve always had a special interest in adolescents. Some of my most recent articles have examined how social media may impact body image and how eating styles may differ among young adults around the world.
The third book will be out this spring (Adultish: The Body Image Book for Life). A 2nd edition of the girls’ book will be published in late 2025 or early 2026 and other books are being discussed as well.
The Health Sciences undergraduate department and Prevention Science MA and Doctoral programs have both grown beyond expectation in recent years.
My colleagues and I hope to continue to serve our students so that they can contribute to academic and applied efforts to improve health and wellness, especially among underserved populations.
Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.William James
Isaac Blum, Award-Winning Creative Writing Alumnus
Isaac Blum, a Rutgers-Camden MFA in Creative Writing alumnus, has earned significant recognition with his novel, “The Life and Times of Hoodie Rosen,” longlisted for the National Book Award and a William C. Morris Award winner. The narrative unfolds the life of Hoodie Rosen, whose Orthodox Jewish community faces hostility upon moving to Tregaron, a mostly non-Jewish town. Hoodie’s life takes a dramatic turn when he falls for Anna-Marie Diaz-O’Leary, the daughter of the town’s resistant mayor. As antisemitic tensions escalate into violence, Hoodie is caught between love and loyalty, navigating a world rife with hatred, betrayal, and unexpected friendships. Isaac Blum crafts a poignant tale, highlighting the challenges of identity and belonging in a divided society. “The Life and Times of Hoodie Rosen” is available in both paperback and hardcover formats at various book retailers as well as Amazon.
My academic journey began at Tufts University in Massachusetts, where I earned a bachelor’s degree in English. During my time there, I had the opportunity to work on a creative writing senior thesis, which I found immensely fulfilling. This experience led me to pursue an MFA in creative writing, and Rutgers-Camden became the obvious choice due to its excellent program, dedicated faculty, and convenient location.
At Rutgers-Camden, I engaged in workshop classes that allowed me to refine my writing skills alongside a group of talented and insightful peers. The collaborative spirit within the program was a significant highlight for me, as we all worked together to improve each other’s craft. This sense of community fostered during my time at Rutgers-Camden remains strong, with lasting friendships formed more than a decade later.
In addition to the creative aspects, the program provided valuable professional insights by inviting accomplished authors and literary agents to discuss the business side of the writing world. This connection between the academic and professional aspects of writing was invaluable in helping me progress toward publishing my work. During my time in the program, I wrote my first novel, and I have continued to write since then. My sixth novel, published in the fall of 2022, even made it to the longlist for the National Book Award.
Favorite Memories of Rutgers-Camden Experience
My most cherished memories of my time at Rutgers-Camden revolve around the incredible support I received from the faculty. Professors like Lauren Grodstein, Paul Lisicky, and Lisa Zeidner went above and beyond to offer encouragement when I felt discouraged about my work. They also took the time to guide me outside of class, helping me assemble applications for residencies and fellowships. Writing can often be a solitary endeavor, and having the Rutgers-Camden faculty in my corner made a world of difference.
Inspiration Behind the Book
My young adult novel revolves around Yehuda “Hoodie” Rosen and his Orthodox Jewish community’s struggles in a new town, where they face resistance from the established non-Jewish residents. To complicate matters further, Hoodie falls in love with the mayor’s daughter, a situation made even more challenging when the town experiences a series of antisemitic crimes. Hoodie is forced to make a choice between his first love and the only world he has ever known.
The inspiration for this story traces back to a tragic event: a shooting at a kosher supermarket in Jersey City, New Jersey, on December 10, 2019. While my novel is not a direct retelling of that event, it draws elements from the real-life incident. This particular incident, among several other violent attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions, deeply moved me. Within a week of the shooting, I began outlining my novel, weaving together a tale of an Orthodox Jewish teenager caught in the midst of violent antisemitism, alongside the typical challenges of adolescence, such as identity crises and first love.
Present or Next Career Steps
I’m excited to share that my second young adult novel is set to be released in the fall of 2024, courtesy of Philomel Books and Penguin Teen, titled “The Judgment of Yoyo Gold,” this novel explores the journey of a Jewish teen girl navigating a crisis of faith.
Ashley Scavuzzo, Award-Winning Chemistry Student
Ashley Scavuzzo is a graduate student in the Chemistry M.S. Program, a participant in the accelerated credits program, and a recipient of the Graduate Fellowship from the New Jersey Space Grant Consortium (NJSPC).
I completed my Bachelor of Chemistry degree at Rutgers-Camden in 2022 with a minor in mathematics. In the Fall of 2021, I was accepted into Rutgers B.S./M.S. accelerated degree program and expected to graduate with my Master’s degree in Chemistry in 2024 after defending my thesis.
Could you share some details about your award?
I received the Graduate Fellowship from the New Jersey Space Grant Consortium (NJSPC) for the Fall 2022 and Spring 2023 semesters. This generous scholarship supported my efforts to complete my master’s project. The project involved characterizing the pigments and binders used in a painting titled “Haiku” by Ben Wilson. Thanks to the stipend, I was able to dedicate more time to my project without the added stress of finances for other responsibilities, such as rent and groceries. This scholarship has had a profound, positive impact on my education.
What are some highlights from your experience at Rutgers-Camden?
Research has been a huge part of my education at Rutgers-Camden. I had the opportunity to work with conservation scientists Dr. Kate Duffy and Dr. Natalia Macro at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA), analyzing study objects. In addition, I am collaborating with Jake Foster, the Gallery and Public Programs Coordinator at the Rutgers-Camden Center for the Arts (RCCA), to analyze a painting from the Rutgers Camden Collection of Art for my Master’s degree project. The research opportunities I have had at Rutgers-Camden are unforgettable and will have a great impact on my future endeavors.
What are your future career plans?
I will be completing my graduate degree soon, while also starting to look at career opportunities in fields including renewable energy and chemical safety. I look forward to utilizing my degree from Rutgers-Camden to pursue a career that I find both challenging and rewarding.
Martin Wiley, Creative Writing Alumnus
Martin Wiley is an alumnus of the Rutgers-Camden Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing program. He is currently the Coordinator of the Writing Center at Arcadia University and resides in Philadelphia with his wife and two children. His new book, “When Did We Stop Being Cute?”, has been described as “bold and brazen, rhythmic, musical, and at times nostalgic.” The book is available through Cavankerry Press, on Amazon, and at local bookstores. For more information and for readings/bookings, please visit his website at martinwiley.com.
I received my MFA in Creative Writing from Rutgers-Camden where I was a Rutgers University Fellow. I started college as an artist at Mason Gross School of the Arts at the Rutgers New Brunswick campus but found that I did not actually want to be an artist. After leaving college, I worked as an activist and community organizer, before receiving my BA from Goddard College in Vermont. I went on to get my MFA from Rutgers-Camden.
Why did you choose Rutgers-Camden?
I chose Rutgers-Camden for my MFA because it was the only school I saw that required students to take classes outside of their main genre; poets had to take fiction, fiction writers took nonfiction, etc. I have always enjoyed writing different things in different ways, seeing a memoir piece through a poetic lens, or attempting to bring a playwright’s use of dialogue into a short story.
How has Rutgers-Camden supported your career?
When I was at Rutgers-Camden, the MFA program did not have a call on playwriting. Since I wanted to work on writing plays, I was able to connect with the head of the theatre department and develop an independent study, and I will always be grateful for how easy the school made that process.
One thing that stood out was my internship at The New Yorker magazine, which was arranged by the school. To be in that space and rub shoulders with some legendary writers—meeting Ishmael Reed in the hallway and asking him about his novel “Mumbo Jumbo,” being taken out to lunch by John Lahr to talk about theatre, etc.—changed me forever as a writer and as a person, and I owe that to Rutgers-Camden.
Tell us about your book.
My new book, “When Did We Stop Being Cute?”, is a “novel in poetic form,” meaning that it is a poetry collection where each poem is part of a larger story. It is based on my experiences growing up as a mixed-race kid in the New Jersey suburbs in the ’80s and is heavily influenced by the music of the time; each poem’s title is a lyric taken from a song I listened to then. Some of these songs are classics, while others are definitely of their time.
More than anything, the book provides a look at what it’s like trying to become a man in a place where Black men are viewed as dangerous. There, I had to grapple with the sudden shift from being seen as a cute kid to being perceived as a threat.
Dr. Jinglin Fu, Associate Professor of Biochemistry
Dr. Jinglin Fu is an Associate Professor of Biochemistry, and is associated with the Center for Computational and Integrative Biology (CCIB).
Dr. Jinglin Fu earned his Ph.D. in Chemistry from Arizona State University. He then joined Rutgers University-Camden as an Assistant Professor in Biochemistry in 2013. In 2019, he was promoted and has since held the position of Tenured Associate Professor in Biochemistry.
Teaching and Service at Rutgers
At Rutgers, Dr. Fu teaches Biochemistry through both lectures and labs. He also mentors undergraduate and graduate students in their Biotechnology and Nanotechnology research projects. Additionally, he serves in various administrative and committee roles within the Chemistry program.
Research Focus and Affiliations
Dr. Fu is affiliated with the Center for Computational and Integrative Biology. He heads a research group that delves into biomimetic assembly and nanosystems. Their areas of interest include bionanomaterials fabrication, biocatalysis, smart diagnosis, and nanomedicine. Among his notable works is the article “Biomimetic assembly of multienzyme reactions on DNA nanostructures,” which was featured in Research Outreach in 2019.
Awards and Recognitions
Throughout his career, Dr. Fu has received several accolades. These include the Cottrell College Science Award, the Army Research Office Young Investigator award, and the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers. Furthermore, in 2020, he earned the Chancellor’s Award for Outstanding Research and Creative Activity.
Somya Patro, Biology Alumna
Somya Patro, a proud alumnus of the Rutgers University-Camden Biology M.S. program, received the Graduate School Academic Achievement Award from the Rutgers University-Camden Alumni Association in May. This accolade recognized her significant contributions to the program. Following a delightful post-graduation celebration in Miami with her family, Somya is now on her next adventure as a lab manager at the University of Southern California.
My academic journey began at the University of California, Riverside, where I majored in biology. My passion for research took root in a fetal lab in Singapore, and it was this enthusiasm for genetics that led me to Rutgers-Camden.
What about your work at Rutgers, Camden, were you most proud of and excited about
During my time in Dr. Lee’s laboratory, I delved into the research titled “Characterizing the Genetic and Molecular Mechanisms of GlcAT-P in Circadian and Photoperiodic Regulation in Drosophila melanogaster.” My focus was on the role of a single gene in the circadian rhythm.
My experience at Rutgers-Camden was invaluable. I learned pretty much everything here because when I was working at the lab in Singapore, there were numerous restrictions due to the onset of COVID-19, particularly with handling blood samples as a student. Over here, it was a hands-on journey, demanding a great deal of self-initiative. I believe I’ve achieved the pinnacle of independence in my life thus far, thanks to Rutgers-Camden.
How did you discover your research path?
I admit, I honestly didn’t even know which direction in research I could pursue… However, upon my arrival, I could chalk out a definitive plan. Currently, I relish working with Drosophila melanogaster; prior to this program, I wouldn’t even contemplate working with flies.
What did you love about your experience as a Teaching Assistant?
Beyond my research, I also had the wonderful opportunity to be a teaching assistant. This experience enriched my learning journey profoundly. It was a weekly highlight for me, facilitating personal growth while interacting with new students. Introducing them to experiments reminiscent of my undergraduate days was immensely gratifying.
What will you miss most about Rutgers, Camden Graduate School, and its community?
Looking back at my time at Rutgers-Camden, the deeper my immersion, the clearer the understanding, and the heightened the exhilaration. As the quality of the data improved, my enthusiasm to gather even better data grew. My journey was progressively enriching, and I wouldn’t trade these past two and a half years for anything. It was a period I hold dear.
I’m deeply grateful for the mentorship of Dr. Lee and Dr. Yakoby, and I’d like to express my thanks to Cody Stephens, Christopher Sottolano, and Heather Stotts from the lab. Notably, I want to commend Cody Stephens for meticulously guiding me through the entire crisper process step by step and dedicating four months to teach me the nuances of gene editing.
Sarah Johnson, Senior Program Coordinator & Biology Alumna
Sarah Johnson, Senior Program Coordinator for the Center for Computational and Integrative Biology (CCIB), and the Graduate School.
My journey began with the attainment of an M.S. in Biology in 2013, with a focus on soil ecology and nutrient cycling. After gaining experience in environmental research in the Pinelands and Delaware Bay, I joined Rutgers-Camden in 2019, managing the Biology department teaching labs. In December 2022, I joined CCIB and the Graduate School as the Senior Program Coordinator for Science Technology Engineering, and Math (STEM) programs.
I currently serve as the Senior Program Coordinator for the Center for Computational and Integrative Biology and The Graduate School at Rutgers-Camden. My primary responsibility is to assist students in STEM programs, ensuring they navigate graduate school successfully. I enjoy this role because it allows me to interact with STEM graduate students daily, helping to bring different programming and workshops to the Camden campus. I also get to enjoy working with faculty in some of the newer graduate programs such as Data Science which has been a rewarding experience to help bring the first cohort of the program to the campus.
I’m also the program coordinator for the NSF Research Training grant, ‘Codes for Life,’ which was awarded to CCIB Director Grace Brannigan. In this role, I am dedicated to supporting the Codes for Life program, which can be explored further here
Preserve and cherish this pale blue dot, the only home we have ever known.Carl Sagan
Theresa Williams, Criminal Justice Alumna
Theresa Williams, a Cincinnati native and recent graduate of the Criminal Justice M.A. program at Rutgers-Camden, has a background in psychology and criminal justice from her time at Dallas Baptist University. She currently serves as a Texas State Parole Officer, where her education from Rutgers has prepared her for a successful career in the field.
My decision to pursue graduate studies in criminal justice was prompted by the global challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. This period made me reassess my career choices, ultimately steering me toward my original passion for criminal justice. Prior to my graduate studies, I was a small business owner, focusing on providing services to enlisted, retired, and veteran military individuals. It was during this period that a conversation with Dr. Rea, a mentor and educator, crystallized my decision to pursue studies at Rutgers, Camden.
What about your work at Rutgers, Camden, were you most proud of and excited about
My journey at Rutgers, Camden was marked by academic and personal growth. Among my proudest accomplishments was my contributions to research, notably through collaboration with Dr. Richard Stansfield on various research projects. These experiences allowed me to dive deep into the complexities of the criminal justice system and make meaningful contributions to its advancement. I also appreciated the sense of camaraderie and teamwork among my classmates. This environment of collaboration provided me with valuable insights and friendships that will last a lifetime.
How do you think your time and experiences at Rutgers will improve your success in the future?
Rutgers has given me a well-rounded perspective on criminal justice, the program not only offered insights into the legal aspects of the field but also emphasized the importance of research. Also, my time at Rutgers has not only equipped me with theoretical knowledge but has also instilled in me the practical skills needed to make a meaningful impact in my field.
What will you miss most about Rutgers, Camden Graduate School, and its community?
For me, this institution was more than just a place of education; it was a home filled with lasting friendships and unwavering support. The strong sense of belonging, the mentorship provided by professors, and the camaraderie I experienced with my peers are the aspects I will cherish the most.
Dr. Eric Klein, Computational & Integrative Biology Director
Dr. Klein is the Graduate Program Director of the Center of Computational and Integrative Biology’s (CCIB) M.S. and Ph.D. programs.
My academic journey mirrors the very essence of CCIB itself – a diverse and multidisciplinary pursuit of knowledge. It all began at the University of Pennsylvania, where I laid the foundation for my intellectual exploration. Armed with undergraduate degrees in Chemical Engineering and Biochemistry, I embarked on a path that was destined to evolve.
For my graduate studies, I remained loyal to the University of Pennsylvania but shifted gears, venturing into the realm of mammalian cell biology. There, I diligently pursued my passion, culminating in the award of a Ph.D. in pharmacology. My postdoctoral journey brought yet another metamorphosis, as I immersed myself in the captivating world of microbiology at Princeton University.
Today, as the leader of my own laboratory, I have harnessed the knowledge and skills acquired throughout my academic journey to drive pioneering research in bacterial lipid metabolism. My lab serves as a melting pot of diverse expertise, engaging chemists, physicists, and biologists in our relentless quest to unravel fundamental questions about bacterial membranes.
About Computational and Integrative Biology
CCIB has experienced remarkable growth over the past decade, nurturing more than 50 Ph.D. and M.S. students. Our esteemed faculty members have secured prestigious research grants, while our students have left their mark in the academic world by publishing in high-impact journals. As the Graduate Program Director, my mission is clear: to perpetuate CCIB’s upward trajectory, ensuring that our students continue to thrive in the best possible training environment.
What research is your lab involved in?
Some of our research work includes Mechanical regulation of bacterial pathogenesis, Regulation of bacterial cell shape, and Bacterial sphingolipid synthesis.
My mother made me a scientist without ever knowing it. Every other child would come back from school and be asked, ‘What did you learn today?’ But my mother used to say, ‘Izzy, did you ask a good question today?’ That made the difference. Asking good questions made me into a scientist.Trsadore Rabi, Nobel Prize Winner for Physics
Chris Kubik Cedeño, Assistant Dean & M.F.A. Student
Chris Kubik Cedeño is an Assistant Dean on the Rutgers-Camden Graduate School team and a student pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing.
I pursued creative writing as part of my English degree as an undergraduate, and later took a workshop as a professional in NYC. This led me to apply to M.F.A. programs, and I studied for one year at Texas State University before transferring to Rutgers-Camden.
Writing has always been my passion. For me, an M.F.A. program provided me with an opportunity to focus on my creative projects and provided me with a structured learning environment. This meant I had deadlines, peer review, and the guidance of other esteemed writers in the program, and all of this has fueled my growth as a writer.
I’ve written extensively on identity, and Latinidad, and my past films and video productions have garnered the attention of film festivals, household brands, and more. Currently, I’m working on a novel that explores identity through the lenses of technology—including artificial intelligence and tools such as ChatGPT. I write in the shadow of absurdist authors who tackle big systems and problems: Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, Chris Terry, and Anthony So are the fiction writers who are inspiring me now.
What is your role in the university?
I’m an Assistant Dean here on campus. Most of my role involves administrative operations, which, in a nutshell, means I help students and faculty alike navigate the various procedures and policies of Rutgers so that we all work together seamlessly. I also spearhead our major events and programming, including Orientation, Commencement, Research Week, and more.
My vision for administrative operations at Rutgers, and the Graduate School, always involves shaving points of friction. I always tell students “I don’t want our paperwork to stand in the way of your hard-earned degree.” That has included working with our staff here to streamline old processes and ramp up our communications.
What research is your lab involved in?
Some of our research work includes Mechanical regulation of bacterial pathogenesis, Regulation of bacterial cell shape, and Bacterial sphingolipid synthesis.
Mantengase calladito hasta que pase que sea realidad.Translation: Keep Quiet Until it Comes True.
Carla Villacis, WRI Coordinator & Data Science Student
After completing my MA in Psychology through Rutgers-Camden, I had the opportunity to continue working at the university as a researcher at the Senator Walter Rand Institute for Public Affairs (WRI). At WRI, we do a lot of projects from program evaluations to health needs assessments to research briefs that require us to pull from many data sources and analytical techniques.
As a research coordinator, I got to develop the research skills I’d acquired through my master’s, grow my project management experience, and hone in on qualitative research. And yet, I realized that without gaining more skills and confidence with quantitative data, I would be limited in my understanding of the full extent of data we collect and in my ability to answer the questions of our community partners.
I looked at boot camp programs that promised to train you as a data scientist in six months, but the upfront cost and timeline did not work for me. When I learned about the Data Science program offered through RUC, I felt comfortable applying and enrolling due to my familiarity with the school, the flexibility to enroll part-time, and my own experience with the faculty and their demonstrations for inclusivity and support of any student committed to learning.
This program is very different from my previous academic focus (Romance Languages and Psychology) but I’m excited to learn new skills and tools that can help me grow as a researcher.
What research are you working on?
Currently, I am working in the development and data collection phases for a couple of projects examining health needs across Southern New Jersey. For instance, one project, in partnership with Rowan University, will be gathering data from Atlantic County residents to determine where and how to deploy Community Health Workers to offer more targeted services in the community.
More recently I’ve worked on projects exploring diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts at Rutgers-Camden, based mostly on interview data, although we are preparing to roll out a survey in partnership with DICE in the coming weeks to get input from all students, staff, and faculty at Rutgers-Camden. So please keep an eye out for that!
Bigger dummies than you have gotten there.My friend Maddy’s Grandmother
Christeen Perera, Mathematical Sciences Student
Christeen graduated from Wagner College with a B.S. in Mathematics and a double minor in Computer Science and Economics. Presently, she is a Mathematical Sciences M.S. student.
A little about Christeen
I am passionate about supporting others in their academic journeys which is why I was a LEAD mentor and an executive committee member of the women’s professional network student initiative here at Wagner. Additionally, with my work as a research assistant, writing tutor, and advisory intern, I developed skills in consulting and data analysis.
Daily, I strive to empower and foster a friendly and productive environment with those around me. While exploring opportunities in mathematics and technology and learning about the growth of women in mathematics.
Why Mathematical Sciences?
I was inspired by one of my college readiness professors in high school who is a passionate woman in math. Although it’s challenging, I appreciate the process of solving problems and like the opportunities that come along with the skills I’ve learned.
My favorite project completed in this program so far was in my Industrial Math course, where I analyzed infant mortality rates in the United States. Dr. Cargill was a great mentor during this research project working with him pushed me to expand my thinking and use computational tools effectively.
Overall, math has also helped me understand logic and critical thinking better. My experience has also helped me to improve in my other areas of interest such as writing, organization, and communication.
I look forward to all the great experiences ahead of me.
Don’t ever make decisions based on fear. Make decisions based on hope and possibility.Michelle Obama