Young Alumni Spotlight

Casey Dougan ’15
Fashion Merchandising and Management

Tell me about yourself. Describe yCD4our professional background.

My name is Casey Dougan and I graduated from Philadelphia University in May 2015 with a degree in Fashion Merchandising and a minor in International Business. Throughout college I had three internships that contributed significantly to securing my first job. I was a “super intern” as I like to call it (anything, anytime for anyone!) for Henrietta Ludgate in London, England during my semester abroad, a sales coordinator for the Tommy Hilfiger field team during my junior year and a retail-planning intern for Calvin Klein the summer before my senior year of college. These internships along with retail experience at a Tommy Hilfiger company store and my academic record all contributed to landing my first job as a member of the PVH executive training program as a planning trainee. Within this program I work for The Underwear Group, a division of Calvin Klein, in the wholesale planning department for all the men’s underwear brands in PVH’s portfolio including Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger. Additionally, I am a consultant for a global health and wellness company where I am passionate about sharing with others how to get healthier and earn a residual income!

CD2Why did you choose Philadelphia University for your college education?

I chose Philadelphia University for its central location and unique fashion program. I was looking for a small school that offered a good mix of creative and business classes, but also offered programs outside of fashion so I would be able to interact with people outside of my industry. PhilaU offered a good balance of classes and an absolutely perfect location for me- close to Center City, New York, D.C. and only 5 minutes from amazing hiking trails! Add on that our campus in a major city actually had trees and a beautiful mansion…I was sold!

Why and how did you choose your career path?

I first became interested in planning while working retail at the Tommy Hilfiger store. I noticed we were constantly out of stock of one of our best selling items, and I was very frustrated that we were losing sales and couldn’t help our customers! I asked my boss who at corporate was responsible for this and she told me that was due to the planning and allocations department. It was then that I knew I needed to look into this career so I could get my store more stock in those CD5shirts! Since that moment I have shifted from the retail division to the wholesale planning division, but the same concept of having stock to make sales still applies! As for my career as a wellness coach, this is an industry I fell into when I became very overweight during college and was introduced to a nutrition system by my mother. I experienced a lot of success with it and decided I wanted to share it with others as well! Since then I’ve learned about the network marketing industry and the expansive opportunities for growth it provides and decided to jump in and join the industry.

For you, what was the most valuable part of your PhilaU education?  Did your PhilaU education influence your career path?

FAA 2The most valuable part of my PhilaU education was the extra-curricular activities I was involved in. While the courses and professors were vital, the extra-curriculars are what allowed me to really figure out who I was and explore different passions during college. From networking events with the Future Alumni Association and barbeques with the Honors Student’s Association to being a part of The American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life every year, these opportunities for personal development and the friendships I made along the way continue to be priceless.

The education I received at PhilaU definitely influenced my career path in terms of the companies I choose to work for. Both the fashion and nutrition companies have strong values I identify with and promote contribution, entrepreneurship and a dedication to personal development. These are all values that were ingrained in me during my time at PhilaU.

Tell me about any special recognition that you have received and any organizations or networks that you are involved with.

I am involved with a group of entrepreneurs working towards bringing health and wealth to more people than ever before called the Start your Life Movement. This group of 18-35 year olds has a vision to “ignite all young people to own their lives physically and financially, and through our contributions, create freedom and a lasting legacy.” This group is primarily responsible for the tremendous personal development I have been exposed to in my career and has introduced me some of my greatest role models. I am also involved with Levo League, a networking group for women in the early stages of their career. This is an international organization with chapters in nearly every major city (including Philadelphia!) that holds workshops on topics such as wage equality and negotiations, resume writing, healthy living and goal setting. If you are not a member, I highly recommend checking out their website!

Tell me about any challenges you’ve faced in your career and how you overcame them.

The biggest challenge I have faced so far is dealing with being in a completely new environment. Going from a place where I had been completely comfortable to two new jobs with new people, in new places was challenge because I didn’t feel like I belonged there at first. The biggest key to overcoming this was building up my self-belief and understanding that if I was hired for a job, someone picked me because they believed in me. As with overcoming most challenges, I find it truly is all in my head.

Tell me about the most rewarding/interesting part of your career.  

The most rewarding part of my career definitely comes from the wellness coaching part of my life. I love getting to see people transform physically, mentally and financially and to really understand that each of us has the power to change our lives for the better with a little focus and dedication and a lot of support from people who share the same values and drive to create a better world.

What are the guiding principles that you feel have helped you succeed in your career?

Do everything with integrity, contribute as much as you can, never stop learning, express your gratitude and don’t forget to catch a sunset every once in a while.

Tell me a little about your life outside of work.  How do you balance work and life?

I believe work life balance is vital to living a happy life! I love to hike and be outdoors, play with my dog Rudie, travel as often as I can and read nearly any book I can get my hands on. With so much of my life being dedicated to work, I believe it is important to chase my own dreams outside the 9-5. I do not take my laptop home and do not have my work e-mail on my phone. When I am off the clock, it is my time to focus on my family, friends and my own dreams, not check my work email for updates every hour! Partnering with my nutrition company is helping me get closer to my dream of not having to ever worry about work-life balance, because as my own boss I would make the rules, set my own hours to work (from home!) and choose how to spend every minute of my time!

If you could pass along a lesson to current PhilaU students and recent grads, what would it be?

My biggest piece of advice is to take advantage of every opportunity you possibly can while at Philadelphia University. Join a new club, take up breakdancing, learn French; CD6chose one or many! Go hiking on Forbidden Drive, go to concerts in Center City, get on a bus and spend a Saturday exploring New York City. Apply to any internship that catches your eye, ask a lot of questions, and don’t stand in the corner at networking events. Philadelphia University is a tremendous institution with international recognition for its programs, it is up to you to use this to your advantage and make it some of the best years of your life.

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Didier Barjon ’14
Law and Society

Tell us about yourself. Describe your professional background.DB1

My name is Didier Barjon. I am a Haitian-American, born in New York City, raised in Tampa, Florida. I graduated with a B.S in Law and Society, with a custom minor in International Relations and Global Studies. I currently live in Washington D.C. and work for the U.S House of Representatives in the office of Congressman Xavier Becerra.

Why did you choose Philadelphia University for your college education?

In high school, I decided that I wanted to continue my cross country and track career. Philadelphia University offers its student-athletes a way to dedicate the appropriate amount time to sports and prevail academically; mainly due to the small class sizes and one-on-one attention you can get from professors. I liked that PhilaU has a nice green campus, with easy access to Center City. I also have a lot of family in NYC and Philly.

Why and how did you choose your career path?

Originally, the plan was to go to law school. I went through the entire process of taking the LSAT, applying, and getting accepted to schools. During my senior year I took part in the Single-Bullet Exhibition. I was introduced to Rob Skomorucha, who handles government relations for PhilaU. He worked for then Senator Joe Biden and suggested I give an internship on Capitol Hill a try. I decided to go for an internship the summer after graduation and ended up loving it. I then deferred to a few schools for one year to preserve my seat in case I changed my mind. That time has come and gone; I found a job on the Hill and have decided to stay in D.C for the foreseeable future.

For you, what was the most valuable part of your PhilaU education?  Did your PhilaU education influence your career path?

The most valuable part of my education was learning how to properly research and finding the motive of a source – this helps me in my day to day activities.

PhilaU definitely influenced my career path. Having access to professors who were immersed in their respective field or have recently left the field gave me perspective and opened up my options. In the case of Law and Society students, the professors come from many different backgrounds, allowing students to learn the many facets of the field. I had never thought about working for Congress and researching policy.

Tell us about the most rewarding/interesting part of your career.  

I would say learning about how our government works and learning about many different policy issues, but I like all aspects of my job. Working for a member of Congress who represents approximately 700,000 people is very rewarding. Being in the heart of where major decisions are made is pretty interesting as well. Being able to see President Obama on a few occasions is my favorite memory so far.

What are the guiding principles that you feel have helped you succeed in your career?

The three that are imperative are: understanding that no task is beneath me, working as a team, and communicating effectively. A congressional office generally only has about 10 staff members and a couple of interns. This means that we all have to work together and help each other out regardless of the task.

Tell us a little about your life outside of work.  How do you balance work and life?

Outside of work I like to go to the gym, play on social sports teams, and run, though I do not run nearly as much as I did for PhilaU. D.C. has a lot of different sites and events each weekend. The diversity of the city allows me to go to a new restaurant or an event all of the time. Figuring out a schedule makes it easy to balance my work and free time.

If you could pass along a lesson to current PhilaU students and recent grads, what would it be?

Start interning early. It helps figure out what you like and don’t like. Getting involved and building relationships within the University as well, you never know who you will meet. When applying for jobs and internships, apply to many.
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Daniel Rich ’14, M ’15
B. Arch, MS GeoDesign

Danny_Updated_PhotoTell me about yourself. Describe your professional background.

Hello again! A lot has happened since my last post. Earlier this year I walked at graduation for the second time and received my MS GeoDesign degree. Although I took an early walk, I am just about to finish up my summer session courses and will be completely done graduate school by the end of August. Right before I walked at graduation however, I was blessed immensely with a full-time job in a major aerospace company. Never in my entire life would I have guessed that this is where I would end up working right out of grad school, especially given my educational background. However, the skills I gained in my MS GeoDesign program and the internship experience I received through it made it possible to transition easily into this field.

Why did you choose Philadelphia University for your college education?

Looking back on it for the second time, even though Philadelphia University chose me, I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to pursue a degree that was quite challenging, and provided an immense amount of opportunity to have a second career outside of aerospace. I didn’t think that architecture and design in general would become my fallback option, but I am glad that Philadelphia University provided all the knowledge that I would need to do so should the case arise. What’s really amazing about Philadelphia University is the ability to transition between career paths, even right from the start! The multi-disciplinary teaching I received (particularly Design Studio and group projects…even in grad school!) was more than enough to allow me to search outside of my given field. Without this kind of teaching I am sure I would have been much more focused to just architecture/design.

For you, what was the most valuable part of your PhilaU education?  Did your PhilaU education influence your career path?

The most valuable part of my PhilaU education, looking back at it, was the immense amount of opportunity I was given to decide if my primary major in undergrad would be the only thing I would be allowed to do once I entered the working world. I had no idea that all of the courses I took, the experiences I had, the people I met through networking and by accident, and most importantly the professors would challenge me to work at first with, and then against the status quo when I finally finished. My graduate degree in GeoDesign definitely influenced my career path! Without going through this program I would not have had the requisite internship experience or software skills needed to have been given my first full-time position. It was an enormous risk to enter at a time when the program was untested but through trust in the faculty at Philadelphia University it was well worth the time, money and effort. I highly suggest anyone who is interested in geography, cartography, urban planning, GIS, etc. visit their page. In addition, you can read more about our revitalization project for the Philadelphia Navy Yard.

Tell me about any challenges you’ve faced in your career and how you overcame them.

When I first started my new job I had no idea what I was doing. Even though I had background experience in GIS through my MS program and internships, I had to train my entire first week solo and subsequent two or three weeks after with my co-workers. I didn’t think that training in a full-time job would be so difficult, but the pressures of being an adequate employee hit hard and fast, especially when your team lead pushes you to do your best for the company. It’s been kind of touch and go for the last couple of weeks but over time I’ve started to learn what is acceptable and not acceptable. The aerospace industry has its own unique persona, one which is much more structured in the professional business world, than most of the internships and previous job experiences that I had in architecture and design. I was not prepared for the level of seriousness that accompanied my job and would have benefited greatly from understanding that most design environments are pretty laid back (even if you do end up working insane hours).

Tell me about the most rewarding/interesting part of your career.

The most rewarding thing about my career so far is that my work benefits others in ways I probably won’t ever experience, but I can’t begin to tell you how great it feels to work in a job where what you do for a living affects someone else positively on a day to day basis. Further, the aerospace industry believes greatly in the value of our military veterans and it’s an absolute honor to work with them every day. In short, I thought being removed from the architecture/design industry would be a very difficult transition but given my background I am starting to realize all of the benefits and transitional applications between both industries. I hope others who work outside their given major (or are given the opportunity to) explore it and learn from it to their advantage.

What are the guiding principles that you feel have helped you succeed in your career?

Again, you should attempt to understand what in the world you are getting yourself into before you begin your career. Do as much research as possible and become knowledgeable about things that will help you secure that internship or job. Now that I have my first full-time job I can say without a doubt that my internship experience and research about transitioning from architecture/design to aerospace was paramount in getting hired. In my original interview process, with my now boss, this individual exclaimed that my internship experience was absolutely excellent for the job and that they couldn’t ask for much more. They were highly impressed with my design background and that I would even attempt to find work outside my primary field of study.

Tell me a little about your life outside of work.  How do you balance work and life?

Balancing work and life has become much more difficult with my job. I have had the unfortunate pleasure of making a routine 5 hour commute to Philadelphia University on several weekends in the summer in order to finish my GeoDesign Studio course. This has left very little in the way of free time on weekends. However, this will end soon and I should get somewhat of a life back. One thing I try to do now is at least run 1 or 2 miles every week in order to stay healthy. I also keep a schedule of how much down time I have after work and where I can best appropriate that time. Usually it works out, sometimes it does not. In the future I hope to end up meeting more people since I moved away from the Philadelphia area and have not had the chance to get out much except for church and school.

If you could pass along a lesson to current PhilaU students and recent grads, what would it be?

Be willing to go against the status quo and take on as much calculated risk as you can if you are unsure about the future. If you can determine these two things to your advantage you may end up finding an entire new path to your life that you never thought was even possible. While I unfortunately am unable to work in my given major and develop what I learned in school wholeheartedly, I always have the ability to return to it at a later date.

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Muzalier Gaussaint ’14
Architecture

unnamedAbout and professional background.

Born and raised in Haiti, Muzalier permanently immigrated to the United States seven years ago to live with his father and pursue his college education. Last year in 2014, he successfully completed his Undergraduate studies in Architecture with a focus on Construction Management at Philadelphia University. After completing numerous internships in architecture and construction companies in the Greater Philadelphia area including WRT Architects, he is currently holding the position of Project Engineer/Assistant Project Manager at Scungio Borst Construction Management.  He is part of a team successfully managing the construction of a l0-million dollar commercial renovation in Brooklyn, NY. As an architectural intern, he is moving to Sydney in the next few weeks for 3 months to explore interest in global architectural practice and obtain professional credits towards the Intern Development Program of the National Council of Architectural Registration Board.

Why did he choose Philadelphia University for his college education?

Choosing what college to continue one’s education is always a difficult choice for a young adult.  Muzalier chose Philadelphia University due to a recommendation from his architectural drafting teacher and mentor in high school.  Some of her most promising students had previously completed their architectural education with great success at Philadelphia University and thought it would be a great choice for his career path. When Muzalier visited the school he fell in love with the beautiful landscape of the campus and the context in which the university is situated. With its great accessibility to the vibrant district of Center City Philadelphia through public transportation, its proximity to the growing neighborhood of Manayunk and the suburban flair of East Falls, he immediately felt comfortable as part of the PhilaU community. Academically Muzalier was attracted to the small student population and professor-to-student ratio, as it would allow the opportunity to quickly develop personal relationships with his peers and professors.

Why and how did he choose his career path?

When we asked Muzalier how he came to his career path he explained that “Back in Haiti, I developed great interest in the built environment, and continued to pursue and explore this passion through architectural drafting, technical drawings and building structures courses at Cheltenham High School.” In 2009, upon his decision to pursue Architecture as his undergraduate studies, Muzalier actively pursued opportunities to get exposed to architectural practice, and had successfully obtained an internship at a small architectural office in Wyncote PA within a few months. After working for four consecutive summers in traditional architectural practice, Muzalier became an Urban Planning intern for a prominent firm in the city of Philadelphia, while working at a small landscape and hardscape construction company. As he continued to explore different fields within the Built Environment, he became an Estimating intern at a growing Construction management and General Contracting company in South Jersey, and was offered full-time position upon graduation.

For you, what was the most valuable part of your PhilaU education? Did your PhilaU education influence your career path?

Muzalier’s career path and current occupation were not chosen or decided at a specific moment in time, but they are the results of the evolution of a series of successful decisions made throughout seven years in exploring his interest in the Architecture and Construction industries. He continually sought to discover, explore and understand the different approaches to the built environment. As a student Muzalier would encourage incoming freshmen and current students to use their time at PhilaU to explore the different practices and perspectives within their field of study and not to narrow their career trajectory, as it will open a breath of opportunities just like it did for him.

“Philadelphia University is a major contributor to my educational success and professional achievements, and I am especially grateful for the professors, peers and lifetime relationships that I have developed throughout my five years. Those relationships grew into a network of resources to which I had tremendous access, and I quickly began to grow personally, spiritually and intellectually.”  Muzalier Gaussaint

PhilaU’s motto “Power To Do” became a living truth in his education, as he was empowered to shape his educational experience based on his own background, interests and curiosity. The liberal arts requirements of the architectural curriculum presented a variety of courses through which he came to explore and understand architecture through the framework of global sustainable development. This sense of empowerment led Muzalier to become a change agent on the PhilaU campus. Through his involvement while in school he began to address social issues such as Homelessness with the Habitat for Humanity Campus Chapter, Alternative Spring Break, and later became the Founding President of the first campus chapter of The National Organization of Minority Architects in the city of Philadelphia (PhilaU NOMAS) advocating the value of diversity in the architectural profession on campus, local and national scales.

Tell me about any challenges you’ve faced in your career and how you overcame them.

The path was not always without struggle for Muzalier.  He too, like many other students had obstacles to overcome.  In his 3rd year, he became unsatisfied with his lack of purpose and direction in his studies, even though he was a successful student thus far it quickly revealed his lack of confidence in his work when he became obsessed over peer-to-peer comparison of skills and success. He quickly reached out to mentors and counselors from high school and had lunch with several professors to discuss interest and potential career trajectories. He was amazed by their willingness to comfort and appease his uncertainty as well as offer guidance. After numerous conversations he was able to successfully rekindle his passion for architecture and overcome the doubts that way us all down at times. His advice for anyone facing a similar challenge is to seek out the counsel of professors, mentors and peers as they will be able to objectively offer insights about your passion, strengths and weaknesses, and help you move forward.

Tell me about the most rewarding/interesting part of your career.

Though Muzalier loves all aspects of his career and where it is taking him in life, he feels the most interesting part of his educational and professional career is the ability to cultivate his passion for architecture on a global scale through travel. “Architecture is a reflective and fundamental element of culture, and PhilaU granted me the opportunity to use Europe as my classroom through my study at the Danish Institute of Study Abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark.”  During a period of five months Muzalier explored the architecture of several cities in Denmark, Sweden, Finland, France, Germany, Czech Republic and Spain. As a result he became very interested in using architecture as a platform for cross-cultural understanding and leadership and he intends to continue this exploration through his upcoming internship in Sydney, Australia in the next three months.

What are the guiding principles that he feels have helped him succeed in his career?

When Muzalier was asked what are the guiding principles that have helped him succeed in his career he said it was Humility and Excellence – and here is why: John Maxwell in an interview on the Entreleadership Podcast stated the following in regards to his personal growth: “If you are the smartest in the class, you are in the wrong class”.  He strongly identifies with his statement because early on in his education he was very focused on being the smartest and the most successful among his peers. However, as he overcame his own personal challenges, he realized the benefits of not being the best person in the room. He continually seeked and engaged a network of individuals who were more knowledgeable and more successful than he was so he could continue to learn and grow. He was able to successfully venture into sectors and practices within architecture and construction industries because he was willing to be uncomfortable, persevere through the learning curve and achieve success.

Tell me a little about your life outside of work. How do you balance work and life?

Though his work life keeps him busy Muzalier is a strong believer in personal growth, so he has been spending a lot time reading and learning from experts in leadership, economics, construction and design.  His goal for this year is to read 12 books and he is already on his 5th one thus far. Muzalier is dedicated to continuously learning beyond school and work, and encourages others to pursue their personal growth beyond their professional life and education. As a working professional, Muzalier is also a member of Philadelphia National Organization of Minority Architects (PhilaNOMA), AIA Philadelphia, the SEED Network and he also shows support by attending alumni events at Philadelphia University.

If Muzalier could pass along a lesson to current PhilaU students and recent grads it would be as follows:

- Stop comparing yourself to your peers and focus on your strengths
- Build a network of resources on campus (professors, peers etc…)
- Build and grow your network by attending a Conference related to your practice and meet with professionals currently practicing in your field.

Connect with Muzalier Gaussaint
Website: http://www.muzaliergaussaint.com/
Linked-In: https://www.linkedin.com/in/muzaliergaussaint

 


 

Laura Neff ’13

Interior Design

Tell me about yourself. Describe your professional background.

Laura NeffI attended PhilaU and graduated with a degree in Interior Design. I work full-time at a hospitality firm in NJ, designing restaurants, nightclubs and lounges. However, I had been saying, for probably a decade, that I wanted to be a photographer.

alumnicoupleengagement2When my friend asked me to shoot her wedding, I knew this was the “in” I was waiting for. I became successful and in love with the field of photography, and decided to get my LLC, Laura Lee Photography in February 2014. Since then I’ve shot eight weddings and have many booked for 2015. It kind of exploded, in a wonderful, beautiful way. I love my clients, I love when they become friends, and I love that they trust me to tell their beautiful stories. I’ve done everything under the sun: Weddings, engagements, family, newborn, maternity, lifestyle, brand promotion, boudoir, architecture, you name it. I think my two biggest loves are weddings and brand promotion. I define brand promotion as capturing the passion someone has for their own LNbpcolorbusiness. It is the brand of their personality and their product all in one. I did a session for a PhilaU alumna to photographer her design business – she’s bold, colorful, and loud in her personality, with a passion for art and design. We went to Brooklyn, dressed in bold colors, found street art and did a photo shoot to help her create brand awareness, giving her business the opportunity to gain clients that appreciated the same things she did.

Why did you choose Philadelphia University for your college education?

Well, of course, I was choosing PhilaU for design – that’s kind of a no brainer. It was accredited, well known with employers, and had a killer design program. I think as an incoming freshmen, I was pretty blown away with the work being done and couldn’t wait to be part of a creative family.

Why and how did you choose your career path?

I have ALWAYS wanted to be a photographer. My mom was a photographer, and when I was a young we had a darkroom in our house. I thought it was the COOLEST thing ever, and I always wanted to be in there with her. I was so intrigued! I’d say when I was about 12 I said I wanted to be a wedding photographer, or a National Geographic photographer. I don’t think anyone believed me or took me seriously. Having a camera in my hand just felt like home. Since I was little, that’s how I was always been identified – the girl with the camera. I loved it, I still love it. It’s home. It’s everything.

For you, what was the most valuable part of your PhilaU education? Did your PhilaU education influence your career path?

I would say learning how to be critical of your work. In design school, we obviously had critiques about 3 days a week on our work. We were constantly analyzing, making things better, asking for opinions, etc. This translated to my career in photography as I learned how to accept criticism, as long as it was constructive, and I also learned how to give it. I know what makes something powerful, and I’m always striving to be different. I am constantly looking for ways to get creative, and think out of the box, and PhilaU definitely aided that. My PhilaU education didn’t influence my career path to photography, as it was something that I’ve wanted to do since age 2 (seriously), however, I still design as well! I just love being in a creative field, no matter what it is.

Tell me about any challenges you’ve faced in your career and how you overcame them.

LNwedding1I’d say the biggest challenge would be being efficient with my time. I never understood how much went into ONE photo session until I had to edit my first wedding. At the end of the day, I spent 100+ hours on ONE wedding, and after expenses I ended up making roughly $2 an hour. I was so scared; I didn’t understand how people were successful in the industry. I put my foot down and asked every successful person I knew about their workflow. Like everything, over time, I became much faster at doing all the things that needed to be done for one session. It’s still difficult to manage, especially with a full-time job. One of my goals for 2015 is to become efficient, use time wisely so that I actually have time for play. I think that was also my biggest struggle in school. Eventually, I figured it out. I just need to do it again.

Tell me about the most rewarding/interesting part of your career.

ILNwedding2 don’t even know where to begin! Wedding photography and photography in general, to me, is one of the most rewarding careers I could think of. I hope everyone can say that about their career. To be a part of someone’s life, to tell their stories, capture their memories, pause fleeting moments of time, that’s everything. I get to see and feel love in all forms – in a couple holding hands, in a mother holding her newborn, in the father of the bride as he dances with his daughter. It’s a beautiful thing, capturing these moments that I know will be treasured and passed on for generations. To me, photography is about holding your breath, until something takes your breath away. And those are the moments I live for.

What are the guiding principles that you feel have helped you succeed in your career?

Not to sound cheesy but I think confidence, courage, dedication, and loving yourself have all really helped me out in this career path, but most importantly, passion; that’s number one. Being personable is also a huge component. I think people are drawn to passionate people and when they see how much I truly love this “job” they get excited for getting their pictures taken. It is my end goal to make every session fun, relaxed, and full of laughter. If the session is stiff, the pictures will be stiff. I try to draw emotion from people and get to know all my clients on a personal basis. I think you need to dig past the surface of someone to really tell their story. As I mentioned before, being personable is huge. If I have the confidence to go up to a couple in a bar and strike up a conversation about the engagement ring on her finger, the chances are, they’re going to remember me. Lastly, it is important to love yourself. People may find that to be a funny answer but honestly, when you love yourself, other people thrive off of the positive energy you put out, and in this business, that makes great relationships and great photos.

Tell me a little about your life outside of work. How do you balance work and life?

To be honest, it’s very difficult sometimes, working a full-time job in design in addition to running my own business. Another goal I have for 2015 is to work on balance. I think I’ve always been a hustler, no matter what aspect of life it is. Therefore, sometimes it’s difficult to remind myself to step back and make time for myself. This year, I hope to take off at least 2 nights a week for myself and just enjoy life, see friends and go to the gym. I really love kickboxing; it’s my stress reliever through all the chaos. I’m fortunate to have the most rewarding, fun job I could ever ask for and that makes sacrificing my weekends a whole lot easier.

 If you could pass along a lesson to current PhilaU students and recent grads, what would it be?

Don’t give up. Prove everyone wrong. LOVE what you do. If you are determined, and passionate, I truly don’t think you can fail. To me, failure isn’t an option. I am constantly striving to make myself better as a person, a friend, a business owner, an artist, a photographer. I want to master my craft, and to do that I need to always know that there is room to grow. And I’ll leave you with my favorite quote: “Strengthen your wings, and trust them to teach you to fly.” You can do it.

Do you have any goals for your business in 2015?

LNwedding3Where do I begin! I am so excited to learn new things this year and grow as an individual, as an artist, as a photographer and as a business. I will, as always, have a strong focus on my client relationships and making them the best they can possibly be while I attempt to master my craft. My wedding goal is to shoot 25 weddings. I’m flying to Ireland for a wedding photography workshop in July and I CANNOT WAIT to learn from some of the best in the business and shoot a wedding in IRELAND! Ideally, I would love my photography to move in that direction. Traveling is my second biggest passion, and if I could combine the two, just wow. What a dream that would be.

What’s the biggest dream or aspiration you have for your career?

There’s a couple: I want to be published in a magazine, I want to be named alongside the top photographers in my field and the biggest one, which is kind of in the works, is starting a quarterly publication! I want to travel the world and find passionate people, interview them, tell their stories and write articles about them. There are so many extraordinary and passionate people in the world that have magnificent stories to share that are just waiting to be told. I want to share those stories. I also want to get into product and brand photography more as mentioned in the beginning.

Website: www.imlauralee.com
Instagram: imlauralee
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LauraNeffPhotography


Gabrielle Dei Tos ’12
Fashion Merchandising

Gmarathon photo1abrielle Dei Tos ’12 completed the TCS NYC Marathon on Sunday, November 4, 2014. The NYC Marathon covers all 5 boroughs of Manhattan. It is a stellar way to see the city and has been classified as the world’s largest marathon – runners are represented from all 50 states and approximately 100 countries.

Back in February, Dei Tos entered the lottery for the race entry and was accepted. “I couldn’t believe I was about to take on the challenge and determination of training for a marathon, it almost became a part time job for me,” said Dei Tos. “Throughout the summer, I ran twice a day and received the guidance from my college coach, David Thomas and kept a personal goal in mind of finishing the race in sub 3 hours and 30 minutes.”

Dei Tos ran all four years of college at Philadelphia University, where the team won the CACC title all four years. She was recognized as a CACC All-Conference all four years and was captain of the women’s team her junior and senior years. Dei Tos claims this to be a remarkable experience. “It taught me a lot about self-discipline and determination.”

She completed the NYC Marathon in 3 hours and 22 minutes, came in 2828 out of 50,000 runners and was the 341 female overall. This was a qualifying time for the Boston Marathon, which she is looking to run in April 2016. Dei Tos trained for approximately 16 weeks and had butterflies in her stomach at the start of the race in Staten Island. “I can’t really describe anything else like this race day – people were speaking every language, there were people of all ages and we were all there in the bitter cold fighting for energy that was within the air.”

She remembers the first mile of the race which is a grueling mile that takes you over the Verrazano – Narrows bridge. “I was holding on tight while maintaining a strong form and trying to stay in the midst of the pack but it was like running through a wind tunnel something that I never experienced.” This was her first marathon and she had a hard time pacing herself. Around mile 14, she was looking to finish the race in around 3 hours and 6 minutes, running sub 7:20 per mile. The temperature in the Big Apple was perfect; reaching the mid-40s with winds hitting 30 mph. “I felt so good, and almost too good,” explained Dei Tos. “I just had so much energy and felt like my training had paid off.” She was running anywhere from 50-75 miles per week, while working full-time and traveling.

At mile 16, her parents stood on the sidelines amongst the heavy crowds. She poked her head in to give her mother a kiss on the cheek for a spark of energy. As mile 20 came along and she made her way into Harlem, her legs felt heavy and they began cramping. She said she just kept up her confidence.

“Finishing in Central Park filled my heart and soul with energy and reminded me of my passion for running and how far along I came as runner since my days at MMI Preparatory School,” said Dei Tos. Looking back on her running days at MMI, she realizes she was a rookie. “Running in college is what has made me successful.” She couldn’t be more thankful for her PhilaU coach, David Thomas. “He has been such a huge mentor and great support these past 6 years.”

Dei Tos admits that she has caught the marathon bug. She is looking forward to running the Boston Marathon in 2016. Her current priority is to focus on her speed and agility and become a stronger distance runner. She is scoping out half marathons for the spring months and will run the Philadelphia Broad Street Run, which she has run the past 4 years.

Dei Tos, is currently an Associate Buyer in Men’s Outerwear at Burlington INC, buying for all 500+ stores as well as their e-commerce division. Last year she was a recipient of the CEO Award at Burlington for her 4th Quarter sales, the height of outerwear season.


Daniel Rich ’14, M ’15
B. Arch, MS GeoDesign

Tell me about yourself. Describe your professional background.

Daniel_Rich_First_5I was a die-hard Architecture student set on becoming a registered architect for the longest time. Now, I am attempting to pursue a career path that is set on serving the United States as part of the Intelligence Community for what will probably be the rest of my life. Unlike many of my former Architecture classmates I decided to stay for a sixth year at Philadelphia University and earn my Master of Science degree in GeoDesign. The MS GeoDesign program was appealing to me because of the GIS/Geospatial aspects, the personal experience of the professors teaching the program, and the fact that the MS could be completed in just one year which (I believe) would make me much more marketable. It’s not that Architecture school left a bad taste in my mouth; it’s just that I didn’t necessarily agree with traditional career paths nor was I truly “in love” with the profession. Being able to pursue Geographic Information Systems gave me the advantage of still returning to Architecture at any time while opening the doors to many other opportunities such as working for information technology firms, defense contractors, city planning offices, regional planning groups, and a whole host of other jobs.

Why did you choose Philadelphia University for your college education?

Originally, I did not choose Philadelphia University as a viable option to pursue Architecture. I had grown up in a family where my Grandfather went to Drexel University as an Engineer and one of my Uncles had gone to Temple University as an Architect. When I was originally considering college I knew that I wanted to pursue Architecture as my career but I had the aspiration of attending a well-known school like M.I.T or Virginia Tech. However, while it’s good to dream big, sometimes things don’t always work out the way you envision them. After applying, I was accepted only at the University of Cincinnati in their Architectural Engineering program and at Philadelphia University in their Architecture program. Because the University of Cincinnati wanted me to pursue AE instead of Architecture, I knew that Philadelphia University was going to be my only choice for college. It was difficult at first to accept this fact, especially since I had friends in high school who got accepted to schools I had only dreamed about (not architecture of course, but still very decent engineering and physics programs). However, I quickly realized that Philadelphia University’s architecture program was something really special. You actually don’t need all of the perks and benefits that come from going to a larger, more well-known program. Rather, you just need individuals who are willing and able to do the work that is required of them. Philadelphia University’s motto of “The Power to Do” really solidified my experience and helped me understand that their architecture program was on the cutting edge.

Why and how did you choose your career path?

I currently am not on a dedicated career path but I have a strong idea of where I will end up after Graduate school. I believe I will end up somewhere in the Geographic Information Systems and Geospatial applications realm rather than Architecture. My dream career path would be to use my knowledge of GIS and Architecture to work for the U.S. Intelligence Community in support of our nation. How in the world did I come to this conclusion you might ask? It all started in the summer of 2013 when I was on a study abroad short-course at the University of Geneva in Switzerland. I was accepted into the Geneva Summer Schools program and studied for 3 weeks on a topic called “Global Governance.” Amongst so many individuals who were involved in International Business, Public Health, Economics, Public Policy, Government, International Relations, etc. I was the only student involved in Architecture. When I first got accepted to the program I was really shocked to learn that I had even been accepted given my background. Regardless, I went to school and visited the United Nations, the World Health Organization, and the World Trade Organization, just to name a few. There was something about seeing the work at the international level that made me question whether Architecture was really what I wanted to do. I had been set on that path for so long since the 10th grade that I had never really considered anything else. In the end, I came to the conclusion that there was more I could offer to society given my diverse abilities than to just follow the traditional architecture route. This convinced me to enroll into the MS GeoDesign program at Philadelphia University and gave me the opportunity to explore GIS and its career possibilities.

For you, what was the most valuable part of your PhilaU education?  Did your PhilaU education influence your career path?

The most valuable part of my PhilaU education was the depth of experience provided by my professors within the College of Architecture and the Built Environment and the amount of opportunity I was given to explore multiple minors since I already had transfer credit. Because I pursued a triple minor Business, Construction Management, and Environmental Sustainability, I really got to work across multiple fields and learned how other students approach their own majors and what those majors have to offer to Architecture and vice versa. It was an amazing experience to learn that there is far more to Philadelphia University than just the Architecture program. I encourage every student to at least take the time to learn about a major that is related to Architecture or is completely outside your comfort zone. I think when we begin to discover what else happens at Philadelphia University, it reminds us that the institution as a whole is very unique and very diverse. My education at Philadelphia University definitely influence my career path, first when I was originally set on becoming a registered architect and second, now that I am pursuing my Master’s degree. Without Philadelphia University’s education influence I would have been really under prepared during my formal study abroad semester at the Danish Institute for Study Abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark and I would have almost certainly not gotten the internship I did this past summer with Esri in Vienna, VA.

Tell me about any challenges you’ve faced in your career and how you overcame them.

Well, I’m not in a formal career yet but one of the challenges I’ve faced is being able to convince individuals that I can do the work that is required of me. Many times I have had experiences within internships where my supervisor was quite surprised that not only was I performing at the level they expected, but the depth of work being generated was beyond their expectation. This motivation to work as hard and diligently as possible was definitely shaped by the rigorous structure at Philadelphia University.

Tell me about the most rewarding/interesting part of your career.

The most rewarding thing I’ve done in pursuit of my career path was being able to land what I consider to be “the dream internship.” This past summer I worked for Esri, a global-leader in the GIS market. Working for Esri in the GIS/Geospatial world is the equivalent of working for Google or Facebook in Computer Science, or working for Gensler in Architecture. Because I worked as a Solution Engineering intern, the reality of moving outside of architecture and into other career paths was much more viable. Without this opportunity, I would have almost indefinitely continued in a traditional architecture career path (even if it was GIS related).

What are the guiding principles that you feel have helped you succeed in your career?

You should attempt to understand what in the world you are getting yourself into before you begin your career. Do as much research as possible and become knowledgeable about things that will help you secure that internship or job. I can’t really speak on what helps you succeed once you’ve landed the position.

Tell me a little about your life outside of work.  How do you balance work and life?

For the longest time, especially all 5 years in Architecture school, I had very little work/life balance. Architecture school is one of those unique challenges that requires you to almost always be working around the clock. In addition, I spent much of my time in clubs and organizations at Philadelphia University. Whatever free time I still had was spent eating and sleeping. However, now that I’m in Graduate school I’ve had much more time to focus specifically on my personal life and reestablish the kind of work/life balance that I craved so badly in Architecture school. When I’m not working on school stuff I try to spend time with friends, play video games, work out, and catch up with my fellow residents in my dormitory hall.

If you could pass along a lesson to current PhilaU students and recent grads, what would it be?

Be as involved as you can be in every aspect of your life. Don’t let the excitement of being in college be the only thing that you focus on. You have your entire life, especially your 20s, to find and enjoy the same level of excitement you can find in college. Decide early on if you are going to pursue specific goals, achievements, opportunities, etc. Learn about the things you find appealing and be willing to step outside your comfort zone. The one opportunity that you don’t think to take could end up being a life-changer for you or someone else. Too often, at one end of the spectrum, I saw many students who regretted not working harder, studying longer, and getting more involved in clubs/orgs/service work/personal faith when they were in their freshman and sophomore year. It was disheartening to see students who were not involved in the formation of their own lives when they suddenly realized that their opportunities were rather limited to “exactly” what they studied. At the other end of the spectrum there were also those students who worked far too hard in their major, studied way too much, and did not involve themselves in anything except what they were comfortable with. While those students achieved great things, I also heard about the lament of not being able to enjoy college enough for what it was worth. As Disney’s Genie used to say, “Great minds think for themselves.”


Madeline (Maddie) LeSage 11
Professional Communications

Tell me about yourself. Describe your professional background.Madeline LeSage

Well, I’m currently a New Zealand resident. But I’m originally from Coatesville, PA, which is about an hour away from Philly. While studying at PhilaU I interned as a copywriter with Brownstein Group in Philadelphia, and a PR assistant with Nina Zucker Associates in Merion Station, PA. After graduating in 2011, I moved over here. It’s really not that random, I promise – I studied abroad in Wellington my junior year and fell in love with it, and ended up actually doing what everyone at the end of their semester abroad says they’re going to do.

I knew looking for work in a new country with zero professional connections was going to be difficult, especially because I wanted to work for an agency. But just as desperation was setting in, I was hired by an amazing agency called Heyday as their Studio Coordinator (which is basically like a glorified receptionist). In my fairy tale mind I wanted to get my foot in the door so I could eventually impress them with my writing chops. It was a long shot, but one that actually hit. After seven months, they created a content team and promoted me to be their Content Producer.

Why did you choose Philadelphia University for your college education?

From the moment my second grade teacher told me I should, I knew I wanted to be a writer. Dreams of being the next Shel Silverstein in elementary school turned into the next Judy Blume by the awkward middle school years. But by the time I was in high school (still awkward) I decided I belonged in an ad agency as a copywriter. I wanted to be surrounded by a small group of creative people. So I didn’t think a state school was for me. PhilaU seemed like the perfect place for this – except there was no major that specifically suited what I wanted to do. Slight snag. But I saw the Professional Communication program was set to begin my sophomore year. So I started my freshman year as a marketing major, planning to get my foot in the door and talk to whomever I needed to talk to in order to make sure I could still graduate in four years with this new degree. Again, it was a long shot… I’m sensing a pattern here.

Why and how did you choose your career path?

I’d say it’s a mix of luck, talent and curiosity that got me here. I didn’t end up a copywriter. Instead my bosses sat me down and convinced me that ad agencies are old school, and digital agencies are the future. It actually didn’t come out that corny, but my head was excitement-spinning at the time so I actually don’t remember the full conversation. Bottom line is, I’m now a member of the relatively new field of content practitioners – breaking the mold for content strategy on websites and apps for some of the biggest companies in my country. It’s a pretty cool place to be.

For you, what was the most valuable part of your PhilaU education?  Did your PhilaU education influence your career path?

I work with project managers, experience designers, visual designers and developers on a daily basis. Without learning about (and working with majors of) these jobs, I would have been up shit creek with a chopstick. I’ve learned so much about digital since working at Heyday, but the foundations are what helped me get the job in the first place. Particularly the Design Workshop course (PUDW), because my role is technically a part of the greater design team.

Tell me about any challenges you’ve faced in your career and how you overcame them.

Being the guinea pig for a new position is a pretty ridiculous thing. There’s a huge learning curve. It took me a while to find the right balance of patience and initiative. And it’s extremely humbling to be surrounded by people who are experts in what they’re doing when you’re still learning what a CMS is. But the day you realize you’re answering more questions than you’re asking is like Christmas/Birthday/4th of July.

Tell me about the most rewarding/interesting part of your career. 

Every December all 30-ish people I work with are flown to a secret location for an end-of-year, start-of-summer, weekend-long workshop/party. It’s a way to reflect on the previous year and plan for what we all want to get out of the next. It’s obvious that our bosses really value us as people, on top of the work we do. Working at Heyday has really taught me the importance of company culture. They give out peer-voted awards every year and this past year I won the ‘Accurate portrayal of a true Heydayer’ title, which was so amazing and surreal. To me it wasn’t just an award, it vindicated every major decision I’ve made in my life so far.

What are the guiding principles that you feel have helped you succeed in your career?

I promised myself I would focus on opportunities rather than security. Security is for my thirties. Once I made the choice to move to New Zealand it opened up a part of me that I didn’t know I had. “Surely I’m not a risk taker… I wear sunscreen in the winter!” But at this point in my life my only real responsibilities are keeping myself happy and healthy – oh yeah, and paying bills. Who knows where I’ll be next year? It’s all terrifyingly exciting.

 Tell me a little about your life outside of work. How do you balance work and life?

My boyfriend and I spend our weekends finding and drinking new beers, and are on an eternal quest to find the best burger in Wellington. We always have a DIY project on the go and a holiday to save for. And I recently made a list of 20 things to do while I’m still in my 20′s – so judging by that list, my next few years should be my best yet.

If you could pass along a lesson to current PhilaU students and recent grads, what would it be?

Hold on firmly to your goals, but remember to keep an open mind. I remember when I was a kid there was a classroom poster that said “shoot for the moon, if you miss you can land among the stars”. Even at 8 I remember thinking it was really melodramatic. But like, it’s true.


Michael (Mike) Yocum ’10
Finance

Tell me abouMike Yocumt yourself. Describe your professional background.

I graduated from Philadelphia University in 2010 with a degree in finance. Upon my graduation I began working at Vanguard as a financial analyst. Currently, I manage a team of seven people who are responsible for valuing Vanguard’s equity holdings on a daily basis.

Why did you choose Philadelphia University for your college education?

I am from the Philadelphia area and always knew of Philadelphia University. I was a basketball player and coach Herb Magee recruited me to come play for him. When I came to visit the school he set me up with a few meetings with people from the business school. The combination of athletics and the curriculum was very appealing to me.

Why and how did you choose your career path?

I always knew that I wanted a business degree because I feel like it gives you many options. I enjoyed my finance classes and began looking for places to begin my career. Through Philadelphia University, I obtained some information about Vanguard and visited a few times.

For you, what was the most valuable part of your PhilaU education? Did your PhilaU education influence your career path?

Without question it was the professors, such as Professor Ed Keidat and Dr. Phillip Russell, who challenged and encouraged me, while offering up their real world experience. Hearing their experience really solidified my desire for a career in finance.

Tell me about any challenges you’ve faced in your career and how you overcame them.

The biggest challenge I have faced in my career is trying to get buy in from people on decisions that they may not be comfortable with or might require a lot of work. I try to maintain focus on a mutual end goal and help people understand the benefits. Ultimately, you cannot set yourself up for success without the support of everyone involved.

Tell me about the most rewarding/interesting part of your career.

The most rewarding part of my career is coaching and developing other people. I really enjoy helping people in their careers.

What are the guiding principles that you feel have helped you succeed in your career?

One of my first managers at Vanguard always told me to ask questions, think things through, and do the right thing. I feel like this applies to life in general. Asking questions helps to maintain that curiosity and allows you facilitate your own learning and doing the right thing allows you to confidently make decisions on a daily basis.

Tell me a little about your life outside of work. How do you balance work and life?

I am a true believer in a work/life balance. I am currently preparing for my wedding, which is occurring in the end of October. Beyond that, I spend a lot of time with family and friends. Additionally, I play in a basketball and volleyball league.

If you could pass along a lesson to current PhilaU students and recent grads, what would it be?

Be curious and take accountability for your own learning and development. No matter what you do, you should strive to learn everything about what is in front of you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions until you understand something. Additionally, there will be many people in your life who will help you along the way. However, it is ultimately up to you to make the most of it.