Homecoming 2021: Shawn Tucker applies football, urban planning skills to his career in college athletics

by Madison Welch

The Scarlet Knights football program had a profound effect on Bloustein School alum Shawn Tucker RC ’07, MCRP ’12 during his time at Rutgers, and later his career. 

Shawn Tucker RC ’07, MCRP ’12 is the Associate Vice President and Director of Athletics at New Jersey City University

“I loved just being on the football team, the camaraderie is second to none,” said Shawn, who is currently the Associate Vice President and Director of Athletics at New Jersey City University. “You ask any guy about the one thing that they miss — not practice, not running, not conditioning. Some miss the games; but really, you miss the locker room. You miss the camaraderie, the laughter, the friendship, the fellowship that takes place there. That’s why you’re in the program.”

A four-year letterwinner for the Scarlet Knights, he was a key member of two bowl squads during his college football career. He was a wide receiver from 2002-07 and team captain his senior year, when he helped lead Rutgers to the historic 28-25 championship game win in 2006 against #3 Louisville.

Shawn has taken the soft skills he learned during his time at Rutgers and has applied them to networking, relationship building, and problem-solving skills that he uses daily in his work.

“I had such a wonderful experience at Rutgers University, which is such a diverse institution, as well. You get a chance to learn from various cultures, backgrounds, personalities, behavioral styles, and how people work. Now that I am in this role as a director, I can certainly say that Rutgers was the foundation that has allowed me to be a successful manager and leader.”

After his student-athlete career ended, Shawn had the opportunity to work for Rutgers Athletics as an Associate Athletic Director for Student Athlete Development. During the first two years of his job, he worked to create a culture for players to learn to make the most of their time and to take advantage of the connections they made as student athletes. But more importantly, he sought to help the student athletes understand that there is a bigger purpose in life beyond sports. Through this, Shawn was able to lay the groundwork for the Rutgers Leadership Academy (RLA), a program nationally recognized by the NCAA. 

Shawn was a four-year letterwinner for the Scarlet Knights, and a key member of two bowl squads during his college football career. He helped lead Rutgers to the historic 28-25 championship game win in 2006 against #3 Louisville.

During his time as AAD, Shawn went back to school for his Master of City and Regional Planning. When asked why he came to the Bloustein School, Shawn said, “I love planning. I love the idea of gathering information, researching, getting best practices, and then figuring out a way of how you get all this together and make it work. And for me, at the core of the planning and public policy program was that it felt like I was in a room with a bunch of brothers and sisters because everyone was speaking my language.” 

Bloustein School Professors Tony Nelessen and Dr. Roland Anglin (now the Dean of the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University) made a lasting impact on Shawn while he was in the planning program. Professor Nelessen’s class on Urban Design and Dr. Anglin’s Community Development Program, in particular, were classes that stayed with him. 

While Shawn’s career path did not end up in planning specifically, much of what he learned in those graduate classes applies to aspects of his current job. “A lot of what I do now is problem-solving. It’s getting groups together. I work here in Jersey City now and just came from an event today in which you had the big planning board for Liberty State Park and the renovation project that’s taking place there,” he said. “There’s a new design team in there so I know their language, I can talk with them. There’s no running from planning and public policy, so I use it to my advantage.”

Shawn continued, “I’m a huge advocate of planning and public policy, because especially now, in the world that we live in, it’s needed. Sustainably needs to be a focal point, and any decision-making that we’re thinking about can’t be about the now. It has to be about the future.” 

He has been in his current role at New Jersey City University since 2018. When he started, the athletics program had 12 sports. In three years, it has now doubled in size. “I wish I can say that one day looks the same, it just doesn’t. I think that’s the beauty of working in collegiate athletics,” he said. “I am overseeing 24 sports, 400 athletes, and over 70 staff members and coaches. What I try to do on a daily basis is manage and lead. Manage our people, manage their relationships. And ensuring that the program is moving in the right direction from the relationship standpoint.”