Student and Alumni Spotlights


A Love of Green Spaces Changes a Career Path

Zoe McGowan

Urban Planning & Design, Class of 2025
Minor: Landscape Design

  • Hometown: Basking Ridge, NJ
  • Activities/Organizations: Bloustein Public Service Association Communications & Public Relations Chair, Field Hockey, Delta Gamma Honor Board
  • Interests/hobbies: Hands-on activities such as gardening, knitting, and any type of crafting—I love seeing the finished product after working on a project and the satisfaction that comes when it works out; running and roller skating.


Zoe McGowan loved playing outside in the woods behind her house in Basking Ridge, NJ.

“There was a stream and all this wildlife. I would spend hours back there, especially during the summer building forts with my brothers,” she said. “I think it was during this time that I fell in love with nature and spending time outdoors.”

Going into the college admissions process, Zoe knew she wanted a big school that would offer great connections and a variety of opportunities. “Rutgers has a wide network of people to support you in your major, your career path, and your hobbies. At Rutgers, there are no limits to the great people you can meet and the activities that will help you find your interests. I’ve already met so many amazing people that have made my time here special.”

As she got older, she began thinking about ways to channel her passion for the outdoors into a career. She entered Rutgers as an engineering major, but realized that her interests lay in the planning side of things and designing urban landscapes.

“I transferred into the urban planning and design major and have loved it ever since. I especially want to focus on designing greenspace, and by combining urban planning with a minor in Landscape Studies, I can do that.”

Zoe’s path was also shaped through one of her first Bloustein School courses, Intro to Urban Planning. Taught by Professor Barbara Faga, her experiences working on public park projects including The Big Dig (Boston) and the Atlanta BeltLine appealed to Zoe’s desire to contribute to the public realm.

“Assigned readings from Alexander Garvin’s book What Makes a Great City discussed public spaces around the world and what makes them so memorable. I want to be a part of creating special places that people feel a connection to and look back on fondly.”

She remains an avid outdoorswoman, going on hikes and finding scenic places to explore throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, especially near the Delaware River. “I would say that spending much of my free time in nature has contributed to sharing my passion for it by enhancing greenspace and parks in urban areas,” she said.

She is already looking ahead to what comes next. She loves getting hands-on experiences as she begins to work towards her advanced degree.

Working and traveling in the field, Zoe is confident that this will help her gain insight into different ways to incorporate more greenspace into designs.

“I would love for people—especially in urban areas where it is often lacking—to have the same opportunity that I had to connect to nature,” Zoe said. “Choosing urban planning allows me to focus on planning greenspaces within the public realm while sharing what is really important to me.”

Advice for prospective students: Find the area of urban planning that interests you and take time to learn more about it. There are so many different issues within the field that you can focus on, and they are all important. But if you find one that you’re passionate about, it makes you want to get more involved and apply yourself more to every aspect of it.