Susan Glade had never been to New Jersey when she arrived at Rowan College at Burlington County for her first semester of college in August of 2018.
Prior to arriving on the East Coast, Glade spent her entire life in North Pole, Alaska, a small town located about 13 miles southeast of Fairbanks. Glade speaks highly of her home state, where she enjoys the tranquility, beautiful landscape and outdoor activities such as hiking, hunting and fishing.
So when Glade arrived in Mt. Laurel for the first time, she experienced major culture shock.
“It was different,” Glade said. “I was terrified when I got on the highway. There were six lanes of traffic and there were hundreds of people. This is not my cup of tea. I’m used to passing five people on my way to work to Fairbanks and five people on the way back.”
Glade, now a sophomore at RCBC, has gone from being the new girl from Alaska to an integral part of the school community. A softball player for the Barons, Glade is also a member of the RCBC Student Government Association (SGA) and the National Society of Leadership and Success.
Her impact on the school community was recognized earlier this semester as she was named RCBC’s 2020 Woman of the Year by the New Jersey Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women’s National Girls and Women in Sports Day. The award is given to one female athlete at each New Jersey college based on athletic, leadership and academic accomplishments.
Glade’s love of softball is what brought her to New Jersey. She began playing the sport at the age of 7 with the Interior Girls Softball Association (IGSA) in North Pole. Her dad, Donovan, was her first coach.
“Back home, we only have three months of summer,” Glade said. “We do a lot in the gym and then once summer comes, we have the IGSA.”
Glade played travel softball with the North Stars later in her childhood and eventually became the starting center fielder for North Pole High School. During her senior year, she joined the biggest travel team in the area, the Alaska Selects, and created a recruitment profile on the Next College Student Athlete website in hopes of attracting attention from a college.
“If I wasn’t going to play softball, I would have stayed (in Alaska for college),” Glade noted. “But since sophomore year, I was planning to play softball. It was just a matter of where. I had family on the West Coast, so I was thinking of coming over there. I was never planning to come to the East Coast.”
John Costa became RCBC softball’s head coach midway through the 2018 season. The school had already been in contact with Glade about her coming to Mt. Laurel after she initially reached out earlier in the school year. Costa decided to set up a phone call with Glade and her dad shortly after taking over as the team’s coach.
“Sometimes you just have a connection with a player that you just want her to play,” Costa explained. “She had heart. She had work ethic. That phone call really solidified it.
“We just kept staying in contact,” Costa continued. “Even after that first initial call, I thought it was a real long shot for her to come here and play.”
Costa again reached out to Glade in May and asked what she was planning to do. Glade told him she was ready to accept the school’s athletic scholarship offer and make the 4,000-plus mile trek to Mt. Laurel.
“I wanted to have an adventure,” Glade said. “If you don’t get out of Alaska when you’re in college, you don’t get out of Alaska.”
RCBC's newest Baron, Susan Glade, will be arriving from North Pole, Alaska, this fall! She tells us there is a Santa on their City Council and candy cane light poles. She will play softball for the Barons. https://t.co/9OY2aLTz89 pic.twitter.com/QPcKXGUbLo
— RCBC (@RowanBurlington) June 26, 2018
Glade — who rents a room in Shamong about 20 minutes from campus — admitted there was an adjustment period in getting used to New Jersey’s culture in New Jersey, but she came to love the region. She enjoys being close to the beach, mall and Six Flags Great Adventure, and she’s a fan of the warmer weather who enjoys eating at the wide variety of restaurants in South Jersey.
Glade also got out of her comfort zone to bond with her teammates on the softball team, noting many of her teammates live locally and have different interests than she and many of her friends from Alaska do.
“Here, no one really hunts,” Glade remarked. “No one really goes on hikes; they go to the mall. I had to change my perspective of things and start doing things outside my comfort zone in order to bond with them.”
Glade had to step out of her comfort zone on the field as well. Early in her freshman season, Costa asked Glade to move out of her regular outfield position to first base. Glade spent the season as a utility player, batting for a .265 average with a .373 on-base percentage.
“It’s playing time,” Glade said about her shift to a utility player. “If you go to college ball in the states, that’s a big deal for an Alaskan student. So I always looked at it as wherever I can get playing time, that’s where I’m going to be.”
“She would come early to practice,” Costa said about Glade’s position change. “We would hit ground balls. She would work on plays, work on coverages.
“There’s players who see the big picture of what a team is,” the coach added. “That’s Susan.”
Glade is studying biology at RCBC with an eye on becoming a wildlife biologist or ecologist after college. Glade’s love of the wilderness and environment is what led her to her field of study.
“I want to be a part of fish and game and try to make the rules to protect the hunting population,” Glade explained. “I want to keep what we have and find that balance between the resources we need to take and the beauty of my state.”
Glade has also become a big part of the campus community. After her first semester, she approached Costa about SGA. Costa, who also works in RCBC’s student success department, loved the idea.
“SGA for her is a perfect fit,” he said. “She’s friendly, she’s not afraid to go up to another student and talk to them.
As a member of SGA, Glade helps to organize campus events that get students more involved with the college outside of class.
“Four-year universities, you go to events, you have parties, you live on campus,” Glade said. “They have so many activities for you. Here, we commute. We have some older students who have families and jobs.
“It’s hard to kind of connect with them, so we try to find ways to connect with them.”
Glade received word about her selection as the 2020 Woman of the Year during winter break. She was stunned when she received the news, as she had no idea there was such an award.
“I didn’t think I’d be selected out of everyone here,” she said. “There are people I can think of that are amazing student-athletes here that would be honored to get that. I didn’t even know it was a thing. “But it was an honor to receive it.”
Glade got the chance to attend a banquet for the award winners at Seton Hall University in February. She was also honored during halftime of a Seton Hall women’s basketball game.
“She’s proud to go here,” said Costa, who nominated her for the award. “She’s proud to wear the gear at home. It’s awesome to see. She didn’t just come to play softball.
“She wanted to make an impact.”
Glade’s time in New Jersey is coming to a close, as she will graduate with her associate’s degree in May. Glade plans to continue her education back home at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks and hopes to land internships at the department of fish and game.
Glade said she will return to New Jersey to visit friends in the future, but couldn’t imagine a better place to live than her home state.
“I plan on living in Alaska for the rest of my life,” she added. “I love it there. It’s a great place to raise a family and just to make connections. That sense of community — I miss it.”