By: Nick Santangelo

For David Reed, CLA ’07, all it took was one class. The Reading, Pa. native knew he wanted to go to school in a big city that wasn’t too far from his friends and family but was far enough to feel like a different world from where he grew up. Temple University was “absolutely,” the right choice to fit his criteria, he says with the perspective that more than a decade after graduating and enjoying a successful career brings.

But even if Temple’s College of Liberal Arts (CLA) is as obviously a great fit today as it was back in the aughts, another matter was considerably less clear for a young Reed: what would he study when he got here? It’s a question that trips up many prospective college students. But for Reed, all it took to clear it up was sitting in on one geography and urban studies class. Once he experienced what students in the course were learning, majoring in geography and urban studies became “a no-brainer” for Reed.

“It was a small program,” he says, “so there weren't a lot of people in there. So even though it was a big school, it was like the major was small, so it made Temple feel smaller.”

Reed had also always been interested in maps and in learning about history, politics and sociology. Now here was a program that combined those seemingly disparate interests. During his four years studying at CLA, he learned about how they connected. He then promptly proceeded to a few jobs after graduating that seemingly had no connection to any of his academic interests. Reed got a sales job with the Philadelphia 76ers and from there moved into advertising sales in Philadelphia radio.

this is what I’m supposed to be doing

It happened not completely randomly, though. Another interest of Reed’s was staying in Philadelphia after he graduated. But since advertising sales wasn’t something he had a passion for, Reed began thinking about his future and making his way toward a career in sustainability and transportation. He says he wanted to “wake up every day and feel like, ‘OK, this is what I’m supposed to be doing.’”

That pursuit would take him to bike-sharing startup Zagster in Boston, which he enjoys and says “has a lot of similarities to Philadelphia,” like its accessibility to mountains and the shore as well as being chock full of great restaurants. But it’s not just the city he enjoys. It’s also the job itself. He’s been with Zagster for about two and a half years now, but it was his four years at CLA that helped prepare him for it.

“I think that a lot of the critical thinking and the writing and reading in a lot of the classes that I took in liberal arts definitely helped me prepare for the business world,” says Reed, “because the way I see it now is I work with a lot of people in the public sector—also the non-profit sector—but I work for a private sector company. Having experience and being able to communicate across all those different forms of organizations I think is really valuable. I think that that certainly was a good foundation for me, just understanding where people are coming from.”

At first, Reed worked in sales for Zagster, coordinating with municipal decision makers and university officials to develop alternative transportation options that worked for everyone. He’d then find ways to make those options realities. Eventually he worked his way up from the sales role into being an expansion manager and a market manager, searching for competitive advantages for Zagster in the increasingly competitive bike share market.

“Shared mobility is the industry, you could call it,” he explains. “Shared mobility as an industry is starting to take off in the U.S. and all across the world with bike sharing, ride sharing, car sharing, scooter sharing, you name it. Our approach that sets us apart is working in collaboration with many different stakeholders, from the City to businesses and community organizations to residents or consumers. My job is to effectively manage all of these varied interests, and my studies in CLA and Geography & Urban Studies have definitely helped me in this new economy.”

If there’s a recurring theme to Reed’s story, it’s stepping outside of his comfort zone. Coming to Philadelphia to study at CLA was a big change from living in Reading. Working in advertising sales was outside his passion and beyond the scope of his education. And shifting into managing bike sharing growth was a challenge unlike the sales positions he’d held before.

Temple's a unique place, and it's very diverse

It’s of little surprise, then, that his advice to incoming CLA students, then, is to get uncomfortable, to get involved with new activities and organizations—while balancing their schoolwork, of course.

“When you first step foot onto campus, really getting out of your comfort zone is something that helped me, and I think would be helpful for any new students coming to Temple,” says Reed. “There are a lot of different organizations to get involved in, and there are a lot of different people whom you can meet from different backgrounds who come from all over the country and all over the world. So I think Temple's a unique place, and it's very diverse, and you're going to meet people from all over, so immersing yourself into that is going to be helpful in the long run for career possibilities.”

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