Few people know Fordham’s facilities as well as building services manager Richard Figueroa, but on Saturday, May 18, he viewed the Rose Hill campus through a fresh lens—that of a proud Fordham parent on graduation day.

His daughter Katelyn earned a bachelor’s degree in visual arts with a concentration in architecture from Fordham College at Lincoln Center. And she’s on track to earn a master’s degree in urban studies next year, as part of the University’s five-year accelerated degree program.

Katelyn and her younger brother, Richard Jr., at Fordham as children.

A Bronx native, Katelyn grew up with a passion for drawing and for exploring the city with her father. Before he joined Fordham as an operations supervisor in the facilities management office at the Lincoln Center campus, they’d have weekend adventures; after he was hired eight years ago, she and her younger brother would tag along with him, spending the day on campus and getting to know the neighborhood.

“My dad’s a big history guy, so we’d walk around, and he’d explain the history of these places, and I was just in awe,” she said.

While some people assume that Katelyn enrolled at Fordham only because her father is an employee, the truth is that those early adventures inspired her to apply to the University.

I was in love with Lincoln Center and being in the heart of the city: It was everything that I wanted—close to home, but I still felt like I was a little bit away,” she said.

Embracing New Passions

Through her architecture courses, Katelyn found a new passion: urban planning through the lens of sustainability.

“It just consists of everything that I love: all the features I loved about architecture, which was the problem solving, being able to help people, but also still being able to make an impact on the urban environment in general,” she said.

Richard, who is responsible for electrical services, carpentry, locks, and plumbing at the Rose Hill campus and has a hand in carrying out the University’s sustainability initiatives, is proud that his daughter has chosen this focus.

“She’s very hands-on like me,” he said, adding that he even taught her to install tile and sheetrock. “She has always been an artist, so it’s kind of a different thing for me, but everybody has to create their own path, and this is leading her to something else that she’ll enjoy.”

Katelyn’s cap featured a 3D rendering of the Lincoln Center campus and surrounding area. Photo by Bruce Gilbert.

At Home in Fordham’s New York

Since February, Katelyn has been interning with the New York City Housing Authority on its recycling team. She has a year of master’s courses to go, but she hopes that she can continue working with the city to make “sustainability a top priority for a lot of New York City residents.”

And on campus, she’ll continue to bond with her father’s colleagues. They’ve enhanced her Fordham experience, she said, giving her an opportunity to “make an impact on their lives” just as they made an impact on hers.

Katelyn and her father, Richard, at a Fordham event.

“Even though my dad no longer works in Lincoln Center, I still stop by the facilities office … and it makes me so happy ‘cause it makes me feel like I have a second family at Fordham.”

That support was especially a boon during her first year, when the pandemic forced students to be physically isolated even after they were back on campus. Since he was there daily, Richard was able to “make sure that she had an outlet,” an opportunity to chat about anything and stay connected.

“Those experiences helped us get bonded together and keep an open dialogue,” he said. “I feel that she’s able to come to me and talk to me about anything.”