Rutgers has graduated more than its share of accomplished alumni. Regardless of their renown, they point, more often than not, to the enduring influence of Rutgers on their career, and life. Were it not for Rutgers, the consensus seems to be, they wouldn’t be where they are today. Two alumni who are top practitioners in their fields of endeavor are Mary Howard and Paul Gardullo.

Howard MGSA’83 is the owner of Mary Howard Studio, a production and set design company based in Brooklyn, New York. She is also the pioneer of a field known as photography set design, an art form in which she creates the backdrops for the world’s best-known fashion and celebrity photographers to work their magic. Just about any photograph taken by Annie Leibovitz, whether for Vanity Fair or Vogue magazine, features the set design and styling of Howard.

Howard says her graduate days at Mason Gross School of the Arts, where she received an M.F.A. in painting and performance art, have been the biggest influence on her art. She was deeply affected by the Fluxus art movement that emerged in the late 1950s and gained currency at Rutgers in subsequent decades when some of its most influential practitioners taught at the university.

Gardullo RC’90, for his part, is a curator at the Smithsonian’s spectacular new National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. For 10 years, he was involved in the museum’s conception and construction, leading to its opening in September and its now being the hottest ticket in town. Gardullo majored in English and American studies “when Rutgers, a very diverse campus, was a powerful place,” he says. He took classes with the late writer and activist Amiri Baraka and the playwright and novelist Wesley Brown. “Those two men, along with a handful of others, profoundly shaped the way I thought about my connection to African-American history.”

To learn more about Howard’s and Gardullo’s connection to Rutgers, read their stories, “Creating a Scene” and “The Power of Place.”