Student Leadership Chronicles: A life changing experience

Ryan Forst's picture

After spending his childhood in an alienating homogeneous suburb, Evan Comen enrolled at the University of North Carolina. It is here that he realized that the “life-changing experience” that so many American universities promote stems from students sharing a communal space. He wondered why so many Americans must wait until college to experience the concept of community. To that end, he sought a tangible way to fix the problem. His solution is the Students for the New Urbanism (SNU). This salon post will describe how and why Evan started a SNU group at the University of North Carolina.

Evan was drawn to SNU because it converts interdisciplinary interests into a very specific topic. “I can’t think of one major whose relevance can’t be related to the urban form,” says Evan. He viewed a SNU group as a way for the whole student body to challenge their frequently unchallenged environment. So, he wrote a group proposal, easily recruited members, secured an advisor, and quickly got university approval. “That was the easy part”, Evan exclaims! The hard part turned out to be directing the raw mass ambition that the group’s members exuded. He readily admits that it took some effort to channel members’ excitement into something concrete. But as time passed, the group began to organize and the meetings turned into mini-planning charrettes where members discuss activist projects and new ideas for educational opportunities.

Now officially designated as a student unit of the Congress for the New Urbanism, the future looks even brighter for the University of North Carolina’s SNU group. Evan hopes the group’s consequences are far reaching. He envisions a strong SNU network that will create dialog that can change the face of our cities for the better. That said, he closes our interview by urging others to start their own SNU group and stresses that collaboration is the key for a successful group! We urge you to take Evan’s advice and collaborate with us here at the Congress for the New Urbanism to bring a SNU group to your college or university. CNU Program and Development Manager Caitlin Ghoshal is more than willing to set you on the right path. Likewise, make sure to visit Students for the New Urbanism for more information!

The author thanks Evan Comen for his help in writing this salon. Evan is currently a double major in economics and interdisciplinary studies and minors in urban studies and planning. He interns at Global Site Plans and blogs for its environmental design news feed: The Grid.


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