Beth Cichon '18 is an architecture major and president of the campus club Students for New Urbanism (SNU). Here, she gives us the low-down on the club's work, her interest in social issues, and some advice on pursuing your passions at Notre Dame.
Minor: Poverty Studies
Clubs and campus involvement:
Band of the Fighting Irish
ND Ultimate Frisbee
Officer, Students for New Urbanism
Resident Assistant, Lewis Hall
Special Olympics ND
Why did you choose your major and minor?
My goal behind my choice in minor was to find a way to study architecture from a people-based approach. I considered anthropology or psychology. Poverty Studies became my top choice after I attended two Appalachia Seminars and a winter Urban Plunge, experiential learning trips in which we discussed the causes of urban and rural poverty. It has been a perfect way of reminding myself of how architecture, an industry governed by well-off clients, should benefit all people within a city. My love of architecture has grown of my years of studies. I think my passion really took off once I realized how it tied into my interest in social concerns.
What is the concept behind New Urbanism?
New Urbanism is a movement to improve cities. We are in charge of our cities; we must chose to promote walkable, social, cultural cities. This is important for people of all disciplines, because once we know more about what it takes to make a healthy city, we can work within our spheres. New Urbanism’s goal is to educate leaders so they can insist on better downtown livability, and a better focus on the health of all citizens.
What kind of work do you do through Students for New Urbanism (SNU)?
SNU members walk South Bend students to school during the club's Walking School Bus event.
We spend time in South Bend—we walk children to school to promote walkability, we visit South Bend’s downtown for the monthly [First Fridays] festival, etc. We also spend time talking about good and bad urbanism and other relevant current topics, sometimes student-led and casual, sometimes with a professor.
What’s your favorite thing about being involved in the New Urbanism club?
I love that we care about South Bend as a place and community. Also, this club combines people’s professional interests with their other interests.
What other extracurricular activities are you involved in?
I have loved being a part of many groups on campus over my time here. For one, I spent three years on the Frisbee team. For another, I have attended the March for Life in Washington, D.C., every year. Additionally, I have spent time with the Special Olympics ND sports teams, playing soccer with young adults and children of all abilities. For my fourth year, I was an RA in Lewis Hall, where I was a personal companion and emotional support for college students of all ages and majors. Finally, this last year, I learned the tuba and became a member of the Fighting Irish marching band.
Personally, I love drawing and playing music. I enjoy spending time with my family of eight and with my friends I’ve made through all these activities I’ve been a part of. I love to explore and meet people, ready to learn from anyone at any time.
Do you have any advice for future Notre Dame students?
I advise all new students to sign up for something they’re even slightly curious about. Then, attend at least one meeting. Some of the activities I’ve received the most gratifying experiences from have been because I spontaneously said “yes” and just showed up, even if I thought it was weird or scary or “not my thing.” If a friend invites you to something, take them up on it, because that might be the only time that happens. This is called curiosity, which is a very marketable trait.
Also, once you find something you are excited about, COMMIT TO IT. Be the person people go to when they wonder about band/volunteering/the Right to Life, etc.