Sam Coons

Rochester, New York

I chose to enroll in the dual M.R.P./M.L.A. program to develop technical skills in placemaking and to further draw on CRP's legacy of progressive planning thought.

Why did you choose Cornell and AAP?

I transferred to Cornell as an undergraduate student to pursue a more place-based study of economic and community development than my previous school could provide. In the urban and regional studies program, I had the opportunity to take classes across the university that exposed me to a variety of disciplines, from environmental psychology to landscape architecture to hospitality planning. I chose to stay at Cornell after graduation and enroll in the dual M.R.P./M.L.A. program to develop technical skills in placemaking and to further draw on CRP's legacy of progressive planning thought.

What inspired you to join the field of city and regional planning?

As a high school student, I was most interested in studying architecture. However, the aspects of design I found most fascinating, like place theory and community engagement strategies, seemed to be lacking in many architecture curriculums. City and regional planning proved to be an exciting alternative that provided me a complex and nuanced view of how places are shaped beyond the role of the designer.

What experiences have contributed to your sense of belonging at AAP?

I most appreciate CRP's small cohort size and the opportunity for personal interactions with faculty. There are so many classes available that span such a range of topics, and getting to explore them with my peers has given me the chance to learn from an incredible diversity of perspectives. AAP manages to carve a special space for us within the larger university, while still opening its doors to allow us to explore all the resources Cornell has to offer.

What are your extracurricular interests and how have you incorporated them into your college life?

In CRP, I am involved in the department's Diversity Committee and the student-led Planning Students for Equity and Inclusion. Additionally, I am the graduate advisor for the Cornell Theme Park Entertainment Group, an interdisciplinary student organization that participates in design competitions and professional development events in the themed entertainment industry. Off campus, I volunteer for Ithaca Underground, a nonprofit organization that hosts DIY music shows and technical job training for local youth.

What do you hope to accomplish during your time at AAP and after graduation?

I hope to use all the resources available to me at AAP towards exploring how communities negotiate and communicate identity in-place, whether that be through applying for travel funding or collaborating with faculty whose research has steered my own. After graduation, I intend to use the questions and theories I develop here to work on behalf of marginalized communities in the cities of the Great Lakes, helping them regain autonomy in the face of economic restructuring and demographic change.