Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Longhorn Urbanists educate, build community while bringing light to urban issues

Courtesy of Robert White

At Robert L. Patton (RLP) room 0.104, a group of students participates in a game of Kahoot! The topic? General urban facts.

Spring of 2024 marks Longhorn Urbanists’ first semester as an active student organization. The organization, which aims to provide an environment for the enrichment of urban-specific topics, meets every other Tuesday from 6 to 7 p.m., helping members build connections and find civic internships.

“(Urban studies) is an interdisciplinary approach to study the urban environment,” urban studies senior Omar Vasquez-Alpizar said. “We look into various aspects such as the economy, history (and) social fields, and we try to use that knowledge to progress the city forward.”

Urban studies majors make up a small percentage of UT’s undergraduate population, with only 29 students receiving a bachelor’s in urban studies in 2020-2021. 

“We want to get more known on campus,” said Robert White, urban studies junior and Longhorn Urbanists founding member. “Then (we want to) spread the word about new urbanism in Austin and advocate for effective change whether that be in transportation, housing (or) urban design.”

White said he stresses the importance of how individuals interact with the built environment around them.

“It plays a crucial role in our health, how you interact with the city, how walkable it is, how friendly it is to your specific needs,” White said. “An effectively planned city is something that you don’t even notice because everything is so seamless.”

Vasquez-Alpizar said through the Urban Studies department he learned about the changing landscape in America and how suburban sprawl led to a sense of remoteness in the city’s layout. 

“People (are) living in the outskirts of the city in these dystopian-style neighborhoods,”  Vasquez-Alpizar said. “There’s this sense of isolation a lot of people experience.”

To work towards creating tangible change, urban studies senior Casey Hart said Longhorn Urbanists want to provide opportunities for members to feel connected to local leaders.

“We want to help organize and mobilize people to … speak at city council meetings (in order) to give our personal opinions and our collaborative thoughts on certain proposals and amendments that the Planning Commission is proposing,” Hart said.

Along with helping members voice personal opinions, White said Longhorn Urbanists try to get more people aware of what’s going on in the city and around them. 

“We’ve had (members) go to Rethink35 protests and specific volunteer opportunities that benefit what we’re trying to go for,” White said.

Additionally, Longhorn Urbanists want to foster communication within the group.

“We want to create conversations that are a little bit deeper,” Vasquez-Alpizar said. “That way you can get to know somebody on a more intimate level.”

While Longhorn Urbanists provides a community for people in the urban studies major, Hart said it is also for people who have frustrations and want to learn about cities.

“I want to reaffirm that this is not at all an exclusive organization,” Hart said. “I want people from other majors because having a multidisciplinary approach with all of our solutions and cities in the future is what’s going to be productive and longstanding.”

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