Senior Spotlight: Gavin Xu ’21

Over the next few weeks, the Center for Urban and Global Studies will be highlighting students of the class of 2021 who have left a mark on Trinity College and those around them. Kicking off our Senior Spotlights series, we have Gavin Xu, a senior Urban Studies major from China. 

How would you describe your time as an Urban Studies major at Trinity?

“My time as an Urban Studies Major at Trinity is unbounded. The Department offers an array of courses that range from exploring the history of urban development in Hartford and in the U.S. to global cities around the world. It is fully supportive of its students as well. The center has precious resources and offers funds for students to take advantage of and explore their academic interests.”

What type of research projects have you been involved in with CUGS?

“I have involved in research with Professor Xiangming Chen on the Special Economic Zones in China and the capital & labor mobility along the borders between China, Laos, and Myanmar.”

Which classes, instructors, or experiences particularly stand out for you and why?

“I think one course I have that particularly stands out for me was the class I took with Professor Julie Gamble called “the Geography of Transport.” One of the assignments for the course was that we needed to take the CT Fastrak from Hartford the New Britain and experience how the Bus Rapid Transit System impacts the community in real life. We also had a project in which we went to different intersections in the city and observed whether the signages, which were set up by an NGO in Hartford to remind drivers to yield to pedestrians when they are crossing the road, are effective or not.  I found this class standing out to me because it was the first time that we applied what we learned in class directly to the community we live in.

“Besides, I will say that my internship experience in Ridgefield’s Planning and Zoning Commission also stands out to me.  During my internship, I helped the Assistant Planner to create general procedures and instructions for all future affordable housing applications in the town. I also assisted the Planning Director in researching and crafting zoning regulations for alternative energy developments, including wind and solar facilities. It was a precious opportunity that I got to experience American politics and democratic governance on the local level. Also, because of this internship, I became interested in urban planning and I hope to learn more about it.

“Also, it was my honor to receive the Tanaka Research Funds from the Urban Studies Department. I could never accomplish my self-design research in Taiwan in the summer of 2019 without the generous offer from the Center. The entire experience was extremely thorough, and the program director, Gabby Nelson, has been really helpful in terms of issuing me the funds, the instruction for using them and regularly checking in on me during the summer for updates.”

What are your hopes and aspirations, post-graduation?

“I’m currently preparing to go to graduate school. My focus will be primarily on international politics and public affairs, but at the same time, I’m looking for programs that can combine my interest in political science and urban studies. I hope I can pursue my interest and eventually become someone who can have some impacts on the community around me.”

What advice would you give future Urban Studies majors, based on your experiences in the department?

“The Urban Studies department has lots of resources and opportunities that students can take advantage of. However, most of the time students are not aware of them. Whenever you have an idea in mind in terms of wanting to explore an academic topic that interests you, you should always reach out to your professors in the Department. They will not only offer you great help but also, they will point to all the resources that you can take advantage of in the department.”