Student Spotlight: Ayan Rahman '24

by William French
October 3, 2023

Ayan was born in Dhaka, Bangladesh and raised in Brooklyn, NY.

Urban Studies

Community Engagement through Swearer:
Edward Guiliano '72 Global Fellow
Royce Fellow

Ayan Rahman ‘24 declared his concentration in Urban Studies after taking classes where he learned about the development of cities, studying social phenomena, as well as other urban studies topics. As someone who grew up in New York, the coursework really resonated with him. During his second year at Brown, Rahman took his first Community-Based Learning and Research course, “Urban Agriculture: The Importance of Localized Food Systems,” which he felt also tied his interest in Urban Studies to working with community partners such as the Rhode Island Food Policy Council (RIFPC). 

With the RIFPC, Rahman has worked in areas of Rhode Island that experience food apartheid or food insecurity and collaborated with municipal organizations to define health equity zones. Rahman collaborated with other students to create a handbook about how municipal organizations can work with community organizations to improve food outcomes within health equity zones. For example, promoting the practice of urban agriculture and investing in grocery stores in those areas.

In the fall semester of his junior year, Rahman learned more about the Edward Guiliano Global Fellowship which supports engaged scholarship, artistic and research projects around the world. He proposed a project in Bangladesh where he would record climate refugees’ experiences and observe rural-to-urban migration patterns in areas that suffered from environmental degradation. 

“I wanted to study climate refugee experiences,” Rahman says, “There has been a rising trend and higher influx of people migrating to cities because of environmental issues induced by climate change. The project was looking into how can we ensure that there is enough of an infrastructure, structural support for people moving into these cities and spaces? And what are the implications for the future trajectories of Bangladesh, and the capital city in regard to the climate change? What are we going to be able to do to improve resilience? That’s how I started the project through the Guiliano Fellowship. Along the way I thought I could really do something with this thesis. And so in my second semester, I applied to the Royce Fellowship at the Swearer Center. I thought, ‘How do I expand this?’”

After receiving the Royce Fellowship, Rahman continued his fieldwork in Bangladesh, working with the International Center for Climate Change and Development, where he interviewed stakeholders within Bangladeshi settlements and studied the relationship between community and landholder.

Reflecting on his different engagement experiences through Swearer, Rahman shares, “​​I'm meeting people that are doing projects that are so vastly different from mine, but still tied by that same thread of community engagement. Being in a community with other people and witnessing the power of community organizing when people are mobilized for the same cause, focusing on community needs and creating interventions and solutions based around those needs is what inspires me to continue this work.”

After he graduates, Rahman hopes to continue postgraduate studies and research in urban revitalization, urban regeneration, and bottom-up approaches to community building.