Urban Narratives and the Provo City Planning Commission

In 2013, Dr. Jamin Rowan of the BYU English Department attended a neighborhood meeting to discuss the proposed routes for the new Bus Rapid Transit line that will soon connect the Provo and Orem Frontrunner stations. Although he had never imagined that he would be involved in city politics, participating in this meeting helped him recognize that his interest in urban literature and culture had put him in a position to contribute to his community’s conversation about planning issues. Shortly after that neighborhood meeting, he began a three-year term as a member of the Provo City Planning Commission. His research on how urban narratives shape the city’s built environment and social landscape has enabled him to approach the development proposals, zone-change requests, and other issues that come before the planning commission in a unique way. Additionally, his exposure to the particular urban narratives embedded in zoning codes and city ordinances has refined his understanding of the social values and cultural desires that shape those narratives. Being on the city planning commission has not only strengthened his writing, but has also informed the courses he teaches. He loves taking students on walking tours of Provo neighborhoods to help them see how the study of twentieth-century U.S. literature can help them make sense of the landscape they currently inhabit.

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