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Brendan Callahan ’17: Driven By Ideas

Graduate student Brendan Callahan has launched a nonprofit organization, ConserveCT, inspired by his undergraduate thesis.. (Photo by Michael Fiedler)

By Kate Callahan ’14

Brendan Callahan has a vision. 

A graduate student of graphic design, Callahan ’17 has begun turning his early ideas for a thesis into a nonprofit organization, currently known as ConserveCT. The transformation, undertaken with his brother Jacob Callahan, will serve entities in Connecticut like the New Haven Land Trust.

“We help shed light on specific issues, like the conservation of the salt marshes in New Haven. If the New Haven Land Trust needs help finding money, we help them do that through video, social media, and pop-up shows,” says Callahan.

The pair produced an awareness-raising video about the New Haven salt marshes, which can be viewed at (search for ConserveCT).

“Founding a nonprofit is alarmingly harder than I thought it was going to be,” says Callahan.

But hard work is nothing new to the Bolton native. When Callahan entered CCSU as an undergraduate, he says,

“The two main guarantees were that I’d run for a Division I track and cross-country team and major in graphic design.”

Callahan’s events were the mile, the steeplechase, and the 5K. “We won our conference the past eight years in a row and the past four for track. It was incredible being able to contribute to a team sport and get that trophy every year.”

Callahan not only spent his entire undergrad experience balancing academics and athletics, he also added an internship position last semester at NBC Connecticut in the station’s design department.
Michael Cox, NBC’s design director says, “Brendan was a hard worker…he fit right in and became part of the family.”

Because of the dynamic nature of the news, Callahan learned more than the technical aspects of television graphics.

“There’s a constant reprioritization of everything that’s going on,” Cox notes, which means frequent changes in direction for designers like Callahan.

Still, Callahan says the experience made him want to work in television. “You go in each day and don’t know what you’re working on; it’s always something different.”

“He got to experience how a news operation works,” Cox adds. “Interns like Brendan come in as a student and come out as someone who can walk into an interview at a TV station and know what he’s talking about.”

Good news for Callahan, who sees himself working in Hollywood in TV, film, movies, or animation on projects that benefit the greater good.

“What I’m destined to be is more purposeful than working for pleasure, ratings, or money,” Callahan says. “With the nonprofit I can actually give back.”

ConserveCT’s next project will give back quite a bit.

“We’re taking abandoned buildings or sites and turning them into usable parks and planting trees there. There are a lot of resources and grants that fund those kinds of initiatives,” Callahan notes.

Of the sheer amount of work Callahan takes on, he says, “If I get an idea in my head I literally cannot, not do it! Then I take it day by day. Just do the best that I can that day and grind it out. There’s give and take.”

His love of design keeps Callahan passionate about his graduate level courses. “The design program is so deep and philosophical. The reason I love the program so much is because it doesn’t feel like a lecture. Sometimes it doesn’t even feel like we’re talking about design but by the time we get to the end of the lesson it’s clear that it’s all about design.”

Callahan’s interest in design is fueled by a graduate course titled Advance Topics in Exhibitions and Design he took this summer with Associate Professor of Design Thomas Zummer.

“Grad school has changed my perspective and opened up my eyes to the design in everything,” Callahan says. “In undergrad I only thought about design when I was in front of my computer, but now I see it everywhere.”

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