March 2001


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Written by
Jennifer Andrews

Photo by D. J. Case


 You could say she drew herself into her future. Joan Snyder remembers a crayon drawing from her childhood: A little girl sits at a blue desk in a sea of purple and orange and white. Lines wrestle and stretch across the page. On the desk is a nameplate. It reads: President.

"I always wanted to be president of something," says Snyder, "to find creative solutions to things. To make change." And she has. Snyder has just completed a year as president of Pitt’s Student Government Board (SGB), only the third woman ever to do so. Here, her desk was brown and ergonomic, shaped to allow quick movements—a quick grab of the phone or fast draws from the printer, fax, or floor, where materials for meetings and conferences were stacked. But in this picture, the nameplate was on the door.

Snyder was an active leader. Upon taking the SGB helm, she began to create change campus-wide with a campaign—"What Can We Do for You?"—and set up a public relations committee to answer the question. The committee’s mission? "To survey the students," she says, "gather up their needs, then place them on the table at forums." Snyder’s nationally recognized monthly forums, now used as a communication model across the country, were open to all students and administrators, and addressed the needs. Needs became action plans, then proposals. The proposals directed SGB’s agenda. And things got done.

The forums have helped to produce a diversity program, with matching funds for multicultural programs, as well as transportation to Three Rivers Stadium and guaranteed block seating in a designated student area. Just recently, Snyder held a women’s conference, and now the push for a women’s center is on. Meanwhile, renovations have begun on the William Pitt Union’s fifth floor, where student organizations are haphazardly crammed. "I tried to find creative ways," Snyder says, "to foster communication across all boundaries, to get people talking, and get things done to make change that benefits everybody."

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