Ryan Thoresen Carson, a beloved member of the Pratt Institute Writing Department community and a Pratt alumnus, tragically died on October 2, 2023.
“At Pratt, Ryan looked out for others who were struggling with the transition to college and helped countless people grow into better versions of themselves,” said Carson’s peer and colleague Hannah Holden, BFA Writing ’14. “He was brilliant yet warm and approachable. He was delighted to talk to you about whatever you were passionate about, whether that was the New York Knicks or the New York School of Poets. He would teach you something new while cracking you up.”
Carson is remembered as a writer, community-builder, and activist with extensive involvement in civic engagement and advocacy organizations, including the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) at Pratt, where he worked closely with and mentored many undergraduate students in his role as project coordinator in NYPIRG’s community-outreach program. He had begun working with NYPIRG as a Pratt student, representing the chapter on NYPIRG’s student board of directors; he also served as an office manager for the Pratt Center for Community Development.
Over the past two years, Carson also worked with Pratt’s Writing Department, from which he graduated in 2014 with highest honors, to run Writing Department–specific harm reduction trainings, in collaboration with Jasmine Cuffie, associate director in the Office of Resilience, Wellness, and Well-Being. The most recent training was held at the Textile Dye Garden in Cannoneer Court, where Carson lived as a student, when it was a residence hall.
Outside of Pratt, Carson worked with NYPIRG as an environmental advocate, guiding a “statewide campaign to expand and modernize the state’s bottle deposit law.” (NYPIRG) He also founded and served as executive director of NO OD NY, an organization that advocates for the creation of overdose-prevention centers throughout the city in an effort to address the opioid crisis and connect people to life-saving resources. Carson fostered this organization in collaboration with Pratt alumni including Lucy Zentgraf, Nikki Barva, and Hannah Holden, in memory of Eli Todd, also a graduate of the Pratt Writing program. As part of this work, in July 2021, Ryan walked 500 miles from New York City to Buffalo, organizing rallies and building a statewide coalition of directly impacted communities in the fight to legalize “overdose prevention centers” and save lives across New York.
In a message to the Writing Department community, acting chairperson Claire Donato wrote: “In a recent poem, Ryan posed two questions: ‘What kind of place did you want / to live in when you were growing up? // How do you make this place / like that one you wanted to live in?’ We miss him, and will continue to be guided by his compassion, integrity, dedication, and care in making this world the kind of place where we want to live.”
The Writing Department has also shared this message with the campus community: “We will continue to be in touch . . . and if anyone would like to talk, we are here for you. Student Care Coordinator Martha Cedarholm and the Counseling Center are also available. Please don’t hesitate to reach out.”