The University of Utah
College of Architecture + Planning
Elizabeth Sodja

Name: Elizabeth Sodja
Undergraduate Major: Environmental Studies & Organizational Communication (also I technically have a Master’s of Natural Resources and Environmental Education, but it’s not super relevant here, haha.)
Hometown: American Fork, UT

How did you discover urban planning?
Through the Environmental Dispute Resolution Short Course Program! I was introduced to Dr. Rumore while trying to figure out ways I build bridges between old and new west ways of life, and learned about the huge role planning plays in deciding how communities grow and develop.

Why did you choose the MCMP program at U of Utah?
Because of Dr. Danya Rumore and the small town and rural planning specialization.

If you have work experience or have completed an internship, tell us about that experience:
I currently work for the Gateway & Natural Amenity Region (GNAR) Initiative. Small cities and towns outside of significant natural amenities such as national parks, public lands, ski areas, and scenic rivers throughout the western United States are becoming increasingly popular places to visit and live. As a result, many of these gateway and natural amenity region (GNAR) communities—such as Jackson, WY, and Moab, UT—are grappling with a variety of “big city” issues, including severe congestion, lack of affordable workforce housing, and concerns about sprawl. Regardless of their perspectives on development and where they are on the development trajectory, the GNAR Initiative helps western GNAR communities preserve the qualities that make them special and thrive amid change. It does so through research, education and capacity building.

What are your career goals?
To work with GNAR communities and help them grow and tackle challenges without losing what makes them special.

Tell us one thing most people don’t know about you:
I play the banjo (poorly) and I’m a big nerd. Like I will readily engage in a Star Trek vs. Star Wars debate (#TeamStarTrek) and I love board games.