“A native of a generic suburb southwest of Salt Lake City (that I fondly call “Stucco Hell”), I received a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from the U and spent nearly 15 years working in TV and broadcasting before receiving my MCMP in 2011. I discovered an interest in planning when I realized I was accepting media gigs not because I loved the work, but because I’d get to visit and explore a new city somewhere.
My background in communication strongly influences my interests as a planner: I’m passionate about community engagement and public participation (as well as historic preservation and urban redevelopment), and I teach CMP 6430: Planning Communication as an adjunct instructor for the department.
I’m currently a public information officer for Salt Lake County, and have previously worked for the Redevelopment Agency of Salt Lake City, the Sundance Institute, and a variety of media-related companies. I live in the Central City Historic District of Salt Lake City and, as a former vice-chair of the Central City Neighborhood Council, have seen firsthand how traditional public participation methods just don’t work.
My time as an MCMP student gave me more than a graduate education; it spurred lifelong friendships, as well. Many of my closest friends were originally my classmates in the program, and I’m excited to see how this next generation of planners will use technology to revolutionize how we interact with our constituents.”
Tham Soekotjo, MCMP ’07
I graduated from University of Utah Urban Planning Department in Summer of 2007 and completed my Internship with Parley’s Rails Trails and Tunnels (PRATT) Coalition. During my internship, I worked very closely with Salt Lake County Park and Recreation Department in developing the PRATT trail alignment through the 2100 South Roper Yard.
Upon graduation, I was then hired as the Neighborhood Development Coordinator for a 35 year-old not-for-profit organization called NeighborWorks Salt Lake (aka Salt Lake Neighborhood Housing Services). NWSL was investigating expansion into other neighborhoods along the Wasatch Front at the time and I was charged with conducting demographic assessment, research and evaluation utilizing GIS and Census data.
After the expansion study was completed, I became involved with NeighborWorks’ Community Building and Organizing (CBO) line of business which is responsible for all community building and engagement activities and special events. NWSL believes that bricks and mortar are important elements of neighborhood revitalization, more importantly, the organization has learned in its three decades of community involvement, building the capacity of residents to take action and assume leadership roles is equally important to ensure sustainability of revitalization efforts.
I received the 2011 NeighborWorks America National Award for Excellence in Community Building & Organizing for sharing best practices, cultivating local community leaders, strengthening resident voice and engaging community members in New Orleans Training Institute as a result of my involvement with NWSL’s CBO department.
I now serve as Resource & Development Manager for NWSL and responsible for working with the Executive Director to raise over $3.2 million for organizational operations. I am also responsible for organizational program compliance and reporting to over 15 funding sources. My main role as Development Officer is to cultivate new funders and engage current funders for sustainable relationship with the organization.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my education at the University of Utah. The U Urban Planning Department’s emphasis on public engagement has helped my career in building relationships and collaborations with funders, residents and government entities. I feel like everything I do can and will make a difference in the community that we live in. It has been a very fulfilling path for me to follow and I owe it all to my dear professors!
Laura Hanson, AICP
I am a proud two-time alumna of the University of Utah’s planning program. I double majored in urban planning and environmental studies for my undergraduate work, and later earned a Master of Urban Planning degree in 2005. Born and raised in Utah, I have threatened to move several times, but just can’t bear to leave this beautiful, inspiring state.
As I began my undergraduate work in the environmental studies program, I knew that I wanted to have a career where I had a role in protecting the open spaces that make Utah so spectacular. I started to notice there were a lot of planning students taking the same classes as me and got curious. Urban planning sounded like it was all about concrete and development, but I quickly learned that the best way to preserve open space is to plan our cities better.
I have focused my work in the private sector as a long-range planning consultant; however, I recently moved to the public side of things. I am now the Executive Director of the Jordan River Commission, a regional cooperation of cities and counties working to improve and protect the Jordan River corridor. While I loved the big visioning work I did as a consultant, I am enjoying the tangible work of implementing such a vision Jordan River.