Webinar: Building Capacity in Gateway Communities through the GNAR Academy

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Wednesday, June 12, 2024, 10:00am to 11:00am PDT
Jordan Katcher and Elizabeth Sodja, GNAR Initiative
PDH: 1 | AICP: 1



Small towns and cities near national parks, public lands, and other natural amenities across the West are experiencing rapid growth and increased tourism. As we have documented via our prior NITC-funded research, this has created a range of big city challenges for these “gateway communities,” particularly in the form of interconnected transportation, land use, and housing issues. Seeking to help gateway communities better prepare for and respond to their transportation and planning challenges, the Gateway and Natural Amenity Region (GNAR) Initiative team translated the findings from our research on planning and development challenges in gateway communities into an online learning program.

This program, the "GNAR Academy Fundamentals: Foundations for Planning and Collaboration in Gateway Communities and Regions" includes seven modules, each of which highlights key skills for addressing transportation and planning issues in gateway communities. This Fundamentals course will be an entry point for the rest of the GNAR Academy, which is currently in development.

In this webinar, we will introduce the GNAR Academy and Fundamentals course, explain how the course was developed, and share how we anticipate the course will result in improved transportation, planning, and development decisions in gateway communities and regions across the West.


Participants will:

  • Gain an understanding of the unique transportation and planning challenges facing gateway communities.
  • Learn about the GNAR Initiative and how it serves gateway communities.
  • Learn about the purpose and goals of the GNAR Academy.
  • Get an introduction to the GNAR Academy Fundamentals: Foundations for Planning and Collaboration in Gateway Communities and Regions course.
  • Provide input to inform future GNAR Academy course topics.


This webinar is based on a study funded by the National Institute for Transportation and Communites (NITC) and conducted at Portland State University. Read more about the project: Tools and Resources for Gateway Communities. Past projects by the team include:


Jordan Katcher, University of Utah: Initiatives Facilitator with the Wallace Stegner Center Environmental Dispute Resolution Program and GNAR Facilitator with the Gateway and Natural Amenity Region (GNAR) Initiative

Jordan Katcher (she/her) is an Initiatives Facilitator for the Wallace Stegner Center Environmental Dispute Resolution (EDR) Program and an Adjunct Instructor within the City + Metropolitan Planning Department at the University of Utah. She serves as facilitator and operations manager for the Gateway + Natural Amenity Region (GNAR) Initiative, facilitates community conversations, conducts situation assessments, and provides training and coaching related to conflict management and collaborative process design. Outside of work, she enjoys forest bathing, baking sourdough bread, traveling, laughing with loved ones, and practicing gratitude.


Elizabeth Sodja, Utah State University: GNAR Coordinator with the Gateway and Natural Amenity Region (GNAR) Initiative

Elizabeth Sodja is the Program Coordinator for the Gateway & Natural Amenity Region (GNAR) Initiative at Utah State University (USU) Extension. She has a decade of communications and community outreach experience, and has worked with federal, state, and local government agencies. Before joining GNAR, she worked for USU's Center for Community Engagement and the National Park Service. She grew up in a small town in Utah where most family vacations were either camping, fishing, or in a National Park, and has a passion for helping small towns around the west preserve what is special about them. When she isn't working, you can usually find her and her husband climbing a rock, living out of a tent, or driving down a dirt road covered in dog hair.



This 60-minute webinar is eligible for 1 hour of professional development credit for AICP (see our provider summary). We provide an electronic attendance certificate for other types of certification maintenance.


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This webinar is hosted by the Transportation Research and Education Center (TREC) at Portland State University. The research was funded by the Summit Foundation and the National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC), a program of TREC and one of seven U.S. Department of Transportation national university transportation centers. The NITC program is a Portland State-led partnership with the University of Oregon, Oregon Institute of Technology, University of Utah and new partners University of Arizona and University of Texas at Arlington. We pursue our theme — improving mobility of people and goods to build strong communities — through research, education and technology transfer.