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Former U professor Nan Ellin expresses her love for the city in a tribute letter to Salt Lake as she leaves to pursue a job in Texas.

Salt Lake Tribute
by Nan Ellin

When I first arrived in Salt Lake City four and a half years ago, I did not quite understand the moniker Beehive State. Gradually, though, I started to get it.

The deep and abiding sense of community here is palpable. People working together to create a place of quality for their children and grandchildren. People providing mutual assistance and support in times of need, which we all experience. People building alliances to pool resources, share ideas, envision better futures and realize goals. People listening to, and valuing other people. Having lived in 21 cities in four countries on three continents, I realize this is a rare gift.


Photo credit: College of Architecture + Planning

In addition to its solid community foundation and magnificent natural landscape, Salt Lake City also boasts urban vitality with walkable districts, good transit, preeminent medical care, thriving arts and culture and a plethora of creative local businesses. This is a city with good bones. Certainly, there remains more fleshing-out to do, but the bones are strong.

I have had the privilege of chairing the Department of City & Metropolitan Planning at the University of Utah, which benefits greatly from its location in this region. Along with our intensive knowledge and skill-building courses, we also provide students hands-on experiences that contribute to improve the region. Students and faculty have been deeply involved in the creation of the 9 Line bike trail and the River District, revitalization of the Granary and University Gardens Districts, the introduction of urban planning and urban design into K-12 education, restoration of the Red Butte Creek Corridor, development of the Seven Canyons Trust, reimagining Fort Union Boulevard and the Marriott Library plaza, conversion of Deer Valley into a year-round destination and much more.

Over the past four years, we have hosted the Mayor’s Symposium with Mayor Ralph Becker on topics of local interest, bringing together a wide range of people to have conversations that make a positive difference. Thanks to generous sponsors, this event has been free and open to the public. This past year, over 350 people attended the symposium on Mountain Urbanism Mountain Modernism, that asked how we can build on existing assets to accommodate a projected doubling of the population over the next two decades.

Awarded high marks on our recent national review, the Master of City and Metropolitan Planning program at the University of Utah is now accredited until 2021. As the only accredited planning program in the states of Utah, Nevada, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, the University of Utah trains a large percentage of those who are stewarding the natural environment while guiding urban growth and development for the Intermountain West.

I have been blessed to be here during this time and have had the opportunity to work with truly inspired and inspiring students, an outstanding and dedicated faculty and a wonderfully talented and gracious community. As I transition to the Dallas-Fort Worth region of Texas, I wish to express my gratitude for their generosity, support and friendship. It has been an honor and privilege to partner with colleagues and community members in preparing future generations to co-create an ever more prosperous Utah and beyond.

About Nan Ellin

After four and a half years as chair of the Department of City & Metropolitan Planning at the University of Utah, Nan Ellin moved to the University of Texas at Arlington at the beginning of the year. She now serves as founding dean of a new college uniting the School of Architecture with the School of Urban and Public Affairs.