Olivia Dorow Hovland AB '16
Name: Olivia Dorow Hovland
Current Role: Senior Transportation Planner, Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT)
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Social media: LinkedIn, Twitter
Can you tell us a little about yourself and your current role?
I am interested in how urban and regional transportation systems can impact population health and environmental sustainability. Where a person was born has an enormous effect on their life. A large part of that effect is due to how their neighborhood is structured and what resources they have access to. Transportation can provide people with that access, or the lack of it can cut them off from the things like food, medical care and jobs that they need to live quality lives. I am especially interested in how non-motorized forms of transportation can begin to be more prioritized. Transit, walking and biking are the most environmentally sustainable ways to get around, and living a car-free life is one of the largest things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint. But that lifestyle is impossible if your local transportation system does not provide you with safe and convenient car-free ways to get around.
I am currently working as a transportation planner for MnDOT. MnDOT plans, builds and operates the state’s multimodal transportation system, and has a stated vision of “maximizing the health of the people, the environment and our economy.”
What you have been doing since graduation?
After I graduated from UChicago, I enrolled at the University of Minnesota in a dual Master’s degree program. I graduated in May 2018 and now hold a Master’s of Urban and Regional Planning and a Master’s of Public Health. My capstone project in graduate school involved conducting a Health Impact Assessment for a proposed freeway cap in the Rondo neighborhood in St. Paul. During my time in graduate school, I worked for the City of St. Paul Department of Planning and Economic Development, as well as WSB & Associates as a consultant community planner. I have also been getting involved with my own local community in Minnesota, and serve on the Pedestrian Advisory Committee for the City of Minneapolis.
How PGE has helped you in your career?
PGE has given my career much-needed context. While I am pursuing a career in planning and transportation, I am motivated by a concern for environmental sustainability. Cities and transportation networks that are well-planned will increase resident health and environmental sustainability. Because of PGE I have an increased appreciation for how large-scale policy and economics work, and what their effects can be on the local scale. Planning is political, and classes in environmental law and local government helped me to build awareness and expertise in that area.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I am a proud resident of Minneapolis, Minnesota and spend my free-time taking part in all of the recreational activities that the Midwest has to offer. I enjoy visiting Minnesota’s state parks, especially up on the north shore of Lake Superior. I am an avid biker and am grateful to live in one of the country’s most bikeable cities. Minnesota also has some of the best breweries around. After graduate school, I have just been focusing on rediscovering hobbies and investing in the city that I have chosen to make a home in.
What advice would you give undergraduate students interested in Environmental/Sustainability fields?
Go where your work will have the most impact, and invest in your local community. There are so many amazing cities in the United States—I think sometimes the smaller, or lesser-known cities can provide a more dynamic professional experience and greater opportunity for change and progress. And wherever you end up, short-term or long-term, participate in local politics, join civic or recreational groups and really participate in place. Sustainability happens when local networks are strong, neighbors know each other, and residents feel responsible for their cities.
Anything you would like to add?
Please feel free to reach out if you want to chat transportation, urban planning, health, or community resilience!