We recently caught up with Environmental Design (EnD) graduate Gabe Sevigny to discuss how his time at the Gibbs College of Architecture (GCA) prepared him for his career. Gabe is currently working in El Paso County, Colorado, as a planner. Read on to learn more about his role as a planner and what he loves about his job.

Describe the work you do with El Paso County.

I am currently a Planner II. El Paso County, Colorado covers roughly 2,100 square miles and has a population of almost 700,000. The unincorporated portions of the county are still zoned and require applications for subdividing, rezoning, special uses, and variances of use for property. My work also consists of site development applications for commercial property, specifically 1041 applications for matters of state interest, such as airports and major utility projects.

I also answer questions in regard to the Land Development Code, conduct Early Assistance meetings, set-up projects for review, review projects for conformity with the Code, prepare staff reports for hearing boards and present at said hearings, and finally close out projects.

What does your day-to-day look like?

Most days consist of reviewing projects for conformity with the code and providing feedback to the applicants. As projects near completion, hearings with a board or with the director may be required and staff reports are prepared. Often times, site visits are necessary to understand the full scope of a project. 

What is your favorite thing about your job?

All projects are different. I am able to be at the start of a project that shows raw dirt, then the final product can be anything from a subdivision for residential development to a Starbucks to airport master plans.

What do you consider to be your biggest accomplishment?

I graduated from OU in 2014. That same year I got my first planning job with the City of Blanchard, Oklahoma. A year later, I became the Assistant Director of Planning and Community Development for the City of Moore, Oklahoma. Finally, 2 years later, I achieved a life-long goal to move to Colorado, where I started as a Planner I. Within a year, I was promoted to Planner 2. I’m not sure what my biggest accomplishment is, but my degree in Environmental Design has definitely allowed me to accomplish my greatest dreams.

What inspired you to study Environmental Design?

My goal initially was to study Landscape Architecture; however, OU only offered that as a master’s degree. I was still working on my bachelor’s degree at the time, and sat down with the director of Landscape Architecture, who talked about Environmental Design and the aspects that went along with it. I was currently enrolled as an education major and it was not what I was passionate about. I looked at the possibilities and found Environmental Design was perfect for me and what I wanted to learn.

How did the Environmental Design program at GCA prepare you for the real world?

While enrolled in the Environmental Design program at GCA, I was required to take Intro to City Planning. This course changed everything for me. I found something that I was passionate about and knew this was the field I wanted to be in. In college, I was able to take many, if not most, of the graduate level courses for City Planning. Those courses, combined with my favorite class, my capstone, in which we got to design an outdoor space, allowed me to better understand the planning process not just from the designer or developer’s view, but from a government point of view.

What was your favorite part about the Environmental Design program at GCA?

Outside of the capstone project, it would be the collaboration with the other programs. This includes City Planning, Architecture, Interior Design, and Construction Management. Classes were a combination of multiple disciplines and the professors always provided a different view that helped me better understand the bigger picture.

What is the biggest piece of advice you would give students or recent grads interested in Environmental Design?

The hardest part of any job is getting the job. To get the job you have to sell yourself during the interview. Take advantage of the program and don’t cheat yourself with easy electives; fill your electives by taking the other program courses. If you do this, you will find out during your interview that you can carry a conversation and provide intellectual feedback that will definitely stand out to the interviewer. Lastly, this is a growing field with many different opportunities, so don’t be afraid to apply for something a little out of reach. You will be surprised in the results.

We’d like to give a special thank you to Gabe Sevigny for taking the time to shed light on his experiences before and after GCA. Thank you for being an outstanding alumnus, Gabe!