Alumni Highlight: Taylor Johnson

Taylor Johnson is a 2017 graduate of the Regional and City Planning program here at Gibbs! Today, he is the Transit and Parking Program Manager for the City of Norman. We talked to Taylor to learn about what he is up to after college and why he chose the field of planning. 

What year did you graduate from the Gibbs College of Architecture (GCA)? 


What degree did you graduate with?  

Master of Regional and City Planning 

What made you want to go into the field of planning? 

I had just switched my major to Geography during my sophomore year and I was in an introductory level geography class at OU. Dr. Warnken made a presentation at one of the class sessions about planning. At that point I was unsure what I wanted to pursue career wise, I just knew I had liked my geography classes. Once I heard Dr. Warnken’s presentation, I knew that was what I wanted to do. 

What was it like transitioning out of university and into work-life? What advice would you give current students as they advance into their careers? 

I probably had a somewhat easier time transitioning than most because I had a job lined up in the organization that I had been interning at for almost three years. 

I would say to get an (hopefully paid) internship. You never know what kind of opportunities may come out of an internship. In addition, while your classes will help you navigate what specific type of planning work you want to do (traditional planning, economic development, transportation, historic preservation, environmental, etc.) you may discover like me a field that you didn’t know much about through an internship. 

Taylor Johnson speaking at the Fall 2020 Oklahoma Transit Association (OTA) Conference. 

What role are you in now?  

I am currently the Transit and Parking Program Manager for the City of Norman. 

How did you arrive at your current role? 

I stumbled my way into a career of public transportation. I really wanted an internship for my senior year of my undergraduate degree. Back then, OU/CART was operating the City public transit as well as campus, and they needed a transportation planning intern to assist with some projects. I applied not really knowing what I would be doing, just knowing I wanted an internship and it had the word “planning” in the title. It was one of the best decisions of my life. I stayed with OU/CART as an intern until I graduated with my masters in 2017, and then I was hired full time. Then, I did a brief stint working with the Metropolitan Planning Organization before landing with the City of Norman after OU/CART transitioned the operations of the City transit service. 

Taylor Johnson riding on Norman public transit.  

What kinds of opportunities did you receive while studying at the GCA?  

I had the ability to focus in on what I wanted to study. Most classes allowed you to tailor your projects to what you are interested in learning about. Most classes also brought in real world situations and professionals to help us learn from what is going on in the “field”. 

 I also wanted to bring up my study abroad opportunity to Uganda and expand on that a little. I had never traveled outside of the United States before, which made me a little anxious, but I am glad that I decided to go. I believe seeing the world, if you are able, helps you bring ideas back from other communities and see your own community in a different light. 

What aspects of the curriculum do you believe help you most in your professional life?  

The core and breadth courses were key to me. I specifically recall Public Budgeting and Finance, History and Theory, Urban and Regional Analysis, and Planning Management. These are classes that can and should apply to all planners in whatever specific type of planning you will be practicing.