July 11, 2019

Name: Erin Thoresen, AICP

Current Title: Senior Transportation Planner

Office Location: Alpharetta, GA

Years at Gresham Smith: 4


Meet Erin Thoresen, a Senior Transportation Planner in our Alpharetta, Georgia, office. When she’s not cooking dinner or enjoying the great outdoors, this Michigan native is improving the connectivity of communities with multi-modal, technology-driven solutions. Keep reading to learn how she chose her profession, what led her to Gresham Smith and why she’s excited to go way down yonder on the Chattahoochee.


Where did you grow up?

Ann Arbour, Michigan


Where did you go to college?

I went to Kalamazoo College for my undergraduate degree and went to University of Michigan for graduate school.


What made you choose your profession?

It was a process. At first I didn’t really know what urban or community planning was, but I knew that I had always been interested in environmental issues and making our planet a better place to live. Combined with my love of travel and experiencing new places, I started thinking about why we like the places we do and what could be done to make more places likable.

When I started my career I was a community planner for a non-profit organization focused on improving equity and environmental health. We recommended policy changes, developed plans for physical projects and used grant funding to implement programs like community gardens and farmers markets. I realized that health and transportation were two critically important issues in almost every community we worked with. I’m still motivated by the intersection of health and transportation and work to make sure people have options for how they get around.



What drew you to Gresham Smith?

Coming from a small non-profit organization, joining Gresham Smith was a big change for me. However, I had an opportunity to work with someone well respected in my field and was excited about the ability to collaborate with experts in different disciplines and different markets. It’s the people, the client relationships, and the opportunity to shape and grow our planning practice that keeps me here.



How has Gresham Smith helped you in your career development?

I’ve had numerous opportunities here, including developing and growing relationships with a variety of clients, working on a wide range of projects and honing my skills as a project manager and supervisor. I’ve learned a lot about roadway design, active transportation planning and design, the Georgia Department of Transportation’s plan development process and how transportation projects get funded in the four years I’ve been with the firm.


What’s one thing your coworkers might not know about you?

I was an Art and Art History major in college. I also read music and play piano.


What is your favorite project you’ve worked on while at Gresham Smith and why?

I’m really enjoying working on the Chattahoochee River Greenway Study, an 18-month study of a 100-mile section of the waterway with a goal of improving connections and access to what many consider to be one of the region’s most valued but underutilized natural resources. The Chattahoochee River touches on many of the aspects of planning that I think are important, including health, equity and mobility. It’s a challenging and complex project, but I get to work with many talented people and I think we have a real opportunity to transform how Metro Atlanta thinks about the river. It’s truly a one-of-a-kind project—it’s not often you get to rethink how people engage and interact with such a significant regional asset.


Where is your favorite place you’ve traveled and why?

I’ve been fortunate to travel a lot in my life, thanks in part to a study abroad experience in France, and it’s hard to pick just one. My favorite place in the world is the shore of Lake Michigan. However, after graduating with my undergraduate degree I took a one-year position teaching English at a high school in Toulouse, France and I loved living there—it’s big, but not too big, and incredibly walkable. I also enjoyed visiting Prague and Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada.



What book are you currently reading?

The Cooking Gene by Michael Twitty


What advice would you give to people who aspire to be where you are?

Hard work and dedication are important, but don’t forget to take care of yourself. You have to be well to do well. Also remember to share the limelight. A client once told me that the best advice he ever received was to praise publicly and critique quietly. I try to remember that day in and day out.