Recently recognized in the 2018 Top Urban Planners Under 40 in Washington, D.C., Melissa Jackson Lindsjo (pictured on the right), Wittenberg class of 2007, is putting her education to work as a senior planner for Loudoun County (Virginia) Planning and Zoning Community Planning Section.
Lindsjo, a geography major with a focus in urban planning and GIS and a political science and urban studies double minor, has already seen the planning field from multiple perspectives. Originally from Worthington, Ohio, Lindsjo has been living in Washington, D.C. since 2012.
“It was a complete surprise,” Lindsjo said. “I am very humbled by the award, and it is very inspiring to read about all the other planners on the list. I really enjoy working in the planning field, but I also love how I can apply my skills in my community and in my D.C. neighborhood.”
At Wittenberg, Lindsjo played four years of field hockey and lacrosse and was a member of Gamma Phi Beta sorority. After graduation, she was selected as an AmeriCorps VISTA member and spent two years serving in the Community Service Office at Wittenberg, promoting service-learning and community engagement. She also was the assistant coach for the women’s lacrosse team.
“I remember leading a group of students with Pastor Rachel Tune to Washington, D.C., during fall break for a service-learning trip and knew that I would call this city home one day,” Lindsjo recalled. After receiving two master’s degrees from The Ohio State University – one in city and regional planning and the other in public policy and management – she made the move to Washington.
Beginning her career in D.C. as the program director for a small non-profit, Lindsjo taught life skills to inner-city youth through lacrosse before starting her career in planning with a position at the Prince George’s County Planning Commission. As senior planner/planner coordinator for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission in the Community Planning Division, she worked closely with all stakeholders in Bowie, Maryland.
“I was aware of the crucial internal and external stakeholder drivers that led to make the Bowie Sustainability Plan a viable, valid, and valuable document,” Lindsjo said. “We had the most successful outreach and engagement with the most community members filling out surveys and attending events that the city has ever experienced. The final outcome is a graphic-heavy plan that lays out 25 goals, 57 strategies, and 103 actions to be completed over a 10-year period.”
In her current position for Loudoun County, she is helping to develop a new comprehensive plan for the county.
“I am working on a new policy area for the county, the Urban Policy Area, which is the area around the new Metrorail stations that are coming to the County,” Lindsjo said. “The expansion of Metrorail service into Loudoun County presents an unprecedented opportunity to create dynamic urban places that respond to the community’s evolving needs and demands.
“Wittenberg was a great foundation for me,” she continued. “It was during my time in Springfield that I cemented my love for cities and community involvement. Attending a liberal arts college shaped me into a well-rounded individual, which I need in my career. It was during my service-learning GIS class with [Professor Emeritus of Geography] Olga Medvedkov that I found my passion for GIS and planning skills while serving the community where I was currently living.”
Through all of this, Lindsjo has managed to continue her lacrosse career as a member of the Washington Lacrosse Club, and her team was recently filmed for a Discovery Channel segment called “How the Universe Works,” which aired in January 2019.
Lindsjo, who met her husband, Erik Lindsjo ’08, at Wittenberg, serves as chair of the board of directors for the Kennedy Street Development Corporation (KSDC) and as a founding board member and chair of the design committee for Uptown Main Street (UMS).
“I truly believe in Wittenberg’s motto ‘Having Light We Pass It On To Others’ and hope I can continue to pass it on whether it be through lacrosse, planning, or in my community,” she said. “Even now when I live over 500 miles away from Wittenberg, I can rely on a fantastic and supportive alumni network in Washington, D.C.”
- By Devon Atchison ’19, University Communications