What is the GNAR Academy?

The GNAR Academy is an online course library that seeks to fill in the gap between what community leaders and practitioners have the capacity for, and what their communities need, by providing accessible training around critical topic areas to help communities better understand and advocate for their own needs. We hope to keep adding courses to this library as resources become available, and we also welcome partnerships and/or sponsorships to help design future courses. If you are interested in sponsoring or supporting future GNAR Academy courses, please email Elizabeth Sodja at liz.sodja@usu.edu.

Who is the GNAR Academy Designed For? 

Our target audience for the GNAR Academy are community and organizational leaders with limited capacity in rural gateway and natural amenity communities across the West. That said, we hope any community leaders who are seeing growth, development, and/or planning challenges, regardless of geographic location or size, could benefit from this course.

The Academy is designed so that no formal training in community planning is needed to understand the content. We try to convey topics in a high-level, easy to understand way, so that anyone who has a desire to learn how to better help these places can benefit from it.

This could include:

  • Community leaders (mayors, city council members, county commissioners, etc.)
  • Community staff (clerks, city managers, economic development/tourism, planning)
  • Local leaders (planning & zoning boards, local NGO leaders)
  • Practitioners who work with gateway and/or GNAR communities
  • Academics who study these communities
  • University Extension professionals
  • Federal or state land management agency staff
  • Anyone passionate about these communities!

Course #1: GNAR Academy Fundamentals - Foundations for planning and collaboration in gateway communities and regions

GNAR Academy Lesson Map

This course consists of seven lessons, each of which introduces key concepts and principles that are important for helping GNAR communities thrive and effectively navigate challenges and change. The lessons in this course stem from our research on GNAR communities, as well as our experience living in and working with these places. They also highlight experiences and resources from specific GNAR communities.

Lessons in this course include:
  1. What is a GNAR Community?
  2. Finding and Following Your North Star – Turning Values into Vision
  3. Navigating Conflict: Fundamentals of Conflict and Collaboration
  4. Navigating Conflict: The Situation Assessment
  5. Empowering Community Engagement
  6. Working Across Boundaries
  7. Charting Your GNARly Future


What's In It For You?

Upon completion of this course, you will get the following: 

  • A digital certificate of completion from USU Extension
  • A digital badge that can be linked to your LinkedIn profile
  • Access to twice-yearly facilitated peer-to-peer learning and networking sessions with other course participants
  • Access to an online LinkedIn group of other GNAR community leaders who have taken GNAR Academy courses
  • 7 AICP Certificate Maintenance (CM) credits (for AICP members)

COST: $100
(use coupon code "TRAILBLAZER25" for 25% off for the first 50 registrants!)

This course is estimated to take ~6-8 hours to go through the main course content.  We've also included many additional links, resources, and "side trails" for participants to explore and watch at their leisure.

Register for GNAR Academy Fundamentals >  


GNAR Academy was made possible by initial sponsorship from the National Institute for Communities and Transportation, USU Extension, and the Utah Public Lands Initiative Mini-grant Program

The Academy is also supported by the following partners and organizations:

    EDR Logo                            apa             

Interested in sponsoring or supporting future GNAR Academy courses?
Please email Elizabeth Sodja at