John Njord received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Utah Department of Civil Engineering.
Njord received the Distinguished Alumni Award and was inducted into the CE Academy. The award is given to an “alumnus that has been influential in education, industry, business, government, or construction,” according a Department of Civil Engineering newsletter.
Njord’s leadership has “made this transportation agency the envy of transportation agencies across the country and in fact, around the world,” says UDOT Deputy Director Carlos Braceras. “John is one of those exceptional leaders that allowed every employee in this agency to be their best.”
Njord joined the Utah Department of Transportation in 1988 after graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering degree from the University of Utah. He worked as a Field Engineer, Local Governments Liaison Engineer, Engineer for Urban Planning, Director of Olympic Transportation Planning and Deputy Director before becoming Executive Director in 2001.
Braceras credits Njord’s “natural leadership and his caring for the employees” for making UDOT “a productive place to make a difference.”
Njord said he was “shocked” and “obviously honored” on learning of his selection, especially in light of previous recipients and their accomplishments in this community. “I realize that in many ways I am the face of the department – I am the front guy,” he said. Njord believes that the accomplishments made by department employees “has drawn recognition to me.”
Under his direction, Njord has led the effort to use innovative solutions to improve the transportation system in Utah. UDOT leads the nation in Accelerated Bridge Construction. Thirty-seven bridges associated with interstate highways have been built off-site and moved into place. The agency has pioneered the design and construction of innovative intersections and interchanges that have enhanced traffic mobility.
His role as he sees it is “to provide an environment where folks feel like they can solve problems.” Njord seeks to foster “a healthy environment where the best ideas can come forward.”
While some think of engineers as professionals who seek to work strictly by the book, Njord takes exception to that view. “True engineering begins as textbook engineering,” said Njord. “When you depart from ‘chug and plug’ engineering, all the innovation lights can turn on.”
Njord believes that any engineering problem can be solved when employees are willing to explore any idea. “And in the end, we are doing a great service for the citizens of our state.”
“I believe most of our employees go home and think ‘we’re doing good things.’”
The other CE Academy inductees are:
C. Ross Anderson