The School of Cities Student Academy is a tri-campus interdisciplinary academic platform to foster student academic and social engagement and leadership in city-building and urban scholarship. It is a student-led intellectual hub for undergraduate and graduate students’ collaborative learning and professional development, and their pursuit of critical and ethical analysis of complex urban challenges and urban education in the Greater Toronto Area, Canada and globally.
School of Cities Student Fellows are current U of T students with strong interest in and passion for urban issues and critical challenges and are leading an innovative and impactful project this term. Meet our Fellows:
2021 Student Fellows
Program of Study: Bachelor's of Science in Psychology and Statistical Studies (UTSG)
Project Title: Enabling Inclusive Cities: Algorithms, Open Data, City-Building and Urbanism
Fatima is pursuing an Honours Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology and Statistics at the University of Toronto. She is passionate about community building and engagement while leveraging human-centered design for social change. Driven by her passion for building inclusive and equitable cities that engage diverse communities – she likes digging into complex urban issues and producing insightful, data-driven strategic recommendations on any projects that she works on. She is an advocate for using education as a tool for transformation and has worked with diverse groups of people in community-based initiatives that help to enact social change. Fatima enjoys connecting ideas and leveraging the intersection of intelligent AI systems, human behaviour, and the social sciences. She looks forward to creating accessible and interactive physical and digital experiences that are based upon equity in the urban context.
Program of Study: Bachelor's of Arts in Political Science (UTM)
Project Title: The Disappearing Face of Compassion: Legacy of Jakarta’s Forced Evictions Policy on Urban Riverbank Slums
Andi Darell Alhakim is a third-year undergraduate specializing in Political Science. A Lester B. Pearson Scholar, Andi’s passions in social equity and environmental justice have brought him to current posts as co-directors for the Hart House Debates & Dialogue Committee and the University of Toronto Environmental Action, and has been invited to speak as panelist and facilitator at official University events. His experiences working for the Indonesian Foreign Ministry’s SDGs Directorate and President Gertler’s Advisory Committee on the Environment, Climate Change, and Sustainability inform his advocacy for community and institutional action. Recently, Andi co-founded the Berlayar Project which mentors, networks, and develops the soft-skills of college-bound students living outside urban centres in his native Indonesia.
Program of Study: Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, Criminology, & Sociolegal Studies, and Caribbean Studies (UTSG)
Project Title: Resiliency and Equitable Development: Facilitating Sustainable Urban Spaces in Small Island Developing States
David Allens is currently in his fourth-year of study pursuing an Honours Bachelors of Arts degree from the University of Toronto with a double major in Political Science, and Criminology and Socio-Legal Studies and a minor in Caribbean Studies. David’s academic interests include: the use of non-fiction narrative to highlight the implications of policy decisions, socially constructed understandings of race and identity and their repercussions on the Caribbean, as well as sustainable economic growth in small island developing states. He has worked as an Undergraduate Research Fellow on the Discovering University Worlds project. He received his Project Management Professional (PMP) Certification through UofT School of Continuing Studies and had an internship as a component coordinator on an Inter-American Development Bank funded programme aimed at reducing instances of crime and violence in The Bahamas. Responsibility as a Project Manager includes managing output competition with a $3.8M USD budget for the component which deals with improving the employability and employment of at-risk-youth on the most populated island in the country.
Program of Study: Bachelor's of Science in Health Studies and Equity Studies (UTSG)
Project Title: Youth-Led Civic Engagement Campaigns: A Study of the Toronto Youth Cabinet
Sophia DiNicolo is pursuing an Honours Bachelor of Arts at the University of Toronto, specializing in Health Studies and minoring in Equity Studies. Sophia is passionate about addressing the social determinants of health using an equity lens. She is the Co-Chair of Hart House Social Justice Committee, and Co-Editor in Chief of the Health Perspectives Undergraduate Academic Journal. Additionally, she is a leader within her community at Trinity College, working to create an inclusive and welcoming environment for all. Sophia also leads the Urban Health Working Group at the Toronto Youth Cabinet, where she advocates for healthy public policy.
Program of Study: Bachelor's of Science in Physiology and Cell & Systems Biology (UTSG)
Project Title: Supporting Long-Term Care Residents’ Ethno-cultural Needs in Times of Crisis
Randa is a third-year undergraduate student majoring in Physiology and Cell & Systems Biology at Trinity College, University of Toronto. Her research focuses on neurodegenerative diseases, which she witnesses the effects of in her roles as a Restorative Care Aide at Hawthorne Place Care Centre and as an in-patient support volunteer at Toronto Rehabilitation Institute. Randa is interested in working in health policy to make health services and health care delivery more inclusive and equitable.
Program of Study: Bachelor's of Science in Physiology and Cell & Systems Biology (UTSC)
Project Title: Resiliency of Parkdale Frontline Healthcare Workers During a Pandemic.
Chemi is currently pursuing a double major in Neuroscience and Psychology at UofT Scarborough, where she served as the former CEO/President and Vice President Equity and the Racialized Students' Collective coordinator of the Student's Union. Chemi, the recipient of the first ever Tibetan Global Youth Icon Award is the youngest board member to have served the Canadian Tibetan Association of Ontario and has also served the board of Student's for a Free Tibet Canada. She's a UofMosaic fellow recognized as a community leader by Members of Parliament and is a speaker at various community engagements across the world.
Program of Study: Bachelor's of Arts in History and Peace, Conflict, & Justice Studies (UTSG)
Project Title: The Great Divide: Economic Inequality In Major Urban Centres
William Lloyd is a second-year undergraduate student at the University of Toronto St. George Campus. William currently serves as Co-President of the U of T Model UN Team, as a Lead Analyst for the G7 Research Group, as a Columnist for The Varsity, and as a Executive Team Member for the Hart House Debates and Dialogues Committee. He has previously interned for The NATO Association of Canada and The Blue Lab, a progressive political consultancy. His writing has been published in the Harvard International Review, the Oxford Political Review, the Princeton Diplomat, and the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs.
Program of Study: Bachelor's of Arts in Geography & Planning and Visual Studies (UTSG)
Project Title: Time is Up: A Multi-Sensory Experience of Climate Change in Urban Settings
Sara Maclure is a 3rd year Geography and Visual Studies student at the University of Toronto whose research interests lie in political and climate change art. She aims to visually and experientially call attention to severe social and environmental problems through installation art and large-scale paintings. Despite substantial research on these critical issues, the global community has failed to enact meaningful change. Sara believes that macro-scale art can simulate first-hand experience – something that cannot be conveyed through conventional forms of research – and serves as an effective vehicle to prompt the urgent action required for progressive social and environmental reform.
Maha Mohamed and Yerin Lee
Project Title: Supporting Youth in Scarborough Village: Encouraging Diversity in Science and Higher Education
Program of Study: Bachelor's of Science in Human Biology (UTSG)
Maha is a fourth-year student studying Human biology with a specialist in Health & Disease at University of Toronto. Her research interests include health inequality, social determinants of health and applying a social justice lens to health inequities. She recognizes that health care accessibility can not be tackles without recognizing the structural barriers that play a direct role. The approach to an equitable future in healthcare, must take an interdisciplinary approach as there are several factors that contribute to it and a one-size-fits all approach will not be effective in allowing the needs of marginalized groups to be met.
Program of Study: Bachelor's of Science in Global Health, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (UTSG)
Yerin is an undergraduate student at Trinity College pursuing a degree in global health and ecology and evolutionary health. She is passionate about advancing equal representation and accessibility to higher education. With the Department of Human Biology and YouthLink – Pathways to Education, Yerin is developing a project that aims to lower the high school drop-out rate and encourage the pursuit of higher education among marginalized and at-risk youth in Scarborough Village, which remains an underserved area with few infrastructural resources.
Program of Study: Bachelor's of Arts in Public Policy and English (UTSC)
Project Title: Women's Navigation of Space on Public Transit
Farah Rahim is a fourth-year undergraduate student at the University of Toronto Scarborough, pursuing a double major in English and Public Policy Co-op. Currently she is the president of the Students of English Literature and Film (SELF) and also works as an undergraduate research assistant in the Department of English. This year she completed an 8 month work term at the Ministry of Transportation where she worked on the Community Transportation Grant Program team and gained knowledge of the policy making process in government. Farah is interested in transportation policy and accessibility especially as it relates to low-income and vulnerable groups in the City of Toronto.
Muhammad Ali Sajid
Program of Study: Bachelor’s in Economics, Mathematics, and Statistics (UTSG)
Project Title: Spatial Inequality in Ontario: An Interactive Dashboard
Muhammad is a 4th-year undergraduate student finishing up a B.S. (Hons) in Economics with double minors in Mathematics and Statistics. He is an international student from Pakistan with a full-ride at the university under the Lester B. Pearson International Scholarship program. His research interests lie in applied microeconomics, econometrics, and development economics. In addition to his research work as a Laidlaw Scholar and a Reach Project researcher, Muhammad is involved in campus life and student activism at the university, prominently as President of the Pakistan Development Foundation.
Program of Study: Bachelor's of Arts in International Development Studies and Human Geography (UTSC)
Project Title: Organizing Alternative Mapping Methods with Scarborough Studies Collective
Rajpreet (she/her) is currently based in Tkaronto and is a fourth-year student in International Development Studies co-op and majoring in Human Geography (UTSC). She engages with alternative and community power mapping as research practice and currently working on her thesis on the public memorialization processes of the disappeared in Kathmandu, after completing a 10-month placement. As a spacemaker and builder, she values critical/feminist pedagogy, site-specific projects and community-based arts. At UTSC, she is the VP internal for the Geography and City Studies Student Association, a research and outreach assistant for the Women and Gender Studies Department and the community programs director for the consent culture campaign for the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union.
Program of Study: Bachelor's of Arts in Architectural Studies (UTSG)
Project Title: FUTUREPROOF: Building Typology of the Future, Analysed from the COVID-19 Lens
Ecem Sungur is an ambitious architecture student and Lester B. Pearson scholar who analyses current issues in urban cities and aims to provide a futuristic lens on the current understanding of architecture. Believing that architecture exists within its context, she aspires to analyse and work on emerging technologies that have the possibility of shaping the future of architecture, specifically adaptive architecture. Internalizing the current issues of cities including crisis management and housing problem, she works on multiple volunteer, mentorship, and leadership projects, involving students. With her future architectural projects, Ecem aims to make a positive impact on society.
Program of Study: Bachelor's of Arts in International Relations, Political Science, and European Union Studies (UTSG)
Project Title: Becoming a Global City in the Balkans: A Study of Tirana, Albania
Foti Vito is a fourth-year student completing a double major in International Relations and Political Science with a minor in European Union Studies and Global Scholar designation. A diligent student leader, Foti has served as Executive of the Arts and Science Students’ Union, Vice-Chair of Arts and Science Council, and Student Head of Trinity College. He is passionate about global justice and conducted fieldwork on peace-building in Kosovo and judicial reform in Georgia. Throughout his studies, Foti has led community-driven advocacy and research initiatives with the Mosaic Institute, UNHCR Canada, G7 Research Group, CCR2P, and founded Balkan Commons.
Program of Study: Bachelor's of Arts in Architectural Studies (UTSG)
Project Title: 510 Spadina: Documenting Toronto’s Chinatown as a Contested Space of Cultural Placemaking
Charmain is a fourth year Architectural Studies student at the Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design. She loves thinking about the complex, layered workings of the city, and finds fascinating the ways in which urban form has a direct impact on how we live, work, and play in the city. She believes in design as a powerful tool for positive social impact. Charmain is passionate about the creation of spaces that are equitable and attentive to the needs of the communities using them, rooted in a practice of engaged dialogue and listening. Her interests lie in the ways in which space intersects with: cultural identity, belonging, diasporic communities, and race. She sees storytelling as the best approach to understand complex urban issues in a deeply nuanced, human way.
Program of Study: Bachelor's of Arts in Political Science and Sociology (UTM)
Project Title: The Anti-Racism Project: Addressing the Unique experiences of Being Black during COVID-19
Maya is a 3rd year Political Science and Sociology major with considerable community outreach and project management experience. She proudly holds executive positions in UTM’s Black Literature Club and UTM’s Black Students Association. She is also a work-study Ambassador for UTM’s Anti-Racism Task Force. Indeed, her educational and professional backgrounds have aligned well with her personal interest in community development and anti-racist activism. Maya’s research focuses on the socio-economic disparities affecting Toronto’s Black youth amid COVID-19. As she eventually hopes to expand her scope to an international level, Maya’s other research interests include the reform of developmental policy in Mali.
Michelle (Yong Yi) Zhang
Program of Study: Bachelor's of Arts in Urban Studies, Peace, Conflict & Justice, and Human Geography (UTSG)
Project Title: Plugged In: Space, Place, and Belonging in a Virtual World
Michelle is an undergraduate student specializing in Urban Studies, majoring in Peace, Conflict and Justice, and minoring in Human Geography. She is interested in the placemaking, belonging, and urban innovation. She developed a keen interest in comparative smart and global city development while on exchange to Singapore, which she investigated further through the Asian Institute’s Insights Through Asia Challenge. She is currently developing a digitally activated urban consultation tool capable of bridging the gap between communities and decision makers. An active student leader, she takes her work in community development beyond academia and into the lives of people around her.
Program of Study: PhD in Social and Behavioural Health Sciences (UTSG)
Project Title: The World Health Organization (WHO)'s Urban HEART Initiative: Health Equity in Cities
Michelle Amri is a PhD candidate at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health. Her research investigates the World Health Organization (WHO)’s approach to equity and translation to policy and practice through investigating Urban HEART (which aims to improve health equity in cities). She has consulted for the WHO on numerous occasions, and is also a dedicated and passionate educator, having taught courses at the University of Toronto (St. George and Scarborough) and University of Victoria. She is also an associate with the Takemi Program in International Health at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health.
Program of Study: PhD in Geography and Planning (UTSG)
Project Title: WHAT IF[S]:Re-imagining Smart Cities and Digital Infrastructures Through Alternative Speculative Practices.
Gregoire Benzakin is a PhD student in the department of Geography and Planning, and serves as a teaching assistant in the department. At the intersection of infrastructure studies, more-than human geographies and speculative philosophy, his research explores the relations between sustainability and digital infrastructures. How does the growing digitalisation of our cities impact our understanding of urban environments? How do digital infrastructures affect various modes of existence and values? How do they impact and produce new kinds of ontological ordering and becoming? Gregoire is originally from France, and has a professional background in the public sector, European Union public policy and government relations. Gregoire holds a Masters of in Arts and Politics (MSc) from Sciences Po Paris, a Master of Arts in European Studies (MSc) from the University of Brussels (ULB), and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Sciences from the University of Brussels.
Program of Study: PhD in Physical and Environmental Sciences (UTSC)
Project Title: Archiving of Toronto's Urban Agricultural Stories, Practices, and Cultures Through Discussions and Knowledge Sharing
Menilek Beyene is an Environmental Sciences PhD student inspired to explore agroecology and forest systems in urban communities and natural environments. Menilek co-ordinated the New Frontiers’ Seminar Series from 2018 - 2020 and is currently the president of the Graduate Students’ Association at Scarborough. He completed his MSc. in ecology and evolutionary biology and was a research technician for BioForest Technologies Inc. As a first-generation Ethiopian in Canada, his concern with environmental injustice and food insecurity drives his efforts to deconstruct systemic barriers to land and food access. Menilek challenges dominant narratives through knowledge sharing, community engagement, and leadership.
Fernando Calderón Figueroa
Program of Study: PhD in Sociology (UTSG)
Project Title: Trust in the City: The Case of Toronto
Fernando is a PhD candidate at the Department of Sociology, University of Toronto, where he also obtained an M.A. degree. His dissertation addresses the relationship between the built infrastructure of cities and social capital in three different contexts: Canada, Peru, and Colombia. Fernando is a member of the Urban Genome Project, where he conducts interdisciplinary research on urban social policy and neighbourhood change. Before joining UofT, he worked for the Peruvian Ombudsman’s Office and the Peruvian Ministry of Culture developing policy-oriented data on political engagement, local communities, and indigenous peoples. Fernando’s main interests are urban and political sociology, social policy, and quantitative and computational methods. On his spare time, he enjoys cycling, swimming, and engaging in student activism.
Program of Study: PhD in Geography and Planning (UTM)
Project Title: Integrating Migrants through Inclusive Planning and Local Decision-Making Practices
Shervin Ghaem-Maghami is a second-year doctoral Planning student in the Department of Geography and Planning. His research interests centre on public participation in urban planning practice and newcomer relocation and settlement in the Greater Toronto Area. Shervin holds a Bachelor of Environmental Studies in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Waterloo and Master of Public Administration from Queen’s University. His prior professional experience includes positions in the Government of Ontario—including at the Ministry of the Environment, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, and the Ministry of Transportation—as well as roles in local government and the private and non-profit sectors.
Program of Study: PhD in Civil & Mineral Engineering (UTSG)
Project Title: How Is COVID-19 Affecting Bike Sharing in Toronto: Spatial and Temporal Ridership Change During the Pandemic
Sanjana Hossain is a Ph.D. candidate in Civil & Mineral Engineering at the University of Toronto. Her research interests include the development of data fusion methods for travel demand modelling, travel survey methods, and travel behaviour analysis. She is also an expert in econometric modelling and transportation policy analysis.
Program of Study: Master's of Geography & Planning, South Asian Studies, and Critical Development Studies (UTSG)
Project Title: Of Urban Fragments & Urban Community
Atif Khan is a researcher, writer and curator exploring text, image and curatorial practice based in what is currently called Rexdale, Toronto. Khan’s research driven practice intersects key themes of critical security, surveillance, science, technology, and visual studies. Khan's current SSHRC-funded MA dissertation works through the American and Pakistani use of militarized drone systems across national and planetary scales of (what is currently called) the United States, Afghanistan & Pakistan. Through critical theoretical and visual methods, I work alongside two key theorists – Jamaican philosopher Sylvia Wynter and Pakistani printmaker Zarina Hashmi. Other theoretical interests include the built environment and human warfare, political and social philosophy, and critiques of European liberal humanism.
Program of Study: PhD in Social Justice Education (UTSG)
Project Title: Disability and the Pandemic In Toronto: The Disabled Communities Experiences of Covid-19
Terri-Lynn Langdon is a feminist, disability studies and health equity scholar and activist in Social Justice Education at The Ontario Institute for Studies In Education. She has over 12 years of experience in the social work field. Terri-Lynn is passionate about helping people to achieve the best possible health and a meaning-making life. She can assist service-users to figure out how best to address their own challenges and be their authentic selves.
Program of Study: Master's of Public Policy (UTSG)
Project Title: Reimagining Urban Governance: Inclusive Urban Planning and Participatory Co-creation Through Civic Tech
Jeanne Lee is a Master of Public Policy (MPP) candidate at the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy, and previously did her undergraduate studies in Ethics, Society, and Law at the University of Toronto. Jeanne is currently leading a team of policy analysts on regulatory innovation and disruptive technologies at the Policy Innovation Initiative, and is assisting with govtech research at the Open Democracy Project. In January, she is set to conduct public-facing research on citizen engagement in local municipalities on the joint Urban Policy Lab and Samara Centre for Democracy’s Canadian Municipal Barometer project.
Program of Study: PhD in Geography (UTSC)
Project Title: Indigenous and Muslim Youth Belonging in Toronto, Canada: Navigating Urban Citizenship and the Right to the City
Hassan Nima is a 3rd year PhD student in Human Geography. His research focuses on Indigenous and Muslim youth belonging in the city of Toronto, exploring how youth navigate urban citizenship and the right to the city. Hassan is a curious and motivated scholar that is eager to contribute to the racial and cultural diversity and equity at the University of Toronto (as someone who identifies as Muslim, biracial and Indigenous) but also contribute to social change and challenging social injustices in geography and academia more broadly.
Program of Study: PhD in Political Science (UTSG)
Project Title: I'll Remember You in a Streetlight: Technology and Time in the Spectral City
Nathan Olmstead is a doctoral student in the Department of Political Science at the University of Toronto. His research interests include digital infrastructure, artificial intelligence, and political theory. His current project explores the ways in which ideas about time and progress inform the expanding world of data, algorithms, and digital governance. Leveraging post-structural and post-human notions of spectrality, his work investigates the relationship between alternative temporalities and more equitable forms of urban development. Originally from Northern Ontario, Nathan has also worked as a policy consultant and advocate on projects related to environmental sustainability, data policy, and animal welfare. His work has been published in journals such as Philosophy and Technology, Urban Studies, and Political Theology.
Program of Study: PhD in Women and Gender Studies, Sexual Diversity Studies (UTSG)
Project Title: Cartographies of Virtual Resilience: Art and Aesthetic Labour in Times of COVID-19
Ryan Persadie is a PhD candidate in Women and Gender Studies and Sexual Diversity Studies at the University of Toronto. He holds a MA in Ethnomusicology from the University of Toronto. His doctoral research investigates queer Indo-Caribbean diasporas are constituted by performance and specifically how popular music, dance, vocality, and embodiment offer salient archives for descendants of Indian indenture to cultivate as well as disrupt hetero/homonormative notions of sexual citizenship, belonging, desire, pleasure, subjectivity, and “Pride” in Toronto and New York City. Outside of academia Ryan is a community organizer with the Caribbean Equality Project and Queeribbean Toronto, and drag artist where he goes by the stage name of Tifa Wine.
Program of Study: Master's of Business Administration (UTSG)
Project Title: Affordable and Sustainable Living: Accelerating the Adoption of Mass Timber In Multi-Family Residential Development
As a current MBA Candidate at Rotman School of Management and a Master of Architecture graduate of the University of Waterloo, Clarence is an aspiring, passionate, and experienced architect and city builder with eight years of experience designing, leading and managing award-winning projects in the residential and mixed-use sectors. His passion lies in driving social and economic growth through real estate development. Through his fellowship at the School of Cities, Clarence will be examining the financial, architectural design, and construction challenges of mass timber in the multi-family residential and mixed-use development in Ontario. At the core of the project, Clarence is proposing a feasible mass timber finance - design - build approach to catalyze a sustainable and affordable real estate industry.
Program of Study: Master’s of Geography (UTM)
Project Title: Equitable Green Infrastructure for Urban Climate Change Adaptation: Distributional and Procedural Justice in the City of Toronto
Kristen Regier is a MA Candidate in the department of Geography and Planning at the University of Toronto. She is deeply interested in themes of climate change adaptation, environmental justice, resiliency, and sustainable design. Her current research looks at the potential use of green infrastructure for urban climate change adaptation and examines the related distributional and procedural equity in green infrastructure planning within Toronto.
Program of Study: PhD in Urban Planning (UTM)
Project Title: Looking for a Place to Go: Questioning the Lack of Universally Accessible Public Toilets for People with Disabilities in North America
Rhonda is a first-year PhD Urban Planning student. Her research considers accessibility of public toilet spaces in North America through a critical disability studies lens. She will explore how (lack of) provision of public washrooms designed to accommodate the specific toileting needs of people with severe and/or prolonged disabilities intersects with planning practice re inclusive/universal design in the built environment and governmental legislation. The purpose of her research is to counter the critical lack of planning and policy-making with regards to public toilet provision in North American cities, particularly for people with disabilities. Rhonda published “A Comparative Policy Analysis of Public Toilet Provision Initiatives in North American Cities: Recommendations for the Creation of a Public Toilet Strategy in Toronto.”
Andrew Michél Thomas
Program of Study: Master's of Human Geography (UTSG)
Project Title: Inter Alia: Life from the margins of the City
Andrew M. Thomas is a queer Jamaican-born Canadian settler who has lived much of his life in Canada. However, he now splits his time between Munich, Germany, and Toronto, Canada, with his partner and two cats, Reds and Fats, while pursuing graduate studies in human geography at the University of Toronto, St. George. His interest spans various subjects that include, but is not limited to, Black feminist thoughts, post-colonialism, queer colour of critique, human geography, intersectionality, native studies, philosophy of knowledge, ontology, and affect theory. Through the School of Cities 2021 Fellowship, he hopes to illuminate the interlocking role of differences within the city, the province and (social processes that permit or deny) access to equitable housing related to policy producers' positionalities. During the summers, he works as an English camp counsellor and an ESL facilitator in Munich, Germany, working with children, teens, and adults, and where he has lived and worked for the last twelve years.
2020 Student Fellows