Students in the Spotlight - Arina Dmitrenko

July 24, 2020 by School of Cities Staff
"Students in the Spotlight" is a conversation series with members of the SofC Student Academy and Urban Leadership Fellowship program.

  • What are you currently working on? What are your research and engagement interests? 
    As a current member of the SofC Student Academy, I am working on a research project with the Infrastructure and Design group. The project focuses on assessing the accessibility of COVID-19 deemed “basic necessities” in the neighborhoods of Trinity-Bellwoods and Morningside within the Greater Toronto Area. The research aims to highlight access in relation to modes of mobility, in an attempt to assess how accessibility will change as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to this project, my research interests include municipal planning and city development, post-Soviet state development, and comparative governance.
  • What has motivated your interests and journey? How do you hope to make difference?
    My underlying motivation for my interest in urban development, as well as post-Soviet states, is the desire to understand my own history. The first eight years of my life were spent in Riga, Latvia. Studying the region forces me to marry the fond-childhood memories with certain historic realities. I hope my study of the region will accompany my personal view of the space and I will be able to fuse the two components to produce wholistic research that makes recommendations with the region’s best interest at heart.

  • What’s the latest project you have been working on and would like to share with the SofC audiences?
    One of the tasks on my hands is identifying an idea which would develop to be my master’s thesis. I will be beginning my master’s program with the Center of European, Russian, and Eurasian studies at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy in the fall, as a result, I have been trying to pinpoint a direction for my thesis now to alleviate some of the busy scheduling which will inevitably take over in the fall.

  • As a student, researcher and or activist, what have you learned from the pandemic and its global impact? 
    One of the greatest lessons of the pandemic, it seems to me, is that there are limitations on our individualistic approaches. I think the pandemic highlighted “the community” beyond the typical narrow associations we have grown accustomed to. By witnessing the virus transcend borders and age groups, our sense of community has inevitably shifted even further to encompass a more global view. I think this kind of consciousness will guide future research more than it has in the past.

  • Please share with us your experiences at the SofC. How do you think being a member of the SofC Urban Leadership Fellowship and Academy Program has contributed to your scholarship and added to your experience as a student? 
    The School of Cities Academy Program has given me the ability to formulate my own research without the constraints placed upon by my courses or programs. This in itself is a wonderful opportunity to explore personal strengths and weaknesses pertaining to research design, methodology and execution. As a result, participation in this program continues to make me a more thoughtful and stronger researcher.

  • Any final words/ message?
    The School of Cities provides students with the opportunity to explore research avenues which help them grow and develop their own research skills in new and exciting ways.



Student Bio:

Since starting at U of T, Arina, who is now in her final year, has developed her political interests by being involved on campus and in election campaigns. Apart from her political endeavours, Arina is very involved in the Model United Nations community at U of T and is also the president of the European Studies Students’ Association on campus. Arina developed an interest in urban development & governance mid-way through her 3rd year and has since pursued academic research abroad in Tbilisi, Georgia. Her research in Tbilisi focused on urban development and the “Smart City” concept in relation to post-Soviet architecture. As part of the School of Cities Academy, Arina will be exploring a project which will be Assessing Ontario's Accessibility Goals: Toronto and the Gentrified Periphery.