"Students in the Spotlight" is a conversation series with members of the SofC Urban Leadership Fellowship and Academy program
What are your research and engagement interests?
I love thinking about how the city works as an ecosystem - how urban form has a direct impact on how we live, work, and play. I am most interested in the ways in which space intersects with cultural identity, belonging, diasporic communities, and race. That is, looking at questions of: who get to use and make decisions about spaces in our cities? How does that affect which communities are marginalized, and which are included? How does built form shape ideas of belonging and identity for communities? I see storytelling as the best approach to understanding complex urban issues in a deeply nuanced, human way. I love to chat with people and hear their stories, as well as process my own ideas through visual art.
What’s the latest project you have been working on that you would like to share with the SofC audiences?
Through the School of Cities Urban Leadership Fellowship and Academy, I am currently working on an illustrated zine research project titled "Chasing Chinatown : Understanding the past, present, and future of Toronto’s Downtown Chinatown as a contested space of cultural placemaking." Another current project that I have been co-organizing and am very excited about is "Friends of the Temple Bell" (find us at @jcctemplebell on Instagram). It's a project to collect, archive, and share stories and photos about the Japanese Canadian Centennial Temple Bell at Ontario Place. As this cultural monument's future is quite uncertain at the moment, alongside the rest of the park, I think it's really important that we are able to collect these largely unwritten stories from folks in the community.
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 SofC Urban Leadership Fellowship and Academy really introduces you to new people with the same values and different interests! The support from the SofC team is incredible with spreading information about your event, handling back-end tech on zoom and connecting you with folks. I love speaking to Dr. Lo and my mentor about the project and developing it. From the fellowship meetings, I have actually connected with another fellow who I meet to farm with on the weekends!
Any final words or message?
Hearing about the work my fellow peers are engaged in and getting to meet folks who are so passionate about their areas of research has been the highlight of my experience at the School of Cities. Being in this community has challenged me and given me plenty of inspiration for my own work!
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.