- What are you currently working on? What are your research and engagement interests?
I’m pursuing graduate studies in Cities Engineering and Management so I may upskill and retool for the challenges and opportunities of a global, urbanized world. I’m interested in the role of cities and infrastructure, supporting urban futures and nurturing the social imagination. Having learned the state-of-the-art about sustainability and resilience, my career goal is to impact the character and trajectory of urbanization and reconceptualize engineering for the Anthropocene. In addition to my Fellowship with the School of Cities, I’m working on a project with my colleagues in Civil Engineering. For the COVID-19 Student Engagement Award, we investigated the environmental impacts of handwashing with soap and hand sanitizing. We further compared and disaggregated the carbon footprint of each hand hygiene practice.
What has motivated your interests and journey? How do you hope to make difference?
My earliest memories feature cities. Born in south Calgary and raised by ambitious Hong Kong immigrants, I have fond memories of the prairie skies and urban skyline. During my undergrad at UBC, I was fortunate to expand my cognitive horizons from transportation engineering to life cycle assessment. But most rewarding in this chapter of my life was the opportunity to come out of the closet as queer-identified and confront deep anxieties about being Chinese-Canadian. Now in Toronto, I know that cities and agency are intimately linked for me. Beyond career aspirations, I want to invest in people. Holding empathy paramount, I hope to foster empowering conversations and model transformational leadership so that others may realize their best selves and thrive through life’s challenges.
What’s the latest project you have been working on and would like to share with the SofC audiences?
My Fellowship project explores urban resilience for flood mitigation in Calgary, Canada. Entitled “Place Identity: Urban Water and the Anthropocene”, I’m underway with a desktop study of Calgary’s ongoing post-disaster response to the severe flooding of June 2013. I’m investigating narratives about the floodplain, resilience, and city building in conjunction with a multi-scalar spatial analysis of interventions to ask “who, what, when, where, and why” about the (re)production of urban resilience. As ideas about resilience continue to permeate the public consciousness—especially given COVID-19’s impacts on cities—this case study reconciles emergent research questions with industry practices. Through this work, I hope to add nuance and a critical lens towards a politics of resilience as we imagine a post-pandemic world.
As a student, researcher and or activist, what have you learned from the pandemic and its global impact?
While the pandemic’s global reach and asymmetric impact have offered countless moments of pause, I’d like to share one takeaway: I learned that I play an active role in shaping the social imagination. Leaning on Geoff Mulgan’s paper, I am inspired to ideate tangible, near-term futures. While the pandemic gave us the “15-Minute City” in complement to the Smart City, the Sponge City, and other urban futures, there remain challenges and opportunities to weave human agency back into the urban fabric. For example, what are the emergent paradigms and organizing principles for reconceptualizing post-police cities and anti-racist societies? How might we leverage infrastructure and community empowerment to address systemic inequality? Please do reach out with your ideas about the social imagination.
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?
For me, the School of Cities functioned as a forum for cross-pollinating ideas among courses and disciplines. The experience reinvigorated my curiosity and instilled confidence to formulate and pursue an open-ended research project that I’m proud of. And this research has complemented my professional degree: it allowed me to synthesize core competencies in Cities Engineering and Management, bridging my technical background with social and political domains, and reconciling engineering with disciplines like geography and industrial ecology. It has been both inspirational and aspirational to listen and learn from the diverse perspectives and insights of my Fellowship colleagues and Academy cohort.
Any final words/ message?
I’m deeply grateful for this enrichment experience as a Graduate Fellow with the School of Cities and my overall intellectual journey at the University of Toronto. I am looking for opportunities in policy, public space, infrastructure and urban development, sustainability and resilience, and asset management. I look forward to making an impact, so please free to reach out (firstname.lastname@example.org) or connect with me. As the pandemic’s dynamics continue to evolve, I hope you stay well and keep safe.