Students in the Spotlight: Garrett Morgan

September 23, 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.

A bespectacled smiling man, with a red tie, against a bookshelf


  • What are you currently working on?  What are your  research and engagement interests? 
    I am currently reading for my comprehensive exams and working on two related projects. First, I am a Research Associate and Mitacs Accelerate Intern on the 'Connected Communities in a Time of Physical Distancing: Community-led responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic in Toronto’ led by one of my co-supervisors, Blake Poland, at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, which is funded by TCAI and the School of Cities. Second, I am a Doctoral Researcher on the interdisciplinary SSHRC funded project lead by my other co-supervisor, John Robinson, at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, Department of Civil and Mineral Engineering, and John H Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design, entitled: ‘Practicing Wellbeing in the Built Environment: The Social Practice of Wellbeing in U of T Living Labs’.
  • What  has motivated your interests  and journey?  How do you hope to make  a difference?
    I grew up in a small town in the Rust Belt which is largely ignored, left behind, or openly dismissed by policy makers at the state and national level. My ‘career’ and educational history meandered between the Nashville music industry, teaching high-school, paving highways, architecture school in Scotland, and planning and development roles with the public, private, and non-profit sectors in rural, suburban, and urban environments in the U.S. and Canada. I’m fortunate to have ended back at the University of Toronto pursuing a Ph.D. in the Department of Geography & Planning where my research focuses on the complex intersections between resilience, sustainability, and community wellbeing. As an academic, I hope to have the opportunity to work at the international level alongside community and political leaders in the kinds of small towns and post-industrial cities where I practiced as a planner to support resilient, equitable, just, and sustainable communities. 
  • What’s the latest project you’ve been working on and would like to share with the SofC audiences?
    In addition to the on-going projects I previously mentioned, right now I am working on a Rapid Review of COVID-19 Tasks Forces with Victoria Haldane at the Institute for Health Policy, Evaluation, and Management at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health and Suan Ee Ong at the National University of Singapore funded by a UofT COVID-19 Student Engagement Grant.  
  • As a student, researcher and/or activist, what have you learned from the pandemic and its global impact?  
    To me the pandemic has illustrated the strengthening and entrenchment of the very individuals and organizations responsible for creating the conditions for the pandemic in the first place. This is especially true in our city. Despite initial signs for profound structural changes and temporary reduction in carbon emissions, the same self-appointed Toronto ‘city builders’ that benefit from and enforce the status quo, who are in large part responsible for the long-term and intentional systematic suppression of marginalized, racialized, and low-income communities, have doubled-down and strengthened their positions of power behind a veneer of shallow calls of ‘We’re all in this Together” or promises to ‘build back better.’ The antidote to the doubling down of pre-pandemic systems of oppression, however, is shining in places where the pandemic has hit the hardest. Every day I hear of communities taking care of one another when those who promised to be there for them, whether the city, a corporation, a non-profit or a politician, has abandoned their responsibilities. I just hope we remember who showed up and who didn’t when this is over.  
  • 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 has been a welcome salve to the isolation inherit to doctoral research, which has only increased as a result of the on-going pandemic. I’m grateful to the SofC for providing an opportunity to connect with graduate and undergraduate students working outside of my own research interests and disciplines. Following the work of my peers has also provided a welcome antidote to the oppressive media narratives of the pandemic and geo-political collapse in the United States and abroad.  

Student Bio:

Garrett is an urban planner and sustainable development consultant with professional experience in the public, private, and non-profit sectors in Canada and the United States. A PhD student in Planning, his research broadly explores community resilience, sustainable transitions, global health, and climate governance. At UofT, he is a member of two collaborative specializations: Global Health at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health and Environment & Health at the School of the Environment. He is also a Junior Fellow at Massey College. In addition to serving as a teaching assistant in the Department of Geography and Planning and John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design, Garrett currently works as a Research Assistant on a CIHR-funded Healthy and Resilient Cities research project as well as at the Sustainable Built Environments Performance Assessment (SBEPA) network. 
He holds a Masters of Science in Planning (MScPl) from the University of Toronto, a Masters of Science in Urban Regeneration (MSc) from the University of Edinburgh, and a Bachelors of Arts in History from Vanderbilt University. Additionally he is a registered LEED Green Associate and WELL Accredited Professional. 
Outside of academia, Garrett enjoys travelling with his wife who is an art historian spending lazy weekends with their two cats: Hogan and Gertrude.