Who We Are

Karen Chapple HeadshotKaren Chapple
Director

Karen Chapple, Ph.D., is the inaugural Director of the School of Cities at the University of Toronto, where she also serves as Professor in the Department of Geography and Planning. She is Professor Emerita of City & Regional Planning at the University of California, Berkeley, where she served as department chair and held the Carmel P. Friesen Chair in Urban Studies. Chapple studies inequalities in the planning, development, and governance of regions in the U.S. and Latin America, with a focus on economic development and housing. Her recent books include Planning Sustainable Cities and Regions: Towards More Equitable Development (Routledge, 2015), which won the John Friedmann Book Award from the American Collegiate Schools of Planning; Transit-Oriented Displacement or Community Dividends? Understanding the Effects of Smarter Growth on Communities (with Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, MIT Press, 2019); and Fragile Governance and Local Economic Development: Theory and Evidence from Peripheral Regions in Latin America (with Sergio Montero, Routledge, 2018). She has published recently on a broad array of subjects, including the use of big data to predict gentrification (in Environment and Planning B), the fiscalization of land use (in Landscape and Urban Planning), urban displacement (in the Journal of Planning Literature and Cityscape), competition in the electric vehicle industry (in Local Economy), job creation on industrial land (in Economic Development Quarterly), regional governance in rural Peru (in the Journal of Rural Studies), and accessory dwelling units as a smart growth policy (in the Journal of Urbanism). Read more here.
 

Katherine Danks, Programs Officer, Education
Katherine Danks
Programs Officer

Katherine joins the School of Cities as the Programs Officer and comes to us from the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, where she has been a part of the Advancement and Alumni Relations administrative team for over three years. Prior to that she developed and ran her own business in designing and facilitating experiential creative leadership and strategic visioning programs.
Katherine began her career in advertising and worked at Anderson DDB as an Account Executive and later as New Business Supervisor, where she helped develop strategy and conducted research to advance new business.
Katherine has a genuine interest in using creativity in approaching problem solving and innovation. She holds a B.F.A. (Honours) from York University and a certificate in Adult Training and Development from OISE at the University of Toronto.

 

Richard Florida
Distinguished Scholar in Residence

Richard Florida is University Professor at University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management and the School of Cities, where he also serves as Chief Urbanist in the Creative Destruction Lab. He is a Distinguished Fellow at New York University.

He is the author of more than ten books including The Rise of the Creative Class and more than one hundred books chapters and articles in peer-reviews academic journals. 

He is a Senior Editor at The Atlantic, where he co-founded and serves as Editor-at Large for CityLab, the world’s leading publication devoted to cities and urbanism.

Florida previously taught at Carnegie Mellon, George Mason University and Ohio State University, and has been a visiting professor at Harvard and MIT and a non-resident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution. He earned his Bachelor’s degree from Rutgers College and his PhD from Columbia University.

 

Prof. Mark Fox

Mark S. Fox
Senior Advisor & Director, Urban Data Centre

Professor Mark Fox is Distinguished Professor of Urban Systems Engineering and Professor of Industrial Engineering and Computer Science. He is also the Director of the Centre for Social Services Engineering and the U of T Enterprise Integration Laboratory. His current research applies artificial intelligence to smart cities, and he has developed ontologies for the representation of city information and knowledge which are being adopted by cities around the world. Professor Fox has led numerous collaborations within academia and with industry and government partners, and is currently leading the Connaught-funded Urban Genome Project, a multidisciplinary initiative focused on understanding urban growth. In addition to his academic work, Professor Fox has extensive experience in the private sector. In 1984 he co-founded Carnegie Group Inc., one of the first companies to apply artificial intelligence to solving engineering, manufacturing, and telecommunications problems. He is a Fellow of the American Association for Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) and the Engineering Institute of Canada.

 

Ben Liu

 

Ben Liu
Executive Director

As the administrative lead, working with the School of Cities' senior leadership team, he provides leadership and strategic direction for the overall mission of the School, including programming and outreach, revenue generation and business administration activities, and ensures the efficient and effective management of the School’s resources. Administrative oversight includes finance, human resources, communications and branding, IT, facility operations and services, space management, capital and renovation project management, governance, as well as risk management. He brings over 24 years of experience across a range of higher education functions. 

Prior to joining the School, Ben was the Director of the Office of Professional Development & Career Strategies at the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy, and the founding Coordinator for Academic Service-Learning & Faculty Development at the University of Toronto’s Centre for Community Partnerships. 

Ben is also actively engaged in campus and community governance. He has served on many university committees and working groups, including the Academic Board, Committee on Academic Policy and Programs, Planning and Budget Committee, University Affairs Board, and the Service Ancillary Review Group of the Governing Council. As the vice-president of the board of directors of the then-Central Toronto Community Health Centres, he led the board accreditation process, board development and was the liaison to the Association of Ontario Health Centres. He has served on the boards of the Toronto Centre for Community Learning & Development and the Regent Park Community Health Centre. He is currently the Vice-Chair of the Faculty of Arts & Science Council and a board director for Arts Etobicoke.

 

Prof. Marieme Lo

Marieme Lo
Senior Advisor 

Professor Marieme Lo is the Director of the African Studies Program and Associate Professor in Women and Gender Studies. Professor Lo held the position of Associate Director (Education) for the School of Cities from July 2018 to June 2021. She has a Licence from Paris 1, Panthéon-Sorbonne, a MA from the University of Dakar (Senegal) and MSc and PhD from Cornell University. She has also held fellowships at the University of Oxford and Georgetown  University. Professor Lo’s work encompasses the political economy and creative dynamism of African urban informal economies, migration studies, female entrepreneurship, economic justice and rights to livelihood, with a focus on the dynamics of urban transformation, urban governance, resilience, urban poverty and inclusive urbanism, particularly in post-colonial cities. Her SSHRC funded research project, ‘Entrepreneurial Nomadism’, explores and maps women entrepreneurs’ transnational circuits and trade mobility in cities across three continents. Professor Lo is also engaged in collaboration with grassroots women’s organizations, civil society networks such as the West Africa Civil Society, and international organizations such as UN-Women, the World Food Programme, and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
 

Ravisha Mall's headshot

 

Ravisha Mall
Communications Officer

Ravisha Mall (she/her) is a queer India-born Canadian settler who joined the School of Cities after working as a communications specialist and content creator in corporate, public and non-profit sectors across three continents. She has a deep passion for equity and social justice issues and constantly seeks opportunities to further her learning and understanding of challenges faced by marginalized communities. Dedicated to optimizing available resources for strategic communication and media production initiatives while strengthening partnerships, she is currently investigating various tools of storytelling to impact opinions and counter misinformation in the digital public sphere.
 

 

Lara M

 

Lara Muldoon
Senior Partnerships, Engagement and Projects Officer

Lara joins the School of Cities after serving in various member and sponsor relations roles at the Toronto Region Board of Trade. She is a world traveler and passionate city builder who excels at creating partnerships and places to explore the economic, social, and cultural vitality of city regions. A graduate of U of T, Lara has also worked in educational publishing, financial services, and the public sector and serves as co-chair of Environmental Education Ontario.

 

 

Eric Miller's headshot

 

Eric Miller
Director, Mobility Lab

Professor Eric Miller focuses his research investigations within the area of transportation modelling and sustainable urban design. He is a pioneer in the development and application of agent-based microsimulation model systems in large urban contexts. As director of the University of Toronto Transportation Research Institute (UTTRI), his research is centered in the implementation of activity-based travel models for use in operational practice. This includes the development of integrated transportation-land use models that permit the analysis of the two-way interaction between transportation systems and urban form. His work serves to improve urban transportation best practices and policy decision-making and, thereby improves the quality of life in urban settings. Read more here.
 

 

Cecelia Pye, Project Manager, Creative Mixed-Use Initiative and Urban Pilot Lab

Cecelia Pye
Project Lead, Infrastructure Institute

Cecelia (she/her), MScPl, is an urban planner and the Project Lead of the new Infrastructure Institute at the School of Cities, leading the new hub's strategic planning, training, research, and advisory work. Cecelia brings creativity to all challenges, working previously for community groups and Business Improvement Areas. She led the movie nights in Trinity Bellwoods Park, the annual festival in Dundas Street West, and an apple pie baking competition to raise money for the Fort York Food Bank. Cecelia currently sits on the Steering Committee of Jane's Walk and acts as co-chair for the Social Purpose Real Estate Reference Group (Toronto). As a city builder, she is passionate about emerging technology as a tool in planning, transit equity, and meaningful engagement processes.
 

Nida Shams' headshot
 
Nida Shams
Finance and Administration Officer
 
Nida Shams (she/her/hers) has worked in various units across the University and is passionate about learning and helping people grow. Prior to joining the University, Nida worked with expatriates, assisted female offenders rehabilitate in the community, and provided suicide prevention & intervention to persons living with mental health conditions. Nida is an advocate of office pet and if you would like to assist her mission to get a School of Cities puppy, please email liu.ben@utoronto.ca to show your support.
 

 

Matti Siemiatycki's headshot

 

Matti Siemiatycki
Special Advisor & Director, Infrastructure Institute

Professor Matti Siemiatycki is Professor in the Department of Geography & Planning. His research focuses on delivering large-scale infrastructure projects, public-private partnerships, and the effective integration of infrastructure into the fabric of cities. Professor Siemiatycki was a faculty leader of StudentMoveTO, a joint initiative between the University of Toronto, York, Ryerson and OCADU that successfully developed a model for inter-university research collaboration and mobilization on city-building issues. Professor Siemiatycki is a highly engaged public scholar with a deep commitment to informing public discourse about city building. He regularly provides advice to governments, civic institutions and industry, and is a frequent commentator in the media and public realm on urban issues, with a honed ability to communicate with various audiences.