"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?
Coming into my PhD, my initial research focus was on energy efficiency and using whole building energy performance modelling to a low energy performing building based in the Middle East. A side project related to a smart city switched my research focus, and for my PhD research I analyzed smart city definitions and frameworks and re-defined the smart city concept (the new definition overlaps with sustainability and resiliency concepts). My next paper will determine if cities are as smart as they are made out to be. I have, however, not lost my interest in energy and low energy performing buildings, as I have a LEED AP BD+C credential, a LEED credential focused on new building design and construction.
What has motivated your interests and journey? How do you hope to make a difference?
I am concerned about my son’s future. We are currently taking late and insufficient actions to mitigate the impacts of global warming, while already experiencing extreme temperatures, frequent floods, droughts, and melting glaciers, to name a few impacts. I dread to imagine how much worse it will be for my son in the next decade or two if we do not take more timely and severe actions. I taught GGR314 Global Warming in Summer 2020 and I will be teaching it again this Summer 2021. I hope to inform my students of the science, impacts, and policy actions related to global warming, and also inspire them to take actions in their personal, academic, and professional lives.
What’s the latest project you have been working on that you would like to share with the SofC audiences?
Delving into the definitions and frameworks of smart cities during my PhD research made me realize that there is just so much focus on being labelled as a “smart” city, but people have their own version of what “smart” means. There are also other trending labels such as “intelligent city,” “sustainability city,” and “resilient city” that I think we are prioritizing labelling instead of focusing on finding synergistic and holistic solutions to resolve urban problems. I want to point out that we need to shift from a label-centric to a people-centric urban planning mindset while bearing in mind that global warming impacts must also be mitigated.
As a student, researcher and or activist, what have you learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and its global impact? How do you envision post-pandemic recovery? What do you hope for?
It was established before COVID-19 that we are in a state of climate emergency, yet our actions are too little and possibly too late. It took the COVID-19 pandemic to demonstrate the possibility of governments to enact emergency measures and the possibility of people to adhere to those measures, even though there are a few who choose to disobey the rules. The pandemic has also shown a lot of other systemic problems such as injustices and inequalities, and discussions related to post-pandemic recovery are no longer just focusing on sustainability and resilience, but also on addressing these systemic problems. I hope that post-pandemic, people and governments do not forget the hard and painful lessons learnt during the pandemic.
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?
I needed to get out of my PhD bubble (just myself with occasional communication with my supervisor) and, as I had hoped, School of Cities introduced me to a network of amazing scholars with equally amazing experiences and ideas, some of which have inspired developments in my own project. I am looking forward to the symposium to hear about everyone’s deliverables. I also look forward to the meetings where we hear about everyone’s updates; it is comforting to have a community where you know you are not alone in terms of your struggles and your project’s progress.
Any final word or message?
Thank you very much for having me in the Urban Leadership Fellowship and Academy and for giving me this platform to showcase my project. 😊
Catherine Jimenea is currently a 6th year PhD candidate at the department of geography and planning with a research focus on smart cities, specifically, in smart city fundamentals and the validity of cities’ self-proclamations as “smart.” She is interested in global warming and climatic change: she has a Master of Environmental Science from UTSC, has a current collaborative specialization with UofT’s School of Environment’s Environmental Studies, and has taught a global warming course during the summer 2020 term. Catherine is also a LEED AP and is a member of the Canadian Green Building Council’s Emerging Green Professionals Greater Toronto Chapter.