SofC Staff

jeff allen headshotJeff Allen
Lead, Data Visualization

Jeff Allen is a cartographer and urban data scientist. He has an MA and PhD in Geography from the University of Toronto focusing on neighbourhood change, suburbanization of poverty, and transit accessibility in Canadian cities. He additionally holds a BASc in civil engineering, has worked as a data science and visualization consultant for public and non-profit organizations, and has published several academic journal articles and public reports. He has also taught courses and workshops in GIS, spatial analysis, urban geography, and transportation planning. Links to some of his creative projects can be found here (


Cassandra Alves's headshotCassandra Alves
Program Coordinator

Cassandra (she/her) is a multidisciplinary designer and graduate from Lund University in Sweden and OCADU. She brings a diverse skill set ranging from urban design, education/workshop-based environments, installation work and even furniture making. With a passion for laneway revitalization, she has worked with the Laneway Project and Lanescape supporting the movement for laneways as an untapped resource for public space and development in the city. She also brings recent experience engaging communities, leading projects, and advocacy work with Business Improvement Areas. Cassandra currently teaches a continuing studies course, Art, Architecture and public space at the Ontario College of Art and Design. As a versatile community builder, she is passionate about tactile urbanism, and community-led design and engagement processes.


Taylor Brydges's headshotTaylor Brydges
Research Officer

Taylor Brydges, Ph.D., is the Research Officer at the School of Cities at the University of Toronto. She is also a Course Instructor in the Master of Urban Innovation Program at the University of Toronto Mississauga. Taylor brings experience conducting research and publishing on a range of topics including sustainability and the transition to the circular economy, feminist economic geography, regional economic development, the impact of digital technologies on patterns and spaces of labour and entrepreneurship, and creative economies more broadly. Taylor holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Urban Studies and a Master of Arts in Human Geography from the University of Toronto. She completed her PhD in Human Geography at Uppsala University, Sweden.


Tony Chang HeadshotTony Chang
Communications Officer

Tony Chang holds a Bachelor of Arts in Culture, Communications, Information and Technology and Political Science from the University of Toronto Mississauga. During the pandemic, Tony became an entrepreneur in his hometown of Saint John, NB as a vendor at a local farmer’s market. Through this opportunity, he was able to connect with the community and found a passion for inclusivity and addressing homelessness.

Prior to joining the School of Cities, Tony was a website communications assistant at the Temerty Faculty of Medicine. He hopes to bring the knowledge and skills he acquired from his experiences to help the School of Cities advance its vision with the world.


Karen Chapple HeadshotKaren Chapple

Karen Chapple, Ph.D., is the 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 Dank's headshotKatherine 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.


Felicity Heyworth's headshotFelicity Heyworth
Senior Communications Officer

Originally trained as a librarian at U of T’s Faculty of Information, Felicity transitioned to the Communications sector early in her career, and today has almost twenty years of experience in non-profit and higher education institutions. She started her career in London, U.K., working at the Overseas Development Institute and Kings College London. Upon returning to her hometown of Toronto, she spent a decade at the Stephen Lewis Foundation, as a Communications officer and manager and as Manager of Foundation Partnerships. Most recently, Felicity spent four years at U of T’s Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy, where she oversaw the relaunch of the School’s website, managed social media accounts and the School newsletter, wrote feature articles and annual reports, and took on the many daily tasks of a very busy Communications team.

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.


Trish Mcgrath's headshot

Trish McGrath
Director of Development

Trish McGrath has joined the Faculty of Arts & Science as Director of Development, School of Cities. With twenty years of fundraising experience spanning higher education, arts and culture, and health, we are thrilled to have Trish onboard to lead advancement activities for School of Cities, one of the university's Institutional Strategic Initiatives. Previously, Trish was Associate Director, Corporate and Foundation Relations for eight years at the University of British Columbia, where she led multi-interest donor strategies and relationships spanning arts, science, business and equity opportunities. Prior to UBC, Trish led the Development and Communications team for the Vancouver International Film Festival and VIFF Film Centre where she successfully increased fundraising results across corporate, individual giving and public sector pillars. In her hometown Toronto, Trish was founding Vice President, Development for the Luminato Festival of Arts & Creativity for the first three seasons. In this role, she worked with leadership and Board executive to establish and grow philanthropy, public sector investment, and corporate sponsorship revenue, including the record-breaking arts sponsorship with L'Oreal. Trish is a graduate in Philosophy from McGill University, earned a post-graduate certificate in Marketing Communications, and completed an international fellowship in Arts Management at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. She is passionate about urban issues, sustainability and living lighter.

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.


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.



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