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Urban Studies


April Newsletter

The Urban Studies Program at Innis College aims to provide students with a multitude of lenses through which to observe, interpret, and understand urban life.
A Message from the Director
Dear Urban Studies Students, Alumni & Community,
This month’s newsletter marks the final newsletter of the 2019-2020 academic year. And what a year it’s been!
In September, the Urban Studies Program hosted our annual welcome orientation. A wonderful turnout of students, staff and faculty helped us to set the tone for the year as an engaged and supportive community of urbanists. This year, our faculty and instructors offered a range of courses on contemporary urban challenges while embedding meaningful experiential learning opportunities, we welcomed students to Pizza with the Profs sessions, continued to co-host book launches in Innis Town Hall and we enjoyed collaborating with the Urban Studies Student Union.
Over the last few weeks, we’ve all been forced to make tremendous efforts to transition our teaching, learning and interactions towards digital means as the COVID-19 pandemic worsens and spreads globally. While the transition has not been easy, I want to thank each and every one of you for the role you’ve played during these difficult and uncertain times. And particularly to our students – thank you for your patience, trust and continued feedback. We will get through this together.
For now, the Urban Studies Program’s offerings remain virtual – online summer courses, social media, and connections to resources at the university and across the city. Like each of you, we look forward to the day when we can once again welcome you back, in-person, to classes, events and celebrations.
Lastly, at the end of June my term as Director of the Urban Studies Program will end. It’s been a pleasure to lead the program these past few years. The success of our program is the result of a team effort that extends across the university, the city and beyond. A heartfelt thank you to all.
Take care,
Shauna Brail
Director, Urban Studies Program  

Urban Studies Program Courses
2020 Summer Session

Urban Studies is pleased to be offering two online courses this summer. 

INI432H1F Urban Studio: Public Participation in Policy Making 
Instructor: TBD

This studio course is designed around a client-based project which will prompt students to examine a broad range of theoretical frameworks and case studies from Toronto and other cities. By delving into topics related to city planning, students will discover ways in which meaningful public participation and consultation can be invaluable to city projects, while also examining the many challenges facing public participation practitioners today.

The objectives of the course are to provide students with a practical understanding of all of the elements of an effective public participation process, and to explore how public participation processes can be designed to be more inclusive and beneficial to community projects. The course will be offered in the first summer sub-session from May to June.

*NEW* INI337H1F Studies in Contemporary Urban Problems: Cities and Health
Instructor: David Roberts

As we experience the reconfiguration of life as a result of the COVID-19 global pandemic, understanding the connections between health and urban life is as important as ever. Through an interactive seminar format, this course will take a critical interdisciplinary approach to examining the intimate connections between urbanization and health.

The course will be offered online in the first summer sub-session (May to June) using the Zoom video conferencing software (free to download) and will require students to have access to a webcam. 

For more information on INI432H1 and INI337H1, search the course by its course code in the Summer 2020 Timetable

2020-2021 Fall/Winter Session

Apply now for our fourth year seminar/ internship course:
INI437Y1Y Urban Experiential Learning in Toronto and the GTA

INI437Y1Y offers students the unique opportunity to gain professional experience in urban studies while deepening their understanding of urban issues and topics. In addition to weekly seminar-based classes, students will participate in unpaid internships for 8 hours each week while assigned to a non-profit, urban-focused organization based in Toronto.
Past placement organizations include the City of Toronto, Evergreen Brickworks, the Centre for Social Innovation, the Canadian Urban Institute, MaRS Discovery District, and Spacing Magazine.

Who should apply? Fourth year Urban Studies students who have completed INI235H1 and INI236H1 will be given priority for registration, however, high achieving third year Urban Studies students and non Urban Studies students have also successfully enrolled in the past. Enrolment in this course is competitive as spaces are limited. As such, strong academic achievement is the key criteria. Students interested in taking this course should be prepared to commit extra time to the internship component of this course.

How to apply: If you are interested in taking INI437Y1 for the upcoming 2020-2021 Fall/Winter Session, please fill out this ballot and submit it along with a 1 page resume to Jannie Chien, Urban Studies Program Coordinator at by 11:59pm EST on June 1st, 2020. Only electronic submissions will be accepted. Applications will be reviewed by the Urban Studies director and successful applicants be contacted in July. Placement matching and interviews will be completed over the summer months.

Questions? Please email Jannie at
Multidisciplinary Urban Capstone Project (MUCP) at the School of Cities

We are pleased to announce that the Urban Studies Program has joined the
School of Cities’ Multidisciplinary Urban Capstone Project (MUCP) for the 2020-2021 academic year. This is a full year capstone course that will address unique urban challenges through a multidisciplinary approach to problem-solving. Each project is assigned to a team of fourth-year undergraduates drawn from different disciplines who will collaborate to develop creative solutions to meet each organization's needs. To learn more, please visit the
MUCP course website.

An info session was held on March 30th and the recording can be found here

In face of Covid-19, what if Canada’s health system looked like our housing system?

By: Emily Paradis
"A rights-based plan for Covid-19 has to work on two levels. The first is an immediate emergency response to contain the spread of the virus, protect those most at risk, and keep people housed. The second is a long-term plan to transform our housing system so it looks more like our health system."

Cities lead the charge on the coronavirus front lines

By: Shauna Brail
"The rapid spread of COVID-19 has upended lives and livelihoods... And at the same time, observers marvel at the ways in which urban life continues."
Podcast episode:
Corona and the distant city 
from Spacing Radio

Host: Glyn Bowerman
Featuring: Toronto City Councillor Josh Matlow, Spacing senior editor John Lorinc, Historian Adam Bunch, Urban Studies instructor Zahra Ebrahim

Congratulations to USP student
Yusra Qasi
on being named a
2020 School of Cities Student Fellow!

Yusra's project is titled "Carceral Geography: Reimagining the Experience of Incarceration in Ontario Using Human-Centered Design Innovation".
Her research aims to re-envision how carceral spaces can be justly planned, designed and produced by exploring the boundaries of power, authority and post-incarceration community reintegration. Yusra cites Urban Studies instructors Daniel Fusca, Zahra Ebrahim and Kofi Hope for changing, informing and challenging the way she viewed her research interests and looks forward to tackling her project with the tools learned from the USP.

Read more about Yusra's project and the School of Cities Fellowship Award
Resources: COVID-19

A real-time, crowdsourced platform that houses resources, tools and stories on how city builders and residents are responding to COVID-19, from the Canadian Urban Institute.

An interactive platform that tracks emergency response measures put in place by local governments across Canada, updated daily, also from the Canadian Urban Institute.

COVID-19 Toronto App
Developed by Urban Studies instructor Zahra Ebrahim, this app compiles an extensive list of resources to help Torontonians access services or assist those in need during this difficult time.

U of T: Research Help:
  • Instant messaging research and reference help via Ask Chat
  • Email research help via this form
  • One-on-one online research consultations (bookable online or, for Urban Studies students, emailing the Urban Studies Librarian, Nich Worby, directly:
  • While campus libraries are closed, you may still contact Kate Johnson, Innis College Librarian, for research help or information about other resources:
Mental Health:
It is undoubtedly a stressful time for us all. If you are feeling distressed, please talk to someone. An array of mental health resources can be found on the U of T Health and Wellness website here.

Profile: Simran Bal
Urban Studies Student and Communications Assistant

Tell us a bit about yourself and what you’re studying at UofT?

I am a 3rd-year student studying Urban Studies and Human Geography. I was born and raised in Toronto and love the city! In my spare time, I love working out, cooking, exploring Toronto, and traveling to other cities. I am especially interested in the social issues that cities experience with an emphasis on wealth inequality and access to resources in planning design.  
What drew you to the Urban Studies Program?

I was drawn to the Urban Studies Program during my summer internship at Homeless Youth Shelter and ended up switching my minor because I liked it so much! Growing up in Parkdale, I interacted with the city's social fabric heavily and watched as gentrification moved in. I was very interested in the stories that residents, old and new immigrants had about their individual experiences with the city of Toronto. The inequality that I saw in Parkdale, followed by gentrification is what got me interested in studying the city itself.
What did you learn by working on the newsletter this past year?

Working on the newsletter this past year has been an amazing experience and  has taught me so much. In the beginning, I found the task a little daunting, but with Professor Brail and Jannie Chien's support, I was able to learn so much about newsletter-style announcements which honed my research skills. I learned so much about the Urban Studies Program through engaging with our professors' monthly spotlights, and discovered so many useful tools that I didn't know Innis College even had! What I enjoyed most though, was the ability to create something that would be useful to other students and faculty.
What’s your favourite neighbourhood in Toronto, and why?

My favourite Toronto neighbourhood has to be Parkdale. My parents own and operate a small business there, so growing up I really got to know the community and local businesses. The resilience that the residents of Parkdale have has always surprised me. The neighbourhood is a dichotomy of large elegant houses from the early 20th century, and recent immigrants crammed into one-bedroom apartments along Jameson Avenue. It is sandwiched between High Park and Liberty Village - both of which today are high known as high-income areas of Toronto, but Parkdale has still managed to hold some semblance of autonomy. Whether it be through rent strikes and community-based initiatives. I personally think it has the best example of community engagement and organization in Toronto. 

Simran was hired through the U of T Work Study program. The USP would like to thank Simran for her hard work and dedication in developing our monthly newsletter this year.

Kindness and Humour In The Time of COVID-19

The @USPUofT Twitter account is sharing examples of resilient city-dwellers all over the world. Click on the tweet below to reply with an example, or email with a link, and we'll share it to the thread!

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Urban Studies Program

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2 Sussex Ave, Toronto, ON M5S 1J5
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Urban Studies Newsletter · 2 Sussex Avenue · Toronto, ON M5S 1J5 · Canada

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