Dear friends, supporters, and members of the City Institute,
My time at the City Institute is rapidly coming to an end, and it is a bittersweet moment.
As much as my role in these last nine years has been to pursue research monies it has also provided me an incredible opportunity to pursue ideas and create opportunities, to form networks and create community. I wanted an institute that was open and inclusive, that nourished the local while also being an important node in a global interdisciplinary network of urban scholars.
I would like to think we are on the road to achieving this. We have members who have brought Toronto onto the global stage with their research on its urban environment, suburbs, infrastructure, housing, transportation, and the city’s politics and planning. We have a reputation as a global centre of excellence for critical urban research, especially for our work on urban theory, feminist, and queer research, and engaged scholarship. And we have established strong links to our neighbouring community of Jane-Finch, facilitated by Dr. Wanda MacNevin, and with the City of Toronto, most recently through the attachment to the City Institute of former councillor, Joe Mihevc. Joe has done splendid work with CivicLabTO (https://www.civiclabto.ca) and the setting up an undergraduate course that is now jointly undertaken by the City of Toronto and its eight universities and colleges of higher education.
My time at the City Institute has been peppered with such collaborations, including with other research institutes at York University as well as other urban research organizations around the globe. We have also welcomed numerous visitors—undergraduates (thanks to the links we have to German universities established by Roger Keil and Ute Lehrer), graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and faculty. Monthly seminars, workshops, reading groups, book launches, and conferences have abounded. My final commitment was the week-long Summer Institute in Urban Studies we co-hosted last month, with the University of Toronto and Manchester University, bringing a global cohort of over 20 early career fellows to York University. It was a joyous reminder of the power of community that Covid-19 robbed us of. We need to work hard to bring it back.
Building up a community of students has been a particular focus of my time, not only through our various professional training initiatives and student caucus but also through housing undergraduate groups (FUSS, the Federation of Urban Studies Students, and its journal, TUJ, The Toronto Urban Journal). Partnerships have also been initiated with previous graduate students from EUC – including with Shared Path, Our Greenway and House. And academic efforts have taken place alongside social gatherings, downtown dim sum being a favourite.
To my own graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and those who I have mentored who have worked with me at the City Institute—Grace Adeniyi-Ogunyankin, Hulya Arik, Simon Black, Pere DeRoy, Mantha Katsikana, Mel Mikhail, Carmen Ponce, Nasya Razavi, Laura Shillington, Araby Smyth, Gokboru Tanyildiz and Roza Tchoukaleyska—my life would have been far less without you in it.
I also want to give a shout out to all of those who have served on the Executive over the years—thank you for your service on this vital committee. To Professors Alison Bain and William Jenkins, who stood in for me as interim Director while I was away—thank you, thank you, thank you. Thanks are also due to the Office of the VPRI for all those who have supported the mission of the City Institute.
And I want to give special thanks to the various co-ordinators of the City Institute that I have had the opportunity to work with over the years—Sara MacDonald, Francesca D’Amico-Cuthbert, Hazel Dizon, Leeann Bennett, Carmen Ponce, and Helena Fisher. Working as a team with the co-ordinators has honestly been one of the best parts of being the director of the City Institute. The countless conversations we have had, the challenges and the collaborative projects we tackled, and the laughter we have shared leave me truly grateful. I have to single out Leeann Bennett, the grant manager on the SSHRC Partnership Grant (GenUrb) based at the City Institute, with whom I have worked more closely than anyone in my time at York. As I reflect on the time we’ve spent together, I have only immense appreciation for the kindness, support, camaraderie, and friendship I have experienced with you.
While it has been an honour and privilege to direct the City Institute, I also believe it is incumbent on those in positions of leadership to move on. So, move on I shall! On July 1st I hand over to Professor Luisa Sotomayor. The City Institute will be in extremely capable hands, and I look forward to its flourishing under her leadership as it moves into its next phase. I wish Luisa success and fulfilment.
Finally, I want to thank you all for your confidence and support and I look forward to being part of this community for many years to come.