Public Consultation and Engagement Strategies for Rural Ontario School Closure Reviews: Best Practices and Community Bonds (June 2018 - expected)
This is my Master's thesis project. Currently, school closure review processes in Ontario are highly contested and deeply divisive. Though schools are central to their host rural communities, the closure review process largely ignores the effect on these communities. My thesis is looking specifically at the consultation process that occurs during these reviews. I am analyzing existing consultation models and theories from the field of urban planning and then interviewing people involved in school closure reviews in Niagara-on-the-Lake and Zorra, Ontario. Based on the review of models and theories and the interview responses, I will present a series of recommendations for a consultation process that seeks to satisfy all concerned stakeholders. The thesis will also outline how a meaningful consultation process can lead to deeper and stronger community bonds, regardless of the closure decision. 

Economic Impacts of School Closures on Rural Ontario Communities (May 2017-present)
In the summer of 2017, I began working on a project funded by the Community Schools Alliance. With Profs Mark Seasons and Bill Irwin, we developed and tested a set of indicators to measure the economic impact of school closures on rural Ontario communities. Our study looked at the Ontario communities Cobalt, Markdale, Niagara-on-the-Lake, and Zorra. While it's difficult to find the necessary data, we were forced to conclude that there are just too many other variables at play for the economic effects to be registered by our indicators. 

Currently, we are focusing our attention on the social impacts. We are developing a set of indicators to test the social and quality-of-life impacts.

The main skill I developed during this work was collecting and organizing Statistics Canada data. I also learned how to invite people to participate in the study by having them share their expertise and experience. The project also gave me the chance to practice report writing, which I'm learning is much different than more humanities-based writing I did during my PhD and first MA.

Our summary report: "Economic Impacts of School Closures on Rural Ontario Communities."

Parkland, Public Space, and Intensification - Burlington, ON (Fall 2017)
Burlington currently finds itself with ample parkland, but is 'built out.' All future growth will be intensification and so they are faced with the dilemma of providing parkland and public space without much available land.

We were tasked with researching what other municipalities have done to provide parkland and public space in urban intensification areas. Since the municipalities we researched have not developed much in the way of policy in this area, we created a typology of based on 'where' and 'how' Burlington can provide parkland and public space in their urban intensification areas, corridors, and mobility hubs.

I was the team leader of this project. While this project was a graduate assignment, the team, "Creative Node Consulting," worked with city staff from the City of Burlington, provided them with our final report, and I delivered the presentation of our findings.

The main skill I developed during this project is report writing. At the beginning of the project, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what should and should not be in a report, and how to present research, but I quickly realized I still had much to learn! With the guidance of our instructor, I feel our report turned out well, but I still feel there are areas that could be more clear and better organized.

Our report: "Parkland, Public Space, and Intensification - Burlington." And our presentation slides.

Peppler Street Design Project (Winter 2017)
For a studio course, we were asked to propose a building design for a specific lot in Waterloo, ON at the corner of Peppler and Erb Streets. It's a bit of a dreary corner, but a creek runs nearby. What I proposed is based on existing nearby buildings, but adds some whimsical touches. Lots of bright red - and a big red elephant! Meet me at the elephant... 

Click to enlarge

These renders were done with SketchUP and Artlantis. There are a few errors or problems with each (the grass!), but I felt they turned out well, especially since it was my first time using either program (or any drawing/design software). Aside from getting a good grasp on how to use SketchUP, I learned that detail matters. I spent hours working on the step-back lintels of the windows and, though they're barely visible, I feel they add a depth to the building. 

I was able to present this project to a planner from the City of Waterloo. My presentation slides: "Pepper Street Design Project."

City Limits: A Psychoanalysis of Urbanism and Everyday Life (Nov 2011)
This is my dissertation for my PhD from the Centre for the Study of Theory and Criticism. The 'Theory Centre' is an interdisciplinary program that allows researchers to take theory as an object of study. My dissertation is unlike one that would be done in a social science department since it does not have the standard 'literature review' and 'methodology' chapters. Rather, we were encouraged to explore theories and write something more along the lines of a published book. Therefore, chapters are rather wide-ranging and explore a variety of themes.

I am particularly happy with Chapter 2 where I use Lacanian psychoanalytic theory to develop a non-Marxist theory of urban everyday life. I also still find parts of Chapter 1 interesting, particularly where I use Foucault to understand why Toronto (and so many other cities) are founded on a gridded street network. Urban and community planners might find Chapters 3 and 4 of interest. In those chapters I provide a history of urban planning using Lacan's 'four discourses,' that of the master, the university, the hysteric, and the analyst.

Aside from coming to terms with some very dense psychoanalytic theory, the main skill I learned was how to complete a very large task individually. It takes a particular type of 'discipline' to get started and keep working on a project that's supposed to be 'about 300 pages' and due 'in a year or two.'