On this page, you will find bios of the faculty and researchers of the School of Urban and Regional Planning, including information about their professional accomplishments and the research projects they and their students are conducting.
Despite increasingly heavy administrative responsibilities, I have been able to further my scholarship and grantsmanship. On behalf of Plan Canada’s Editorial Board, I led the special issue on Financing Cities. I am also guest-editing the special summer issue of Plan Canada on human rights and city, which will be published soon. My co-authored book on planning in India, by Oxford University Press, is due to be published in the coming May. I continue to build on my previous body of work on land use planning, multiculturalism and human rights. I have a SSHRC grant to document settlement experience of Syrian refugees in Alberta. A Killam Cornerstone grant has generously supported my pan-Canadian study on human rights. Recently, I won a competition to conduct research on immigrants and their settlement in Edmonton, and is financially supported by the IRCC-funded Edmonton Local Immigration Partnership. I am delighted to see my Master’s student, Maiya Brady, who studied self help groups in high-density villages in India, defend her thesis recently. My five doctoral students keep me busy and on my toes. One of them is collecting data for her research and the other is about to appear in his candidacy exam. The co-Presidency of the Association of Canadian University Planning Programs (with Richard Milgrom) and the membership on the Academic Programming Committee of PSB-Canada that is responsible for managing and monitoring the Planning Program accreditation are more than enough to keep me occupied for the rest of the days of the month.
Now that I have settled in, having joined the program last year, my research program and teaching agenda are becoming more harmonious, and certainly more connected in scope. This past year was spent developing new lecture material, mentoring graduate students, and expanding the breadth of my research program. Building off work done in New Zealand, Alaska and British Columbia, my program now includes case studies from Atlantic Canada and Iceland. My research explores how coastal communities are affected by climate variability, and the decision dynamics around how these communities incorporate climate adaptation into strategic planning. I look forward to further honing my teaching and research program here at the University of Alberta.
This academic year has been very productive. The majority of my research time has been focused on a program “Sustainable Community Planning Development” of which Dr. Van Assche is involved. During the fall, I travelled to Perth, Australia and to the University of Western Australia to begin to develop an international case comparison. The trip was very successful securing contacts at UWA. On the way back to Edmonton, I swung by St. John’s, NL to be a panellist at the Small Town Big Business Initiative to discuss concerns related to sustainability and resiliency of rural small communities across Newfoundland. Additionally, Dr. Van Assche and I met with colleagues from the Harris Centre at Memorial University to discuss potential collaborations in the future. I successfully applied for funds from the KIAS Cluster Grant to support student researchers expand the research project. Two Master’s students – Trina Lamanes and Nushrat Jahan – successfully defended their theses.
It's been a gratifying year filled with teaching, new projects, published papers, conferences, and advising. I offered three courses this year—transportation planning, design fundamentals for planners, and geo-spatial analysis. For this year's geo-spatial analysis poster session—sponsored by the City of Edmonton—over 100 planning experts came to speak to students and evaluate the posters. My current projects include research on questions of dis-equity in the transportation sector. Specifically, I’m exploring how transport deficiency varies within the Edmonton Capital Region for older adults (over 64 years). Across Canada, I am studying how time shortage impacts women's choice of travel mode. In completed research, this year I had two papers accepted in respected journals—one on parking costs in the US and another on the impact of weather on slums in Kolkata. It’s also been a busy year on the conference circuit, with two papers presented at Transportation Research Board (TRB) in Washington, D.C., and one at the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP) in Portland, OR. I’ve been lucky to have been working with great students this year. Phillip Burrows and Sushmitha Karunakaran helped with geo-spatial and qualitative data analysis on ongoing projects, while Farah El-Masri has been working on questions of seniors’ access to services. Darcy Reynard started his doctoral inquiry on transportation demand, big-data, and infrastructure planning. I’m excited to see how all this new work matures. This year ended on a high note with an Emerging Scholar Award from the Regional Development and Planning Speciality Group at the American Association of Geographers, recognizing my "outstanding scholarly contributions".
2016/2017 has brought about a lot of changes. The winter term marks the completion of my first year as faculty in the urban planning program at the University of Alberta. During this year I taught Quantitative Research Methods and Finance for Planners. I look forward to teaching these courses, and others, to both bachelors and masters students during the upcoming academic year. In terms of research, I am pushing my focus to environmental justice. The recent surge of populism places added pressure on marginalized communities who are becoming more vulnerable to environmental degradation. In light of sustained environmental stressors, historically vulnerable residents are further subject to unjust environmental planning regulations and decisions. I am currently working with two graduate students on projects that concern urban environmental policies and precarious communities. One project delineates the cost associated with sea level rise, water pollution, and water transfer agreements on vulnerable communities on Canada’s eastern coast. The other project examines the role that environmental amenities (parks, water bodies, etc.) play in gentrifying economically depressed communities.
This year, I continued in my role as Associate Director of the Planning program and took on a new role as Director of the Sustainability Scholars program and a member of the Provost’s Academic Team for Sustainability. In terms of research I continue to work with three graduate students on my Mature Neighbourhoods Retail Vibrancy Project exploring the important role of neighbourhood commercial and main street development has on communities and the institutional tools that both promote and hamper the success of such spaces. I have an Alberta Land Institute funded project underway looking at the capacity of rural municipalities to address growth issues and the loss of agricultural land in. I am also working with Dr. Jeremy Richards researching the impacts of mining on local communities in rural Mongolia. My key areas of research interest at present include planning of commercial development for community benefit, urban infill, the application of new institutional economics and commons theory in planning, and domestic and agricultural rural water supply issues in both sub Saharan Africa and Canada.
Over the past couple of years, a great deal of my research has been focused on leading the Boom and Bust project involving a number of researchers from across the U of A. With Leith Deacon, Monica Gruezmacher, Bob Summers and others, I published a book on Boom & Bust, advising communities on how to analyze themselves and formulate strategies to deal with change and uncertainty. A new expanded version of his book was just published by In Planning/ Aesop, the European planning association publishing house, under the title: Boom & Bust, Local strategy for big events: A community guide for turbulent times. In November, with Leith Deacon, I participated in a workshop on small town resilience in Newfoundland involving local government politicians and administrators, as well as local academics and consultants. Last August, with Monica Gruezmacher, I presented the Boom & Bust book in several places in BC and AB, had public discussions and conversations with mayors, administrators, and others on the content and direction. Recently, on the same project, I spent a week near Medicine Hat, teaching and advising local administrators and developers and others on rural development, planning, and issues.
Dr. Whitfield is interested in health, social and community engagement. Her research explores the influence of citizens as they participate in, plan for and respond to health service or social support needs in their communities. In essence she explores ways to determine successful community planning models that address health and quality of life issues. Dr. Whitfield teaches: Community Planning and Engagement (HGP 515/PLAN 515); Citizen Engagement and Consultation (EXLGP 8209) and Health, Community and Development (SPH 529). Her supervision interests span the following areas: rural planning, community development, citizen participation, and planning for aging and other vulnerable populations.