Meet the faculty of the School of Urban and Regional Planning and read about their accomplishments and research projects.


Dr. Robert Summers, PhD, MA, BA, RPP, MCIP

Director, School of Urban and Regional Planning | Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
Academic Director, Sustainability Council
Co-Chair, Environmental Studies BA
| Earth and Atmospheric Sciences

Phone: 780.492.0342
Email: robert.summers@ualberta.ca

Dr. Summer's research areas include sustainable livelihoods, rural water supply, development studies and social institutions of resource management. His recent research has centered around the social management institutions for water points in rural villages in Malawi. Dr. Summers is also interested in collaborative environmental management in Canada.

Dr. Jeff Birchall

Associate Professor and Associate Director | Earth and Atmospheric Sciences

Phone: 780.248.5758
Email: jeff.birchall@ualberta.ca

Dr. Birchall's research interests focus primarily on the theme of community climate resilience, which broadly explores how communities confront climate change and adapt to the emerging challenges imposed on them due to increases in temperature, more extreme weather events and a rise in sea level.

In particular, his work explores local scale stressors/impacts and the decision dynamics around climate change adaptation policy/planning and actions implementation.

This work sheds light on the role decision-makers (such as planners, engineers, elected officials) play, and the expertise they harness in order to help their community become resilient to climate variability.

Currently, this study centers on coastal/big river communities in Canada (Yukon, BC, Maritimes), Alaska, New Zealand, Iceland, and eastern Australia.

Dr. Birchall is always looking for motivated students to join his research team.

Dr. Sandeep Agrawal, RPP, MCIP, AICP

Professor | Earth and Atmospheric Sciences | Associate Dean, Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research

Phone: 780.492.1230
Email: sagrawal@ualberta.ca

Dr. Sandeep Agrawal is an Associate Dean in the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research and a professor in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. Dr. Agrawal is the director of the Alberta Land Institute. He was an Associate Chair in the department and Inaugural director of the School of Urban and Regional Planning between 2013 and 2023. During his tenure as director, he led the development of MSc Planning and PhD specialization in urban planning, and established the School in 2018. Prior to moving to the University of Alberta, he was Associate Director and Founding Graduate Program Director of the School of Urban and Regional Planning at Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly Ryerson).

Dr. Agrawal has a diverse array of research interests that encompasses sustainable urban and rural planning, energy transition, municipal governance, migration, Indigenous issues, and human rights. Among several national and international grants he has received, the most recent one is $98.6M CFREF grant, in which he is the project lead from the University of Alberta. As an accomplished author with over a hundred articles and professional reports and three books, Dr. Agrawal has contributed to planning practice and affected city bylaws and planning policies and legislation, with a lens on human rights and equity. The most recent book is entitled "Rights and the City: Problems, Progress and Practice." His new book “Municipal Boundary Battles” will be published soon.

Dr. Agrawal is a recipient of the Canadian Institute of Planners’ national academic award for his significant contribution to planning education and research in the country.

Dr. Kristof van Assche

Professor | Earth and Atmospheric Sciences

Phone: 780.492.8965
Email: vanassch@ualberta.ca

Dr. Van Assche is interested in evolution and innovation in governance, with focus areas in spatial, environmental and development policy. He worked in various countries and often combines fieldwork with theoretical reflection: systems theories, post- structuralism, institutionalism and others. With regards to planning, he is especially interested in the way planning is embedded in society, and how the steering and molding of communities and territories in and by planning is subjected to the forces that bind together law, economy, politics in specific patterns: what counts as planning, who is planning and what can be planned is the product of a co- evolution of rules and roles in governance. Geographically, his work covers Europe, Central Asia and the Americas.

For inquiries about graduate work, please contact Dr. Van Assche directly. In particular, work about the roles of law in planning, natural resource management and planning, planning and evolving governance, rural development and innovation are welcomed. Be sure to have a look at moreinformation and publications here.

Dr. Emily Grisé

Assistant Professor | Earth and Atmospheric Sciences

Email: egrise@ualberta.ca

Dr. Emily Grisé is a forward-thinking transport researcher with specializations in the areas of transport & land use planning, customer satisfaction & loyalty with public transport, pedestrian & bicycle planning, travel behaviour of disadvantaged populations (seniors and people with disabilities) and public transport planning & operations. Her work has been in collaboration with several local and regional transport agencies to directly address issues of concern to key stakeholders, while she has also provided transport expertise in the private sector. The underlying goal of her research is to develop effective policies that contribute to a more livable and sustainable society.

Most recently, Dr. Grisé focuses on helping cities deliver better public transport services, as ridership has been on the decline for the past few years in major Canadian regions. To this end, she has been working on network and service planning, for example she recently developed a method for public transport agencies to follow when adopting a transfer-based high frequency bus service, using the Réseau de transport de Longueuil (RTL) as a case study. She is also interested in understanding how planners can effectively measure and analyze customer perceptions of service quality, to enhance policy-making aimed towards improving the experiences of public transport users.
Students interested in working in the area transport planning are encouraged to get in touch with Dr. Emily Grisé.

Dr. Kyle Whitfield, RPP, MCIP

Associate Professor | Earth and Atmospheric Sciences

Phone: 780.492.0165
Email: kyle.whitfield@ualberta.ca

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.

Neal LaMontagne, RPP, MCIP

Faculty Lecturer | Earth and Atmospheric Sciences

Email: nlamonta@ualberta.ca

Neal LaMontagne is an experienced city planner whose work centres on how policy and design shapes the urban built environment. He has held senior and management-level positions leading planning projects at the regional, city, and neighbourhood scales in California, British Columbia and Alberta. He builds on the experience of practice to teach and research diverse planning challenges including urban sustainability, political economy of urban design and development, design governance, and land use regulation.

Recently, Neal has been active in the Metro Vancouver planning community including teaching planning and design at UBC, SFU and Langara College and is a former member of the City of Vancouver’s Planning Commission and Urban Design Panel. He is a PhD candidate at UCLA.


Associated Faculty


Dr. Damian Collins

Associate Professor | Earth and Atmospheric Sciences

Email: damian.collins@ualberta.ca

Dr. Collins' interests span urban and social geography, as well as public health. His research explores the public aspects of contemporary social life - specifically public policies, public services and public spaces. He seeks to understand why these 'public things' are important, and how rights shape their distribution. His work is undertaken in Alberta, British Columbia and New Zealand.

Dr. Theresa Garvin

Professor | Earth and Atmospheric Sciences

Phone: 780.492.4593
Email: theresa.garvin@ualberta.ca

Dr. Garvin's research interests lie in the general area of environment and health, as well as in health policy development and processes. These have substantive, theoretical, and methodological components including: the roles of science and policy as they interact in environmental problems with health outcomes; the transfer and uptake of information between scientists and policy makers; how scientific evidence and policy decisions are (or are not) accepted and acted upon by communities and individuals; the influence of risk and uncertainty on community mobilization, as well as the social constructions of those risks and uncertainties; and the application of policy analytic and qualitative research methods in environmental health research.

Dr. Tara McGee

Professor | Earth and Atmospheric Sciences

Phone: 780.492.3042
Email: tmcgee@ualberta.ca

Dr. McGee's research focuses on the human dimensions of environmental hazards. She is interested in hazard awareness, risk perception and mitigation, particularly in areas that are prone to natural or technological hazards. She is currently leading a research partnership to learn about the wildfire evacuation experiences of First Nations residents. She has completed several studies of wildfire risk perception and mitigation activities by homeowners and local governments. Her research also includes research on how university students would respond to an emergency alert. Dr. McGee's research includes studies in Alberta, elsewhere in Canada, and internationally. Dr. McGee supervises graduate students with research interests in social science aspects of hazards, currently including wildfire evacuation experiences of residents in Dene Tha First Nation, Deer Lake, and Sandy Lake First Nations; earthquake recovery in Pakistan; wildfire mitigation by local governments; and landslide mitigation by governments.

Dr. Rob Shields, DPhil

Professor and Henry Marshall Tory Chair | Extension/Arts, Department of Sociology
| Earth and Atmospheric Sciences

Phone: 780.492.0488
Email: rshields@ualberta.ca

Rob Shields work spans architecture, planning and urban geography. He is an award-winning author and co-editor of numerous books including Spatial Questions, The Virtual, Lifestyle Shopping, Cultures of Internet, Lefebvre Love and Struggle, Places on the Margin, and Building Tomorrow: Innovation in Construction and Engineering, as well as online projects such as strip-appeal.com and spaceandculture.com. Before being awarded the University of Alberta's Henry Marshall Tory Endowed Research Chair in Sociology, Dr. Shields was Professor of Sociology and past Director of the Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies at Carleton University, Ottawa. A Commonwealth Scholar at University of Sussex, Robs early career was in passive solar design which he studied at Carleton University's School of Architecture. He founded Space and Culture, an international peer-refereed journal, and Curb Canadian planning magazine. He was 2014 City of Vienna Visiting Professor in Architecture and Planning at TUWien and is currently completing research on nanotechnology as a space of concern.