Hello! I am an assistant professor in the political science department at the University of Toronto. I am also a senior fellow at the Global Cities Institute. My research and teaching focus on urban politics, and the ways that urban politics and policy processes intersect with environmental challenges. Basically I want to know: what are cities doing, why are they doing it, what should cities be doing, and how can we help them get there? I earned my PhD at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and in 2013 received the Clarence Stone Young Scholar Award from the Urban Politics section of the American Political Science Association.
How did I come to study urban politics and the environment? My family and I are from Flint, Michigan, and if you know anything about Flint, it’s probably that it has some problems (just ask Michael Moore or Marc Edwards). But I grew up thinking of Flint as a great city – as a place where my grandparents lived, where my parents met, where my dad took the bus downtown by himself, where the best high school sports teams were. These days, I do a lot of defending of Flint (and Detroit). But the contradictory visions of Flint and Detroit I encountered also started a curiosity and fascination with cities for me that combined with a passion for all things political and environmental.
Some people love cities, some people hate them. Some see cities as expressions of human creativity and intelligence, as sources of possibility, efficiency, and connectivity; others see cities as sardine-packed, artificial worlds of towering buildings, dirty streets, poverty, and neon lights. These contradictions (and alternative futures) are exactly what draws me to better understand our roiling, beautiful, confusing urban environments.
Regardless of how we might feel about cities, their forms and functions will determine our future. More than half of us already live in a city, and by 2030 there will be 5 billion urban dwellers in the world. Cities will shape how we eat and grow food, how we use air, water and carbon, how healthy our bodies and communities are, and how our economies work. This is a fundamental shift in human demographics and, like all transformations, there is significant opportunity. The question is … where will that opportunity take us?
This website and blog is dedicated to understanding the ability of urban places to transform people and the planet, or what I call “urbanability.” I hope this can be a space of shared exploration and conversation.