Planner & Researcher, Connector, The Canadian Urban Institute

Interviewed by George Pantazis

At FES, Alexandra pursued her interest in cultural studies but applied it to planning. Her plan of study focused on cultural planning, urban/neighbourhood planning and gentrification. For her cultural planning component, she took courses at York University’s Schulich School of Business in arts and cultural management and cultural policy. Her field experiences consisted of internships and volunteer and work positions at the City of Toronto’s Planning and Economic Development Divisions and the Toronto Environment Office. Her major research paper, entitled “Cultural Planning in Toronto: The Challenges to Implementation and Possibilities for the Future,” looked at how well the relationships between the city departments of culture, economic development, and planning worked, and what the future of cultural planning looks like for Toronto.

When asked what she took away from her experience at FES, Alexandra said, “It helped reorient me career-wise. I was able to get a foundation in planning through coursework and was able to explore my other interests as well.” Her MES degree shifted her onto a path that would lead to a professional career as a planner focused on culture thanks to the practical experience and theory-based knowledge she acquired.

During our interview, Alexandra stressed how helpful interdisciplinary studies are for a planning student. Working with individuals with a variety of interests and backgrounds helps the student prepare for his or her future career in planning. It is not uncommon for a planner to have to work alongside engineers, residents, community organizations, and planners in other fields.

After graduating, Alexandra began her career as Planner and Researcher with Connector, the Canadian Urban Institute’s strategy and engagement practice. Connector has been involved in developing culture plans for cities such as Mississauga and Kingston. Alexandra is currently working on Mississauga’s first environmental master plan and writing a guide for developing housing for older adults, to be published by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). She is also working to develop a set of cultural indicators and performance measures that can be used by Ontario municipalities to measure and evaluate the outcomes of municipal cultural planning in their communities.