What is Planning?

Planning is about the future. What kind of communities, and ultimately what kind of world, do we want to live in? Good planning requires imagination and creativity, as well as a solid knowledge of the complex history and social relations that have created the cities and environments we currently occupy.

Planning, as a field of study and a profession, involves understanding the interrelationships among humans, nature and built forms at various geographic scales from the local  to the global. Planning occurs at the intersections of social, economic, political and physical environments, shaping our well-being and that of others, both human and non-human. Good planning requires a critical analysis and close attention to the social justice implications of processes, policies, and plans. Because planning distributes spatial and environmental costs and benefits to different groups in society, it is inherently political.

Decisions about whose values and whose voices are included in planning processes makes planning one of the most challenging, interesting, and important professions of the 21st century. As planners are called upon to articulate the choices for our collective future, it is paramount that we create space for the mediation of our diverse interests.

Is MES Planning for you?

Program Highlights

Since 1972, the Planning Program in the Faculty of Environmental Studies has become known for its interdisciplinary focus and its commitment to offering a graduate education which addresses the complexity of social, environmental and economic change at a range of scales. In FES, we teach planning through a lens of social and environmental justice in course offerings, faculty research and student projects. Planning in the Faculty of Environmental Studies emphasizes the importance of critical thinking and analysis to identify problems, generate alternatives and implement change. Through course work, workshops and internships students acquire the professional skills needed to contribute to the planning profession and wider society.

Large and Diverse Faculty

A strength of the Planning Program is its large and diverse faculty who are internationally recognized for cutting-edge research, rigorous scholarship, and community-engaged research. Faculty collaborate with communities and colleagues across Canada, in both urban, rural and northern areas. Faculty members’ research is cross-national, including research in Costa Rica, China, Sri Lanka, Mexico, France, and Germany. Faculty members contribute to the development of theory in planning, the applications of theory to planning practice, and to community planning initiatives. Our faculty is a mix of academics and practitioners who conduct research and practice in a broad range of planning fields. Many of our faculty are committed to community-based research and activism. Faculty members often provide advice to planning policy bodies and government agencies.

Our strengths are in urban and regional planning and environmental planning. We have a strong faculty complement in critical urbanism. Other areas of planning which attract students to the Program include planning policy, resource management, environmental impact assessment, public participation, food planning, cultural planning, renewable energy and climate change. Due to the large array of graduate courses in the MES program (about 80 each year), students can combine planning with emerging fields such as planning with aboriginal people, food planning, climate change and others.

Educational Opportunities in the Planning Program

Graduate planning education aims to develop students’ capabilities to think critically across a range of fields in planning and develop skills to apply knowledge to planning problems. Key elements of a graduate education are analyzing in context, writing well, oral communication, working in groups, and undertaking independent research. Through course work, practicums, and independent research, students have many opportunities to hone these skills.

FES Planning students come from a mix of backgrounds, including the social sciences, natural sciences, humanities and professions. They represent a diversity of cultures from across the globe, reflecting the diversity of Toronto. The structure of our student-centred program is attractive to mature students and career changers. This mix of students encourages creative exploration of new directions in planning.

Students have available an array of methods courses: qualitative and quantitative research methods, policy methods, action research, GIS, storytelling and cultural production. Our media lab and resident videographer help planning students to make videos about planning in action. Students make videos for class presentations and conferences. Some students have also submitted a video as their final project work. Students showcase their work in rotating photo and art exhibits in our gallery.

Planning Practicums: Internships/Field Experience

All FES planning students are required to gain practical, hands-on experience of planning through an internship/field experience. Students have held internships with a variety of employers in the governmental, non-profit and market sectors in Canada and overseas with organizations such as Canadian Urban Institute, The Federation of Canadian Municipalities, WorldLink International Program for Planners, and many more. The Student Alumni & Career Resource Centre helps planning students find internships or a full-time job after graduation. Students can gain job seeking skills, resume preparation and review, networking opportunities, mentoring, and the do’s and don’ts of job interviewing. Students often find full-time employment through planning internships.

Planning Workshops

Students gain hands-on experience in planning practice through taking a planning workshop. Workshops typically choose a site or community undergoing land use change or conflict. Often the workshop group works in collaboration with a community group or client. A small team of about 15 students intensively studies a site or planning process such as development of a master plan, from many angles and generates alternatives and recommendations. FES faculty members and experienced senior planners affiliated with award-winning firms or planning agencies teach our planning workshops.

FES offers three planning workshops in each academic year. Recent bioregional planning workshops on the West Queen West and Junction Triangle neighbourhoods inToronto culminated in charrettes organized by students for the wider community and held at Toronto’s Gladstone Hotel. A Planning Practice Workshop focused on the new master plan for the city of Vaughan. The summer 2015 Critical Planning Workshop on global suburbanization will take place in Shanghai, China and offers students an opportunity to learn firsthand about international planning practices. Past international planning workshops have taken place in Liepzig, Germany (2011) and Montpellier, France (2013).