Appointment of Advisors to the President on Urban Issues

PDAD&C #100, 2014-15

Principals, Deans, Academic Directors, and Chairs

From:     President Meric S. Gertler
Date:  June 17, 2015 
Re:  Appointment of Advisors to the President on Urban Issues 


Since my installation some eighteen months ago, I have spent much time engaging members of the University community in a discussion about Three Priorities for the institution: first, that we should leverage our location in one of the world’s great urban regions for the benefit of both the University and the GTA; second, that we should deepen and strengthen our strategic international partnerships; and third, that we should commit to reimagining and reinventing undergraduate education. 

I am writing to announce some important news with respect to the first of these priorities. My yearlong consultations have confirmed widespread support for the idea that the University should play a larger and more visible role in city building. To achieve effectiveness in this role, we need to build stronger linkages to the communities around us, while at the same time enhancing the connections within the university, amongst our many scholars who are studying urban issues in most of our divisions and on all three of our campuses. 

Accordingly, I am delighted to announce the appointment of Dr. Shauna Brail as the Presidential Advisor on Urban Engagement, and the appointment of Mr. John Brodhead, Executive Director of Evergreen CityWorks, as Special Advisor to the President, Urban Issues. Both appointments will be effective July 1, 2015. Dr. Brail’s appointment is part-time and Mr. Brodhead will continue his full-time work with Evergreen CityWorks while acting as an advisor. Together Shauna and John will work in close partnership with me to: advance the University’s reputation as a community partner and city-builder; identify opportunities to leverage the University’s knowledge and research expertise to address important urban issues; develop and strengthen working relationships with civic organizations, and increase collaborative research opportunities between the University and the Cities of Toronto and Mississauga, among other duties.

Building on their respective strengths and backgrounds, and working collaboratively, Dr. Brail will focus much of her attention on relationship building within the internal community, while Mr. Brodhead’s focus will be on developing and supporting the execution of strategic city building projects between the University and external partners.

Dr. Brail holds a PhD in Geography from the University of Toronto and is a Senior Lecturer in the Urban Studies Program at Innis College. Her research lies broadly in economic geography with a focus on the social, cultural and economic changes associated with the shifting strengths of cities. She is a member of two SSHRC-funded research teams, as co-applicant on Creating Digital Opportunity: Canada’s ICT industry in global perspective, and a co-investigator in the Neighbourhood Change Research Partnership. As a long-time member of the Urban Studies Program, she has a deep interest in pedagogy and learning outside the classroom. She develops and manages relationships with multiple organizations and stakeholders as part of the Program’s acclaimed experiential learning initiatives. As part of her teaching, and through the incorporation of experiential learning initiatives, she has placed more than 500 U of T undergraduate students in internships and service learning placements at urban-focused organizations across the city over the past ten years. 

Mr. Brodhead holds an MA from the University of British Columbia and is the first Executive Director of CityWorks, a new strategic initiative of Evergreen, a national charity whose aim is to build green cities. Evergreen CityWorks engages citizens and builds multi-sector collaborations to help decision-makers make cities more livable and resilient. Prior to joining Evergreen CityWorks, Mr. Brodhead was Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy and Cabinet Affairs for Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty. Mr. Brodhead was also Vice President for Strategy and Communications for Metrolinx. Prior to joining the provincial government, he served in various capacities in the Canadian federal government, including as an advisor for the Minister of National Defence and the Minister of Infrastructure. Mr. Brodhead is currently an Executive Fellow at U of T’s Mowat Centre for Public Policy, a Senior Fellow on Urban Poverty for the Maytree Foundation and was one of the Toronto Foundation’s Vital People for 2015.

I am delighted that Dr. Brail and Mr. Brodhead have agreed to take on these important new roles within the University. Please join me in welcoming them.