Media Releases

University of Toronto appoints urban advisors

June 17, 2015

Toronto, ON – University of Toronto President Meric Gertler today appointed two advisors on urban issues, advancing his goal to make city-building a top priority at the university.

Dr. Shauna Brail, a faculty member in urban studies, has been named presidential advisor on urban engagement, charged with enhancing connections within the university among the many scholars and researchers who are studying urban issues. John Brodhead, executive director of Evergreen CityWorks, will be a special advisor to the president on urban issues. He will focus on developing strategic projects with external partners across the region.

The appointments take effect July 1. Brail’s appointment is part-time; Brodhead will continue his full-time work with Evergreen CityWorks while acting as an advisor to Gertler.

“Members of the university community have expressed tremendous support for the idea that we should play a larger and more visible role in city building,” said President Gertler. “Shauna and John will help us build stronger linkages to the communities around us, while enhancing the connections among urban scholars across our three campuses.”

Brail and Brodhead will work closely with Gertler to 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 U of T and the Cities of Toronto and Mississauga.

Across its three campuses, U of T professors and researchers have been actively engaged in studying and partnering with the communities around them – from proposing transit and transportation solutions for the Toronto area to releasing groundbreaking studies on how the region is becoming increasingly polarized along racial and socio-economic lines.

Since being named president, Gertler has had a key focus on leveraging the university’s location and its significant strengths in urban research, teaching, and city-building. He has also been championing the idea of learning from other research-based universities located in large urban centres around the world and recently organized a panel for the Cities of Learning symposium in May that featured senior leaders from the University of Buenos Aires, the University of Chicago and the University of São Paulo.

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. A co-investigator in the Neighbourhood Change Research Partnership, Brail also develops and manages relationships with multiple organizations as part of the urban studies program’s acclaimed experiential learning initiatives. As part of her teaching, 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 10 years.

Brodhead is the first Executive Director of Evergreen CityWorks, a 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. He was also Vice-President for Strategy and Communications for Metrolinx. 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.


For more information, contact:

U of T Media Relations