Class of 2014 – USP
While studying as an undergraduate student, alumna, Nishi Kumar, pursued Urban Studies and Environmental Geography while also minoring in Geographic Information Systems. She recently wrote a piece entitled, City of Neighbourhoods, which was published in The Varsity Magazine, a student-run publication at U of T. The article profiles Toronto neighbourhoods that intersect in the east end of the city.
In a few words, please outline your career path.
Since graduating with my BA, I have been studying at the Dalla Lana Faculty of Public Health here at U of T. I’m pursuing my Masters of Public Health with a focus on health promotion. It has been really great exploring how the issues I learned about in Urban Studies—like housing, income inequity, and immigration—affect the health and well being of Canadians.
What drew you to urban studies? What are the benefits of studying it in Toronto?
I felt drawn to urban studies because of its interdisciplinary nature. I had a hard time deciding on a single area of study, and urban studies allowed me to explore so many fields: economics, environment, sociology, politics, health, ethics and more.
I have always loved exploring cities—especially Toronto. It’s one of the most diverse cities in the world, so it makes for a fascinating cultural case study. It’s also a very young city, so it’s exciting to see how it is evolving economically and socially every year.
How would you like to see Toronto change over the next 5 years?
5 years is a short time span to improve major city infrastructure like transit or affordable housing. But in the next few years, I’d like to see more investment in public spaces, and particularly our natural spaces. We are so fortunate to have a beautiful natural environment here, and I think we ought to take advantage of that. I’d like to see our ravine system and our waterfront become more accessible and active.
While attending UofT, which, if any, extra-curricular activities were you involved with outside of the classroom (e.g., clubs, teams, volunteerism, on-campus employment)?
I held the positions of Vice-President and President with the University College Literary & Athletic Society, the student government of University College. Being involved with student government was an important experience—it helped me develop my leadership and management skills, and connected me with the campus community.
Did you participate in any “experiential learning” opportunities as a student (e.g., fieldwork, international experience, internships)?
I participated in INI437: Experiential Learning in the GTA. I was placed with the Centre for City Ecology, a local non-profit that supports civic engagement throughout Toronto through lectures, workshops, and community projects. I also worked as a research assistant for Dr. Shauna Brail in the Urban Studies program, through U of T’s Work Study program.
What is your favourite memory from your time spent at Innis College?
I really enjoyed my experience with the Centre for City Ecology through INI437. I was given the opportunity to contribute to a number of interesting projects promoting civic engagement in Toronto’s priority neighbourhoods. The course was also fantastic—Dr. Brail led a very engaging seminar each week. It was great to share my experiences and hear about the projects that my classmates were participating in.
Do you have any advice you would like to share with current Innis students?
Take smaller seminar classes whenever you can. Smaller college-based programs like Urban Studies give students the opportunity to get to know their professors and classmates. It’s a lot easier to engage with the course in a seminar than in a large lecture.
Take advantage of all the great experiential opportunities at Innis! There are so many opportunities to explore your academic interests and develop your skills.