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Partnership with City of Toronto training students to be future municipal leaders

A photo of Toronto's city hall.

Third- and fourth-year students are learning more about the inner workings of municipal government thanks to a new fall course that is part of a partnership with the City of Toronto.  

The special topics course at OCAD U, Arts, Designers and City Builders, is giving students opportunities to engage directly with politicians, bureaucrats and city leaders to learn more about urban issues, policy development and working in the public service.  

The course is part of a broader program called CivicLabTO, that brings students, faculty, researchers and Toronto City staff together to conduct research and tackle urban challenges together.  

“CivicLabTO reflects our longstanding relationship of collaboration with the City of Toronto and other post-secondary institutions in the Greater Toronto Area,” says  Executive Director, Government and Community Relations, Miriam Kramer. 

“Through this course and the upcoming Academic Summit, we are all sharing our expertise to respond to the issues facing the city and our communities, whether it is recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic or addressing urban concerns like transit and housing." 

During the fall term, senior city policy makers are conducting presentations that address post-pandemic city-building so students can gain a better understanding of how City Hall develops and implements policy.  

These lectures are supplemented with online seminars specifically for OCAD U students that are grounded in critical conversations about the history, conception and transformation of Toronto as an urban space. Taught by Dr. Glen Lowry, Executive Director & Advisor to Provost, the course gives students the further opportunity to gain transferrable skills that will support them as future city leaders and artists, designers and critical thinkers. 

Versions of the course are being offered by seven other colleges and universities located in the GTA, including Centennial College, George Brown College, Humber College, Ryerson University, Seneca College, the University of Toronto and York University, taught by faculty at each institution. Throughout the term, OCAD U students will meet and study alongside peers from these partner institutions. 

The course content is guided by Toronto’s Build Back Better Campaign, which asks citizens how the arts, equity and sustainability can inform key areas of city life, including health, the built environment and transit. 

On November 23 and 24, the CivicLabTO Academic Summit will be held, offering city staff and academics the opportunity to examine how COVID-19 has highlighted existing inequities through the disproportionately negative social, economic and health impacts on vulnerable communities. Symposium presenters will think through an equitable approach to the city’s recovery efforts. Student work will also be showcased.