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Learning in the ACE Space doesn't simply happen through university courses — though that is one way. We also invite speakers to share their expertise and facilitate discussions on timely readings.

Our students are becoming more engaged with local urban issues in St. John's and Corner Brook, and we even hosted our first conference on small and adaptive cities in 2017.

Learning Hub


ACE Space Alumni!

Our Alumni have ventured far and wide! In this section, Siyi Zhou sits down for a Q&A with two outstanding alumni that have gone on to Graduate School in Urban Planning: Faith Ford and Anika Bursey!

Faith Ford begins her Urban Planning degree at Queen's University.

Q: Hi Faith! How is your first semester going at the School of Urban and Regional Planning (SURP) of Queen’s University? 

Faith: My first semester is going well! It’s been a pretty big adjustment and I’m kept busy with classes, coursework, and social events. It’s pretty cold in Kingston right now but it’s a beautiful city. I’ve learned a lot so far and have met a lot of great planners that make me super excited to be pursuing this career. I’m also the only Newfoundlander in the program so I’m happy to be representing my province (and telling everyone I meet that they need to visit)!

Q: What kind of courses are you taking at SURP now?

Faith: Right now, I am taking my core courses and an elective. My core courses cover planning history and theory, legal and governmental processes, current planning approaches, physical planning, and quantitative/qualitative methods. The program also offers electives in land use planning, environmental planning, and health and social planning. I’m looking forward to taking a Healthy Community Planning course next semester.


Q: Which course/project is your favourite? Why?

Faith: I really enjoyed the Public Transit Module I recently completed. It covered the basics of urban public transportation systems, from strategies to increase ridership to transit economics. My favourite course this semester is definitely my Housing Policy course. We’re analyzing housing policies and programs across the country, including the National Housing Strategy, and learning a lot about affordable housing, homelessness, and the rental market.

Q: What is the most important thing you have learnt after getting into grad school?


Faith: Attend the orientation events! And try to go to all the social events and talks your department organizes. Making friends with your classmates and building relationships with your professors is super important. Not only is it fun to get involved, but you get to practice networking and make connections that’ll help you throughout your career.

Also, your classmates come from different backgrounds and everyone has a unique perspective. Ask each other questions and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Every student has different strengths and you can learn a lot from each other.


Q: Can you tell us about how you applied for the SURP program? (The materials they needed, or any other requirements, etc.)


Faith: Most schools will require an application fee, a statement of purpose, 2-3 academic references, a CV or resume, transcripts, an application, and sometimes a writing sample or portfolio. SURP has a minimum GPA requirement and requires an application fee, 2 letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and transcripts. The application deadline for each school varies, so make sure you submit your application on time and start writing your SOP early!


Q: Do you have any suggestions for the undergraduate students who want to apply for grad school in urban planning area? The choice of school, etc.

Faith: Think about where you want to live and where you want to work, and if you can, visit the schools you want to attend before applying. Consider whether you want to live in a big city, what part of the country you’d like to live in, and the size of the program. If you’re interested in a certain field of planning, check to see if the school offers a concentration or electives in that field. If you’re doing a thesis or master’s report, look into the faculty’s research to see if anything they’re doing aligns with your research interests. Also, if you want to work as a professional planner, you’ll need to choose a program that’s accredited.

If you’re thinking about grad school, take some urban geography and planning classes during your undergrad. Get involved with the geography society (MUGS) and get to know your professors and fellow students.

Q: Finally, any thoughts/ideas you want to tell those undergraduate students who are interested in urban geography?

Faith: Urban geography is interesting because cities are dynamic and always changing, so the way that we understand them is always changing too. Always ask questions and accept that you may never find a concrete answer! Take all the urban geography, economic geography, and planning courses you can. There are so many interesting subfields of human geography, and I recommend taking a broad range of courses so you can figure out what you’re most interested in. I’d also suggest following urban geography news and magazines (like CityLab and Next City), and reading books and journal articles about topics that you’re interested in.

People with geography degrees end up in a lot of different fields. If you meet someone who has graduated with a geography degree or who is working in a field you’re interested in, don’t be afraid to introduce yourself and ask them about their work.

Anika Bursey goes West to UBC's School of Community and Regional Planning!

Q: Hi Anika! How is your first semester going at the School of Community and Regional Planning (SCARP) of UBC? 

Anika: So far, my first semester is going great! My cohort is full of so many folks with such unique backgrounds and I’m making so many great friends. The UBC campus is a pretty incredible place which certainly adds to the whole experience.

Q: What kind of courses are you taking at SCARP now?

Anika: My first semester is mainly focused on understanding the theory that informs the planning profession and the technical skills most commonly used by planners. This term, my core courses are: Qualitative Skills for Planners, Planning Practice Methods, Planning Theory and History. My electives are: Plan Evaluation, and Public Health and the Built Environment.


Q: Which course/project is your favourite? Why?

Anika: I really enjoyed my Planning Practice Methods course this semester. All assignments were done in class and in groups under a very tight time period to mimic the time constraints placed on planners in the real world. This course also taught me to write concisely under a strict word count which is a reality for many planners when creating council or public engagement briefs.

Q: What is the most important thing you have learned after getting into grad school?


Anika: Living in British Columbia and going to school on the unceeded territory of the Musqueam people, I’m learning so much about the dark past of the Indian act and the impacts it has had (and is still having) on generations of First nations. This perspective is definitely not one I had been exposed to in St John’s, and although it’s not directly related to planning, it has definitely shifted my vision and has radically changed my outlook on how to plan for different demographics living in the same space.


Q: Can you tell us about how you applied for the SCARP program? (The materials they needed, or any other requirements, etc.)


Anika: For SCARP, they required a CV, a copy of my official transcript my letter of intent and three references (2 academic, 1 professional). The letter of intent is the most important part as it is really where they get the sense of who you are and what you're passionate about.

If I remember correctly, I started my application early January. At this time, you have to make an account through their applications portal, fill in your contact information and answer some questions about your interests and highlight which professors you are interested in having as your advisor. After this you have to input your references names and email and you have until closing date to upload your documents (CV, transcript, letter).

Q: Do you have any suggestions for the undergraduate students who want to apply for grad school in urban planning area? The choice of school, etc.

Anika: Make sure the school you apply to actually aligns well with your interests (ie, don’t apply somewhere that is heavily focused on environmental planning if you’re interested in affordable housing). Make sure to also read up about the faculty who teach at the school. Although most planning programs aren’t thesis/research based, the research interests of the professors will come through. If you are indecisive about what program you may want to pursue, reach out to a student currently in the program to give you a more lived and honest answer. Finally, really think about where you want to live for 2+ years. As much as the school is important, you’re going to be spending a huge part of your life outside of the campus, so make sure the city has things to that will make you happy (whatever that means for you!)

Q: Finally, any thoughts/ideas you want to tell those undergraduate students who are interested in urban geography?

Anika: Planning in Canada is at a really critical point in its legacy as a profession. There is more and more emphasis to re-think the roles that planners have and how we (students in planning and urban studies) can change and reimagine the planning profession. It’s truly a really exciting and dynamic field to be a part of right now!

Speaker Series


With Us

The ACE Space has expanded its course offerings and provides even more compelling options for students and to ensure they have a broad knowledge of the relevant issues in urban and regional geography. Click a poster for more information on a course and to find out why it's relevant for urban geography students.




Urban Research Group

Passionate about urban research? Want to get to know the members of the ACE Space? The Urban Research Group has regular meetings where students can ask questions about their research, share tips they've learned throughout their studies, and discuss interesting developments and topics with likeminded people.

If you want to join the group and get more involved, get in touch with Dr. Nicholas Lynch!

Urban Research Group


We're always excited when our work can make a positive impact on the local community. This year, our students will work the City of St. John's to explore ways of improving integrated mobility, and with the Galway development to examine the opportunities and challenges of adapting new urbanist principles in Newfoundland.


In 2017, we also hosted a Small and Adaptive Cities conference, bringing together attendees from Canada and Ireland to share research and expand the conversation on these important topics.

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