Toronto Urban Fellows

About the program

Toronto Urban Fellows logo

The job posting for the 2017-2018 Toronto Urban Fellows program is now closed.

About the Program

The Toronto Urban Fellows program provides talented new professionals with an intensive introduction to the governance, operations and administration of Canada’s largest city. This is accomplished through a combination of full-time work experience and a series of seminars, tours and workshops.

The Toronto Urban Fellows program has established a strong reputation as an innovative, groundbreaking initiative that has welcomed more than 90 highly skilled and talented professionals to the Toronto Public Service.

Urban Fellows make important contributions to the City of Toronto's policy and research agenda, provide fresh perspectives on complex issues, and undertake essential program development and evaluation activities. While their academic and professional backgrounds vary, all Toronto Urban Fellows share a commitment to excellence, public service and the City of Toronto's success.

About our Logo

The Toronto Urban Fellows logo was designed by two of its alumni. The background grid represents the City of Toronto's existing bureaucracy. It provides a strong foundation for the program but is rigid and defined in its structure. The coloured squares that burst from the grid represent the Fellows, their diverse backgrounds and their fresh perspectives. The logo depicts the Fellows as being framed by the grid, but emerging from it with the new energy and enthusiasm that recent graduates bring to the Toronto Public Service.


The Toronto Urban Fellows program won a 2014 City Manager's Award for Toronto Public Service Excellence in the Cross-Corporate Project category. Introduced in 2008, the Award is the Toronto Public Service's highest honour.

The City of Toronto was recognized as a world-class innovator who is changing the face of public service in Canada through its Toronto Urban Fellows (TUF) program. Rosanna Scotti, former director of Strategic & Corporate Policy in the City Manager's Office, was presented with a plaque at the Institute of Public Administration of Canada's (IPAC) national conference in St. John's, Nfld. Launched in 1990, the IPAC Award for Innovative Management (sponsored by IBM) distinguishes government organizations that have demonstrated exceptional innovations that address the wide variety of issues facing society today.

Toronto Urban Fellows Cohort, 2016-2017

Toronto Urban Fellows Cohort, 2016-2017

ExpandAshkan Roodi

Ashkan comes to the Urban Fellows program with a keen interest in transit and transportation and a background in research and analysis, project management, Public Private Partnerships (P3), and stakeholder management.

He holds a Master of Global Affairs with focus on capital markets and environmental studies from the University of Toronto and he has a Bachelor degree in Food science and Agro-industrial products.

Prior to graduate school Ashkan worked as an analyst where he took on a lead role in project management throughout Canada and was responsible for supporting the planning and resource allocation division, the preparation of research briefings and conducting market-sounding and competitive-study projects.

Ashkan also brings hands-on experience from a year-long capstone project evaluating Global and Regional Partnerships Programs of The World Bank and also a consulting project on Sustainability Investment (SI) for Kinross Gold Corporation where he performed research and data analysis, policy development and multiple presentations to senior management.

Internationally, Ashkan has worked with the non-governmental organization; The World Wild Fund (WWF) in Colombia, where he initiated and led a communications and urban public outreach project working with directors and senior management in the country. Facing challenges of an overseas project, he conducted thorough research on country’s demographics, met with representatives from The National Survey and Statistics Institute in Bogota to facilitate extrapolation of data and made sound strategy recommendations on increasing WWF’s public awareness in Colombia as well as forging public private partnerships. Due to the success of this project, Panama and Ecuador were in line to implement such recommendations.

ExpandCarol-Anne Hudson

Carol-Anne comes to the City of Toronto Urban Fellows program with an extensive background in business, community, government relations and social policy renewal in Canada and parts of the European Union. Carol-Anne holds two Bachelor of Arts degrees, both with Distinction, in Social Anthropology and Buddhist Philosophy, respectively, and a Master of Arts with Distinction in International Relations with a specialization in human security and forced migration from the University of Calgary and has recently completed a PhD in Political Science from McMaster University where she specialized in comparative social policy.

Prior to joining the Urban Fellows program, Carol-Anne served as a lead social policy researcher for Senator Ratna Omidvar on the My City of Migration project at the Global Diversity Institute. Carol-Anne was tasked with developing a Diversity Inclusion Index – a diagnostic tool that will help policy makers, city planners, major organizations, business and community leaders, among others, assess and track trends towards full inclusion of immigrants in large urban centres across six dimensions using a wide variety of indicators. Carol-Anne has also served as a senior social policy analyst, researcher, and project co-ordinator at all levels of government, for a number of non-profit organizations, and for several public policy institutes, including: the Geary Institute for Public Policy in Dublin, Ireland; the Institute for Social and Economic Research at Memorial University, St. John's, Newfoundland; the Parkland Institute in Edmonton, Alberta; Alberta Ministry of Human Services and Vibrant Communities in Calgary, Alberta; and, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada in Ottawa, Ontario.

Carol-Anne has applied her comprehensive policy research background, extensive field experience, and keen interest in the development of poverty reduction strategies, business participation in social reform, and living wage/basic income movements to a variety of multi-sector consultations and civic engagements aimed at addressing poverty, wage gaps, and social exclusion. For example, Carol-Anne has participated in and facilitated multi-stakeholder consultation processes with Aboriginal Peoples in Northern Canada, marginalized workers and income supports recipients in the Maritimes and Ireland, and with diverse women, newcomers, and visible minorities in major urban centres in Ontario and Alberta.

Carol-Anne brings her passion for social partnerships and social policy renewal to the Urban Fellows program where she is eager to deepen her understanding of complex governance and multi-stakeholder processes driving Canada's largest urban government and most diverse city.

ExpandCayla Baarda

Cayla comes to the Toronto Urban Fellows Program with a diverse background in research, policy analysis, and stakeholder engagement. She is a graduate of the Masters of Public Policy Program at the University of Toronto's School of Public Policy and Governance. During her time at the School of Public Policy and Governance, Cayla was one of four Directors of the school's pro bono policy consulting firm, The Public Good Initiative, where she had the unique opportunity to lead and manage policy projects that supported the non-profit sector in Toronto. She also served as a volunteer policy consultant as well as an editorial assistant for the Public Policy and Governance Review. 

Prior to her Masters education, Cayla studied International Development at University of Guelph, where she specialized in Political Economy and Administrative Change. She complemented her studies with a semester abroad at the National University of Singapore. After finishing her bachelor's degree, Cayla spent one year as a Native English Teacher with the National Institute for International Education in Seoul, South Korea, and 6 months as a research intern with Influence, a social-start up in Copenhagen, Denmark, whose aim was to find innovative strategies to combat youth unemployment in Europe. 

Cayla also interned at the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities where she contributed to research informing Ontario's Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan and legislation that would work towards safer campuses for Ontario's postsecondary students. Working on these files she was able to build valuable skills in stakeholder consultation and policy development. Most recently Cayla held a Research Assistant position with The Change Foundation, an independent health policy think tank dedicated to promoting positive change in Ontario's health care system. This experience has furthered her interest and knowledge in health policy, long-term care, and patient and family engagement. 

Having lived and worked in a number of big cities, Cayla is eager to learn more about urban issues and build on her policy and research skills with a unique municipal-level perspective.

ExpandClaire Nelischer

With a background in community-based planning and civic engagement, Claire joins the Toronto Urban Fellows program eager to explore the intersection of planning, community development, and public participation.

Most recently, Claire was a Project Manager with the Ryerson City Building Institute, a university-based organization that explores urban policy issues through research and engagement. In this role, Claire led the design and delivery of public and stakeholder programs that pushed forward vital conversations around the most pressing policy and planning issues in the GTHA. Prior to this, Claire worked with the Centre for City Ecology, where she coordinated public programs that engaged and educated communities around planning, policy, and civic process in Toronto. Claire's experience with citizen engagement and public participation was further developed through facilitation roles in the private sector with consultation firms MASS LBP and The Planning Partnership.

Before moving to Toronto, Claire earned a Master of Science in City and Regional Planning from Pratt Institute in New York City, where her work and studies focused on the role of community-based cultural activity in supporting neighbourhood sustainability. She was a Fellow at the Pratt Center for Community Development, working with Brooklyn-based community organizations engaged in the Center’s arts, culture, and sustainability projects. She also interned with Fourth Arts Block, a non-profit organization that works to strengthen the cultural vitality of Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

A former staff member of Jane’s Walk’s Toronto Project Office, Claire continues to volunteer with the organization, helping to develop and deliver events and programs that engage Torontonians in the life and legacy of Jane Jacobs and connect citizens to their neighbours.

Claire is an avid writer and frequently writes about culture, landscape, infrastructure, and planning for Spacing, Ground Magazine, and OGRA’s Milestones Magazine.

ExpandDominic Popowich

Dominic takes a strong interest in developing community-informed public policies that are equitable and inclusive. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Geography from McGill University (2011) and a Master of Public Health in Population Health from Simon Fraser University (2015). His areas of interest include gender and health, knowledge translation, and research methods. In his capstone project, Dominic explored the impact that reporting and accountability mechanisms can have on community participation in research. He has carried this interest in facilitating community participation in research and policy development into his professional activities.

Since moving to Toronto, Dominic has had the privilege of working with Rainbow Health Ontario, Planned Parenthood Toronto, and the UBC Centre for Health Services and Policy research on a wide range of projects pertaining to youth sexual and reproductive health, intimate partner violence, pharmaceutical use, and LGBTQ health. These initiatives have benefited from extensive community participation and have established clear pathways toward achieving more equitable social and health outcomes.

Dominic believes that effective solutions to health and social problems must address their root determinants, such as housing and employment. He is excited to join the City of Toronto, which is uniquely positioned to have a positive impact the social determinants of health through the work of its many Divisions. As a Toronto Urban Fellow, Dominic hopes to contribute to initiatives that focus on creating equity-focused policies and programming.

ExpandHilary Best

Hilary joins the Toronto Urban Fellows program with a professional background crossing sectors and subjects to achieve meaningful social impact. Most recently, Hilary served as Project Manager at CivicAction, leading the organization’s Escalator: Jobs for Youth Facing Barriers initiative which identified and incubated opportunities for the private sector to take a leading role in addressing the issue of youth unemployment in our region.

Prior to joining CivicAction, Hilary served as a consultant at impact investing firm Purpose Capital, where she led the firm’s Impact Measurement practice and helped organizations to identify, target, and track progress towards social and environmental goals. Hilary is a member of the Canadian Evaluation Society and is pursuing accreditation as a Credentialed Evaluator and as a Social Return on Investment Practitioner.

Hilary has extensive experience with public consultation and facilitation having led engagement projects for a variety of clients at Dillon Consulting and having served as the research lead on The Fourth Wall: Transforming City Hall, an exhibit which identified opportunities to improve civic engagement practices in Toronto.

Hilary is an accomplished writer and editor who has published extensively on impact measurement and urban issues, contributing to publications including Spacing Magazine, Corporate Knights Magazine, and Alternatives Journal. Hilary holds a B.A (Honours) in Geography from McGill University and a Masters of Design in Strategic Foresight and Innovation from OCADU.

ExpandJacinta Evans

Jacinta Evans is dedicated to inclusive initiatives that foster vibrant, strong and sustainable communities. She holds a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Global Development Studies and a Bachelor of Education from Queen's University, as well as a Masters of Arts in Public Policy and Administration from Ryerson University, with professional experience in community engagement, program development and public sector policy.

After her undergraduate degrees, Jacinta spent time teaching in an outdoor, experiential context before transitioning to the non-profit organization Right To Play. There, Jacinta worked with community partners to develop resources and implement youth programs in over 50 First Nations across Ontario. She later led the coordination, monitoring and budget management of the Youth to Youth program, a recreational and leadership initiative serving thousands of children in Toronto’s low-income neighbourhoods.

Jacinta’s experience applying collaborative approaches to complex social issues inspired her to pursue graduate studies. During this time, Jacinta received the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) Ontario Award for research, engaged in municipal social justice topics at the Jack Layton School for Youth Leadership, and worked for a program assisting post-secondary students to overcome multi-faceted barriers.

Upon graduation, Jacinta began her career as a public servant at the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario. Jacinta worked with stakeholders to ensure compliance with provincial accessibility legislation, piloted an internal system to gather data and streamline service delivery, and advised senior decision-makers on initiatives to improve accessibility for people with disabilities. Jacinta also promoted workplace excellence through her role as co-chair of her division’s Learning, Employee Engagement and Diversity committee, which was nominated for a Ministry award.

Jacinta brings a passion for the success of Toronto and all Torontonians. She looks forward to driving projects that strengthen our communities and our city.


ExpandJohn Willis

John Willis is a designer, researcher and evaluator interested in the role of digital technology and user-networks in civic innovation. John has a Master’s Degree in Inclusive Design (MDes) from OCAD University (2015), where he focused his research on storytelling as a mehod of crowdsourcing innovations in accessibility for people with disabilities.

Through his consulting practice as John Willis & Associates, he has pursued his interest in systemic design and diversity with recent projects on inclusion in post-secondary academic planning (OCAD University), the creation of a global 'registry' to capture and communicate unmet individuals needs in online learning (ISO), and evaluation of organizational learning in a global NGO. He was also the key driver of Canada's first consumer research panel focused on people facing barriers to markets and public services.

John gained extensive experience in polling, strategic communications, and stakeholder engagement while running a consultancy that served the civic and social organizations (1997-2013). He was Chair of the board of Greenpeace in Canada (1997-2000) and USA (2000-2003), Policy Co-Chair for George Smitherman’s Toronto mayoral campaign (2010), and the Board Chair of Social Planning Toronto, a community planning coalition of 350+ social agencies combatting poverty and social exclusion (2015-16).

Entering the Urban Fellows program, John hopes to anchor his contribution in an interdisciplinary approach for creating adaptable service systems in response to diverse needs, taking advantage of technological disruption to enhance inclusion and sustainability. As a Torontonian with vision impairment, he brings to the City lived experience of barriers in civic engagement, employment, and services. He incorporating this experience in his professional practice, John strives for an inclusive, enabling leadership style.

ExpandKatie Wittmann

Katie Wittmann loves leading and participating in projects that contribute to a happier, healthier Toronto. She has extensive experience researching and implementing active transportation programs, and has worked closely with school communities over the last few years to get more families walking and wheeling, and making it safer for them to do so.

As a School Travel Planning Facilitator with Green Communities Canada (GCC), Katie engaged a variety of stakeholders in the school travel planning process to develop and implement Transportation Demand Management programming for individual schools and improve neighbourhood safety. As part of her role, she managed the Guide to Safer Streets Near Schools Project, which culminated in an easy-to-follow guide explaining the City of Toronto’s traffic safety policies.

Prior to working at GCC, Katie was a Fellow with the Smart Commute team at Metrolinx. Her work contributed to the formation of the GTHA Active and Sustainable School Transportation Hub, the province’s largest cross-functional group focused on school travel. Her research has been published in the Journal of the Transportation Research Record, and helps inform the delivery of cycling education programs across the region.

Katie holds a Master of Science in Planning from the University of Toronto, with an Environmental Specialization, and completed the Collaborative Program in Public Health Policy. She majored in Global Development, with a minor in World Language Studies, for her Bachelor of Arts Honours degree at Queen’s University. For her major research project in her Master’s program, she studied the transportation patterns and attitudes of secondary school students in Toronto.  Recently, she collaborated with the Region of Peel to translate that research into a practical handbook for Peel high schools.

ExpandMatthew Hilder

Matthew comes to the Urban Fellows program with a background in anthropology, public engagement, and planning. From the University of Toronto, he holds a B.A. (Hons) and M.A. in Anthropology, and is a recent graduate of the Master of Science in Planning program.  While studying planning, his research centered on the challenges of cultivating meaningful and equitable public participation practices in the context of a rapidly growing city. This research project was undertaken in partnership with the City of Toronto Chief Planner’s Office, and supported the development of a staff training workshop on the issue of public participation. This built on previous work analyzing the role of public participation in social housing revitalization projects in Toronto, and how community mobilization shaped these projects.

His work experience in planning spans the private and public sectors. In the former, he has supported comprehensive public engagement initiatives, urban policy analysis, and development approvals. In the public sector, he interned with Toronto City Planning’s Strategic Initiatives, Policy, & Analysis unit, where he supported the development of secondary plan policy and stakeholder engagement. He assisted senior staff in the delivery of final policy recommendations for a regeneration area, and participated in the launch of a comprehensive review of Official Plan urban design policies. While in this position he gained an understanding of the role of the public servant in supporting complex public decision-making processes.

Prior to his work in planning, Matthew pursued studies in anthropology with a focus on citizenship, the state, and alternative economies. This culminated in a research study on the growing role of voluntarism and decentralization in shifting local service provision in the UK. Through this work Matthew gained a strong familiarity with the opportunities and challenges associated with partnerships between the public, private, and the non-profit sector in the delivery of human-centered services. This experience is proving relevant to his first rotation in the Cluster A Deputy City Manager's Office, where he is assisting in the development of divisional performance measures, cluster-wide shared outcomes, and advancing a framework for evaluating alternative service delivery options.

ExpandMeaghan Davis

Meaghan joins the Toronto Urban Fellows Program from a background in urban planning and arts administration. Creativity, civic engagement, and community building are the core of her professional practice. She holds a Masters of Planning from Ryerson University and a Bachelor of Arts, First Class Honours from McGill University.

Meaghan spent five years working as an arts administrator with a wide range of Toronto-based companies, from independent dance and theatre to the international, multi-arts festival Luminato. During the 2014 municipal election, she co-chaired ArtsVote Toronto, which engaged Toronto residents, and councillor and mayoral candidates, in a conversation about the importance of arts and culture. Meaghan has been a Board Member of the Toronto Arts Council, the granting body for the city’s artists and arts organizations; and of Civic Theatres Toronto, the City of Toronto agency comprised of the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, and the Toronto Centre for the Arts. She has also served on the Advocacy Committee of the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts, and supported the sector-wide efforts that resulted in a City Hall commitment to increase funding to the culture sector to $25 per capita.

At Ryerson, Meaghan’s research focussed on the dynamic relationship between cultural affairs, community development, and planning policy. Her SSHRC-funded master’s project employed quantitative and qualitative methods to examine how Section 37 of the Planning Act has been used to secure cultural benefits in Toronto, giving particular regard to the implications for addressing the inequitable distribution of cultural resources to underserved communities.

As a research assistant for Dr. Zhixi C. Zhuang at Ryerson, Meaghan conducted a comprehensive literature review of third places and place-making, and analyzed and synthesized retail policies of eight GTA municipalities as part of a major study of ethnic retail neighbourhoods. Her research received the Downtown Yonge Award of Excellence in Place-Making and was presented at the 2015 OPPI Conference. She also took part in a studio project for the Toronto Centre for Active Transportation that used participatory planning to develop design interventions and an active transportation neighbourhood plan in the City of Peterborough. The document will be a tool to help the community steward the ongoing revitalization of their neighbourhood. Meaghan’s planning ethic was also greatly influenced by a summer placement in the Chief Planner’s Office at the City of Toronto, supporting the special projects and stakeholder engagement portfolios.

Meaghan recently completed a planning internship at Urban Strategies Inc., an internationally recognized urban planning and design firm, where she contributed planning and policy analysis on numerous projects. Her first Urban Fellows placement is with the Revenue Services Division supporting the implementation of the City of Toronto's forthcoming administrative penalty system for parking violations, in partnership with Court Services and Legal Services. Outside of work, Meaghan is a tenacious cyclist and can often be found birding on the Leslie Spit.

ExpandMeena Bhardwaj

Meena Bhardwaj is a Toronto Urban Fellow with an educational background in Gerontology, Policy and Public Health. She holds a Masters of Public Health Degree with the Canadian Institute of Health Research’s Collaborative Program in Public Health Policy and Emphasis Program in Global Health from the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health. Meena completed her Bachelor Degree at McMaster University with a Combined Honours in Gerontology and Health Studies and a minor in Psychology. Her academic training compliments her passion for implementing principles of social justice and equity while working in the area of policy development in a cross sectoral capacity.

During her Masters Degree, Meena completed a practicum with Toronto Public Health's Healthy Public Policy Directorate, where she led an environmental scan of Toronto initiatives that have been effective or have shown promise in fostering social inclusion in the City. Through her Masters, Meena worked as a research assistant at Women’s College Hospital’s Women’s Cardiac Rehab Initiative where she was the lead on two studies. The first a qualitative study that evaluated a mosque-based exercise intervention in Toronto for South-Asian women at risk of cardiovascular disease. The second was a quantitative study that sought to understand depression severity and medication use amongst women attending cardiac rehabilitation and primary prevention programs at Women’s College Hospital. The results from these studies have been published and presented at national conferences in Canada.

During her time at The Dalla Lana School of Public Health, Meena co-chaired the award winning student-led conference Racial Justice Matters: Advocating for Racial Health Equity. The conference brought together over 200 researchers, practitioners, students and advocates to discuss how the public health community can address racial health inequities in our current system.

Meena has previously held positions with Toronto Public Health, Women's College Hospital, The Canadian Partnership Against Cancer (CPAC), the Ontario Seniors' Secretariat and Dentons Canada. Internationally, she has worked for non-for profit organizations in the areas of education, job readiness and child protection. Meena has experience in policy development & implementation at the municipal, provincial and pan-Canadian levels. Most recently she worked at the CPAC where she improved the usability of a national online tool for research, practice and policy specialists working in the area of Nutrition policy.

Meena is passionate about working in the public service and is looking forward to applying her diverse skill-set. Her first rotation as an Urban Fellow is with the Business Performance Management team in the Chief Corporate Officer Organization (CCOO). Meena will be working in strategic planning and policy with the City-wide Real Estate Transformation Program and implementing CCOOinnovates, an initiative aimed at generating meaningful change and creative processes to improve the way business is conducted within the CCOO.

ExpandNasser Jamal

Nasser comes to the Urban Fellows with a broad range of personal and professional experience. Nasser earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and Minor in Chemistry from the University of Louisiana (UL), which he attended on a full NCAA Division 1A football scholarship. While at UL, Nasser excelled as a scholar-athlete earning numerous awards and honors such as the Sun Belt Commissioner’s Academic Athlete Award, Dean’s List and President’s List. Following his graduation from UL, Nasser was selected 40th overall in the 2009 CFL Draft by the Toronto Argonauts. 

Shortly after his professional football career ended, Nasser received his Master of Public Health degree with a concentration in sociobebavioural sciences from the University of Waterloo. Nasser’s interest in harm reduction and access to care led him to focus his studies on programs such as COUNTERfit and Insite, and to this end, has completed numerous program evaluations and economic analyses of the benefits of such programs.

Prior to becoming an Urban Fellow, Nasser worked at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario. As a Physician Advisor, he worked closely with physicians and stakeholder organizations on issues and trends in the delivery of healthcare. Nasser worked with physicians to clarify government regulations, policies and guidelines, and also assisted members of the public in navigating the healthcare system and resolved issues between patients and physicians.

Nasser is interested in community engagement with respect to refugee and immigrant populations and volunteers at Homes First shelters in Toronto. Nasser is also a member of the Bay St. Pigs, a Toronto Rugby Union team, and is interested in environmental issues and economic barriers to accessing healthcare.

ExpandNiki Siabanis

Niki came into the program as a transportation planner and has a diverse background in urban planning, community engagement, architectural and fine art theory, and journalism.

Niki holds a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Architectural Studies and Fine Art History from the University of Toronto and a Master of Planning from Dalhousie University, where she focused her studies on transportation planning.

As part of her final independent study for the Master of Planning program, Niki led the design, development, implementation and evaluation of Nova Scotia’s first community-based Share the Road campaign for all road users. The objective of the project was to increase awareness and improve attitudes and behavior of people on the road. The project was funded through local and provincial grants and involved multi-platform engagement and evaluation programs. The campaign continues to serve a role in Nova Scotia, and has been adopted in part by communities outside of the province and internationally.

After completing her graduate degree, Niki spent two years in the private sector as a transportation planner, where she worked on a wide variety of projects across Canada. Most notably, Niki’s work involved transportation master plans with a focus on complete streets, regional and municipal infrastructure planning and design, and stakeholder engagement on a variety of levels. During this time, Niki strengthened her ability to work within challenging, multi-jurisdictional projects that involve competing interests and trade-offs. Niki presented her work on effective and multi-platform engagement at numerous conferences, including the Complete Streets Forum, the Atlantic Planners Institute Conference, and the Transportation Research Board.

Niki grew up in Scarborough, Ontario. Her long daily commute during her undergraduate degree led her to become extremely passionate about urban planning and its practical effects on transportation. Having also lived in Atlantic and Western Canada, Niki has a strong understanding of urban affairs across the country and applies this knowledge to her work.

ExpandNisa Malli

Nisa Malli joins the Toronto Urban Fellows Program from the federal government, where she was part of the team that started the Privy Council Office’s Innovation Hub, a policy lab at the heart of Ottawa. She is a former member of the Deputy Ministers’ Committee on Policy Innovation and the recipient of a 2014 Privy Council Office award for commitment to the development and pursuit of new and innovative ideas. Previously, she worked as a policy analyst for Employment and Social Development Canada, researching national social, education, and labour policies and trends.

Her work in government seeks to build communities and forums that create space for collaboration across sectors, disciplines, and jurisdictions. In 2016, she organized a two-day conference for public servants on behavioural insights: exploring how understanding human behaviour and decision-making can help target government policy and improve access to programs and services. She is one of the co-founders of the Ottawa Civic Tech community and the co-producer of Track Changes, a podcast exploring public sector innovation in Canada. She joined the public service from the community non-profit sector, where she ran digital literacy and social inclusion programming for seniors and new immigrants. She has worked as a journalist and editor and has written and organized around sexual harassment, gender equity, and LGBTQ rights.

Nisa holds an MA in Public and International Affairs from the University of Ottawa, where she researched how open government is redefining and digitizing civic virtue and citizen engagement, and a BFA in Writing from the University of Victoria. She has lived and worked in five Canadian cities and has added a sixth as an Urban Fellow with the City of Toronto.

ExpandOlivia Labonté

Olivia Labonté is an urban economist with a passion for integrating youth in sustainable urban development.  She has advised and worked with a number of local and international institutions, including the OECD, the World Bank Group, the United Nations and the Parliament of Canada. She is currently the Executive Director of Young Diplomats of Canada – a non-profit organization (NPO) that advocates for youth-inspired public policies, by enabling young Canadian leaders to participate at the highest level of diplomatic negotiations.

In 2014, Olivia represented Canada at the Y20 Summit – a meeting of the official youth engagement group of the G20. Along with delegates from around the world, she produced a cohesive policy framework in the form of a communiqué that addressed the challenges faced by the global youth, which was then presented to global leaders at the G20 Summit in Brisbane, Australia. Thereafter, she was invited to be a panelist at the 2014 Annual Meetings of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund, where she presented the youth perspective on rising unemployment at a civil society roundtable.

Olivia completed her undergraduate degree in economics and business with distinction, and has recently completed her Master’s in applied economics. Her thesis focused on finding solutions to sustainable development challenges caused by rapidly increasing urban populations in emerging nations. At present, her research has led her to South Africa, where she worked on compiling place-making and urban development insights for Our Future Cities – an NPO that seeks to democratize urban planning. She is also a North American Youth Advisor on the United Nation’s (UN-Habitat) Youth Advisory Board and is a standing committee member on the World Urban Campaign.

Olivia looks forward to applying the knowledge and experience gained from her academic research and professional activities to the inner workings of the City of Toronto as an Urban Fellow.


ExpandOlivia Waterman

Olivia comes to the Urban Fellows program with an interest in municipal public administration and the ways that various city policies and programs impact workers. She holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts in History and Political Science from the University of Toronto and a Master of Arts in Public Administration from the University of Ottawa. Her master’s degree research focused on changes to the way that work is structured and, in particular, non-standard and precarious employment. In this project, she used life histories provided by young workers to explore the way that the contemporary employment relationship is structured and how workers relate to organizations.

In addition to university research experience associated with her degree, Olivia has also had placements in a public sector research directorate and a research institute. These experiences gave her exposure to diverse research methods. She was a junior researcher at Employment and Social Development Canada where she assisted with projects related to labour market trends in Canada. This experience provided her with greater exposure to methods used in public sector research. Prior to this placement, Olivia was a research assistant at the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women where she supported research in the Changing Public Services project. This experience provided her with the opportunity to participate in research on public services and public sector employment that centred women from diverse social locations.

Olivia also has a strong background in community outreach that has influenced her interest in municipal affairs. She was an intern at Toronto Environmental Alliance where she engaged with Scarborough residents on waste reduction. This instilled in her a passion for applying a social justice and equity lens to city policies and programs. 

As a Toronto Urban Fellow, Olivia is looking forward to the opportunity to participate in a variety of city-building projects and to further develop her skills related to public policy and management.

ExpandQasim Jawaid

Qasim is passionate about real estate, socio-economic issues, urban planning and the intersection of equitable growth and sustainability. He holds a BA (Honours) in Economics and Political Science from Victoria College at the University of Toronto and an MBA from the Schulich School of Business at York University.

During the MBA Qasim interned at Bentall Kennedy, a real estate asset management firm, where he led sustainability benchmarking projects and worked on the collation of performance metrics for external and internal reporting. He graduated from the MBA with specializations in Real Estate, Strategic Management and Marketing. The MBA allowed Qasim to hone his quantitative analysis and project management skills and helped him develop a holistic problem solving toolset. He was able to apply these skill sets on external consulting projects where he analysed commercial enterprises to help deliver strategic insights and leverage points to enable optimization of business processes by company management.

Earlier, after completing his BA, Qasim managed operations for a portfolio of pharmaceutical market research projects at Ipsos Reid, one of the largest global market research firms, and later also managed construction projects in Karachi, Pakistan. Both these opportunities allowed Qasim to gain experience in stakeholder management, quantitative analysis and project management. Leading real estate development projects in Pakistan also drove home the importance of regulations and policy in developing services and infrastructure geared towards equitable, fair and sustainable urban growth. 

Qasim's first placement is with the Information and Technology Division where he is a Business Transformation Consultant working on a Supply Chain Transformation project.

ExpandSara O'Sullivan

Sara joins the Toronto Urban Fellows program after spending the last year at the provincial government as part of the Ontario Legislature Internship Programme (OLIP).

During her time at Queen’s Park, Sara worked in the offices of two Members of Provincial Parliament, gaining experience in strategic communications, stakeholder relations and community engagement. In this role, Sara coordinated a number of town hall meetings, project managed the development of a Private Members’ Bill and lead communications with OLIP’s extensive alumni network. As part of the academic component of the internship, Sara dedicated her research on the Ontario Legislative Assembly’s annual pre-budget consultations, assessing citizen engagement practices and its impact on policy development.

As a component of achieving her Master of Arts degree in Public Policy and Administration from Ryerson University, Sara completed a placement with Ontario’s Ministry of Government and Consumer Services. Sara worked on several consumer protection files requiring in-depth research and policy analysis. In this capacity, Sara explored ways to protect consumers while reducing regulatory burden on industries. Sara engaged a number of key stakeholders and facilitated public consultations with both consumers and industry representatives, and presented findings back to the community and senior Ministry staff.

Prior to completing her Masters, Sara attended Queen’s University, earning an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in Global Development Studies. In her third year of study, Sara embarked on exchange to Shanghai, China where she studied at Fudan University and worked as an intern in a local township. This internship prompted an interest in local governance and community development and allowed Sara to complete a project that implemented a health and safety program for senior citizens.  Sara was inspired by her experiences abroad to volunteer with international students upon returning to Queen’s to help with their transition to Canada.

Sara is eager to continue learning about municipal governance, citizen engagement and the policy development process through her experience as a Toronto Urban Fellow.

ExpandShelby Fallis

Shelby comes to the Urban Fellows program with an interest in building and maintaining sustainable cities. She holds an Honors Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies from Wilfrid Laurier University and a Master of Environment and Sustainability from the University of Western Ontario. For her major research project, Shelby worked in partnership with a London-based consulting firm, to determine material sustainability issues across the supply chain throughout various industries. The main deliverable of this research project was a sector-specific and cross-sectoral matrices on material sustainability issues that will be utilized by the consulting firm for future consulting projects, as a base for future research and throughout sustainability conferences.   

As a component of achieving her Masters, Shelby completed a work term with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), which helped to solidify her interest and passion for municipal government. Shelby's primary mandate was to calculate FCM's corporate greenhouse gas emissions inventory, as well as ensure standardization of the historical and future inventories through the research and development of a greenhouse gas emissions data management system. The research Shelby conducted is expected to initiate policy changes in 2017 and bring sustainability to the forefront of the organization while also continuing to drive bottom line performance.

Shelby is eager to deepen her understanding of municipal government and apply the knowledge and research skills achieved from her academic career and professional experience as a Toronto Urban fellow.