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Message from the Vice-President, Research & Innovation

Our increasingly globalized world renders obsolete the kind of inward-facing planning that benefits only the immediate city and its current population. Modern city building takes into account the strength of urban hubs while remembering their place in a much larger ecosystem.

We are better equipped than ever before to rise to the challenge. Be it through data generated and gathered via global mapping systems, social media, street level tracking sensors, or a host of other new and emerging technologies, the science of building great cities has a wealth of information ready to be harvested, parsed and analyzed.

To tackle challenging issues like climate change and the threat of water scarcity, immigration and integration, as well as urban transportation and its amalgamation with emerging technologies, we must look ahead while keeping in mind the fundamentals of science upon which sound decision- and policy-making is created. Moreover, we must trust that our cities, our municipalities and our communities are the grassroots through which change happens. One city can make a difference. One city can lead by example. One city can be bold and forward-thinking. When the data and scholarly insight provided by evidence-based research provides us with the knowledge to shape the city’s future direction, our thinking goes beyond bold and becomes aspirational and visionary.

Ryerson’s position at the centre of one of the world’s most diverse cities gives us a unique lens through which to view our societal challenges. By combining our knowledge with industry partners, local levels of government and grassroots community organizations, we can leverage the strengths of each of our allies toward a brighter future. While we are situated in a large urban centre with a robust economy, our researchers know that they must also look to our suburban and rural areas if we are to present a holistic picture of the challenges ahead.

The work profiled in this issue is illustrative of Ryerson's focus on city building and the important challenges and opportunities in cities. Professors Zhixi Zhuang’s and Wendy Cukier’s research intersects on the subject of immigrant entrepreneurs — how they change our landscapes, and how being an entrepreneur can open new pathways to employment for newcomers. Our streetscapes are changing, and professors Bilal Farooq and Raktim Mitra each take on a different challenge for our future roads, from autonomous vehicles to better cycling infrastructure. New technology is making the job of keeping us all safer easier through the use of unmanned aerial systems (drones) to inspect bridges, a method currently being tested by professor Alex Ferworn and his team. Professor Robert Burley’s creative work highlights the importance of maintaining one of Toronto’s most precious resources: our city’s ravines. And while we examine sustainability, professor Kristiina Mai’s industry collaboration offers an elegant and simple solution to replacing fluorescent lights with smart LEDs. We also look at professors Graham Hudson and Idil Atak’s work on Sanctuary Cities and discover how the City of Toronto could do more to give its AccessTO policy strength and substance. Finally, we profile our Geoffrey F. Bruce Fellows—students Katherine Minich and Edgar Tovilla—who each take different approaches to their work in water and water stewardship.

We hope you enjoy this edition of the newsletter and are inspired by the stories of our forward-looking researchers who addressing tomorrow’s problems today.