Students in York University’s Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change (EUC) had an opportunity for innovative experiential education during the second virtual Planning Case Competition, held earlier this fall.
The event, designed for Master in Environmental Studies (MES) planning students, was hosted by the MES York Planning Alumni Committee (MYPAC) and connects students with alumni and professionals in the field of urban planning.
Students were welcomed by Professor Philip Kelly, associate dean of research, graduate and global affairs, who explained they would have an opportunity to participate in a project they may encounter in the planning field.
“At EUC we see our mandate, not just studying changing cities and environments, but also effecting change by imparting the skills and active citizenship among our students to make change out in the world,” said Kelly. “I hope that today’s event equips you with some of those skills. As you embark on your planning careers […] have a lot of fun and learn a lot in the process.”
The case study was presented by Chris Wong, director of transportation and master planning, York University Development Corporation (YUDC).
“Being invited to prepare the planning challenge for the MYPAC Case Competition was a huge privilege,” said Wong. “The competition is not only an innovative experiential education platform for the next generation of city planners who participated, but it allowed YUDC to use an emerging new vision and strategy initiative for the Keele Campus as a real-world demonstration of what they could be a part of over their careers.”
Students were asked to create a plan for the ‘Village Main’ neighbourhood in the southern quadrant of area surrounding York University. The plan would need to be consistent with York’s campus vision and incorporate the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which York is committed to. This case gave excellent insights into the kinds of projects students might encounter in future roles as planners.
Wong, as part of a panel of judges that included: David MacMillan, MES ’14, project manager, City of Toronto; Adam Zendel, MES’13, director of investments and planning, Royal Indevco Properties; and Gabriella Sicheri, MES ’94, vice-president, CreateTO. The panel assessed the students’ presentations, offered feedback and answered questions about city planning.
After much deliberation, the judges awarded the $2,000 cash prize to the winning team of MES students Justin Minor, Allsun Campbell and Erin Foster. The team was recognized for making connections to the existing infrastructure and implementing focus on the density that would be needed in this area. Their proposal encapsulated the following vision:
“The village corner will be an anchor of the York Community. A gathering space that provides a full host of amenities and services. It is connected to the university precincts and surrounding communities by network that prioritises transit, active transportation modes and green spaces. The land use and building types will be flexible enough to meet current demands and future needs.”
The second-place team – Paul Berkun-Drevnig, Jasmine Mohamed and Elika Zamani – earned $800 for their submission that demonstrated a strong land use plan and strong connection to the University’s physical and educational uses.
The third-place team – Bria Hamilton, Nigel Carvalho and Amanda Rooney – won $400 for their submission that showed a great understanding of open space and programming.
“The MYPAC case competition was a valuable experience as it allowed for my team and I to think of an urban-design solution for a particularly challenging space. We were able to create an innovative solution that consolidated a variety of perspectives and strategies,” said Berkun-Drevnig.
Brandon Stevens and Patrycja Jankowski of MYPAC organized the annual event and noted that MYPAC is proud to have hosted the Case Competition this year for students to have the opportunity to work on a planning case. The event builds on the positive reception from last year’s case competition and provides students the opportunity to showcase their work to their peers and alumni.
The 2021 MYPAC Case Competition proved to be an extremely useful tool for MES planning students in gaining experiential education that will support them in their studies as well as afterwards in their careers.