Student Liaison Committee
Student Delegate, Ryerson University
Alex is in his final year of a Bachelor's Degree in Urban and Regional Planning at Ryerson University. After three years on the Ryerson Association of Planning Students, Alex is thrilled to be helping lead the Student Liaison Committee(SLC) with a fantastic team of student representatives. He is looking forward to connecting Ontario planning students to opportunities and building on the legacy of past committees.
Alex's interests lie in the intersection of transportation, public health, and sustainability. He has had the opportunity to work across Canada and around the world on Green Line LRT in Calgary, and Auckland Transport's New Network. Additionally, he is deeply passionate about city building, public transit and stakeholder engagement. Last year, Alex studied abroad at Birmingham City University in England.
Alex is the 2015 recipient of the Ronald M. Keeble Undergraduate Scholarship and is a 2016 American Public Transportation Association Scholar. He is the Vice Chair of the Youth and Emerging Task Force for the Canadian Urban Transit Association and the Vice President of Finance at the Ryerson Association of Planning Students.
Alex is excited to be chairing the Student Liaison Committee and looks forward to meeting and engaging planning students at events throughout the year. He would like to encourage students to reach out to him with questions and suggestions pertaining to OPPI and related student events/opportunities.
Zoe Sotirakos is currently a Masters of Environmental Studies in Planning student at the University of Waterloo. She is a recent graduate of Queen’s University with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Geography. Through undergraduate research, she focused on food systems in relation to residential land-use patterns, as well as taking a variety of physical geography and policy based courses. With previous work in the both the private and public sector, her diverse experiences motivate her interest to work in the highly interdisciplinary field of planning.
Under the supervision of Markus Moos, her current research is focused on sustainable suburbs and connectivity. She is interested in changes to the urban form which could decrease the environmental impact from pre-existing low-density dwellings.
Zoe hopes to encourage, motivate and connect Waterloo students with the OPPI. Fostering an inclusive and informed network of students, she will work to build connections between the two communities.
Ellen McGowan is currently in her fourth year of undergraduate studies at the School of Planning, University of Waterloo, where she is specializing in Land Development Planning.
With previous experience in both the public and private sector, Ellen has contributed to a wide range of planning projects. As a Student Planner at MacNaughton Hermsen Britton Clarkson Planning Limited, Ellen coordinated development approvals and assembled documentary disclosure for Toronto Local Appeal Body hearings. As a Planning Policy Assistant at the City of Windsor, Ellen designed an independent research project on the urban heat island effect in downtown Windsor. She was also heavily involved in the planning of Windsor’s inaugural Open Streets. At the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, Ellen undertook research, analyzed planning documents and prepared reports to support the implementation of provincial land use legislation.
Ellen is excited to be a part of the Student Liaison Committee for the 2018 year. She looks forward to connecting University of Waterloo planning students to the OPPI community.
Samha Alam is an undergraduate student at the University of Waterloo undergoing her second year in the Honours Co-operative Planning program. Samha has recently joined the OPPI Student Liaison Committee as the 1st year undergraduate representative. Her interests lie within the planning realm and through learning new languages, those currently being Arabic and Spanish.
After having grown up in the U.K and moving to Canada, she has become fascinated by the multidisciplinary element of urban planning. Having been a continuously involved member of her local communities, Samha strives to assist in improving rural and urban areas in a planning context. Her passions include the social aspect as well as community development for a more sustainable and healthier world through active transportation and more. Samha spent this past summer working as a student community development worker at a co-operative housing location in Oakville. She had the opportunity to work with various types of people and explore skills of problem solving, leadership and communication.
Samha is dedicated to enhancing the connections between OPPI and the undergraduate planning student body at the University of Waterloo. She is proud and eager to join other aspiring planners through OPPI’s Student Liaison Committee and looks forward to fulfilling her position on the committee.
Patricia is a first-year Master’s Candidate in the Rural Planning and Development program at the University of Guelph. Previously, she completed a Bachelor of Arts (Hons.) in Urban Studies and Sociology at the University of Toronto. Patricia is currently a GRA, working under the supervision of Dr. Wayne Caldwell.
Patricia is interested in areas such as housing, public space/parks and recreation, active transportation, aging communities, and civic engagement.
Patricia is excited to be working with the SLC reps to promote awareness of OPPI and encourage more involvement by fellow planning students, to enhance students’ academic experience and create strong networks.
Nick is a first-year student at the Queen’s University School of Urban and Regional Planning. Prior to moving to Kingston for graduate studies, he completed the Concurrent Education program at Brock University, earning a Bachelor of Education and Bachelor of Arts (Hons.) in Geography. During his undergraduate degrees he spent time working in collaboration with the Township of South Algonquin in Northern Ontario to develop their first zoning by-law, and also completed a thesis studying the feasibility of expanding Niagara Region Transit services.
Through working for the Town of Lincoln, a municipality in Niagara’s wine region, over the past year and a half, Nick has developed an interest in how Ontario’s key land use plans impact “Greenbelt-locked” communities. He is also interested in researching planning for northern communities, in particular how communities plan for the long-term when facing decline.
Nick is looking forward to participating on the Student Liaison Committee for the 2016-2017 year, and hopes to bring forward several new ideas that will further enhance OPPI’s commitment and relationship with planning students across the Province.
Colleen Ivits is currently a Master of Urban and Regional Planning Candidate at Queen’s University, specializing in Land Use and Real Estate. A proud alumna, she also graduated with a Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Environmental Science and Geography from the same institution.
Colleen has completed two planning-related internships to date. In the summer of 2016, she worked for AECOM in their Guelph office as part of their Environmental Impact Assessment Team. In a fast track version of their Graduate Development Program, she gained experience with public information centres and public relations, as well as on-site environmental and archaeological field work.
More recently, in the summer of 2017, Colleen worked as a student planning assistant in the Planning and Development Department for the Township of Clearview. In this role, she assisted with pre-consultations for development applications, responded to property information requests, and reviewed façade grant applications as part of the Community Improvement Plan.
Colleen is excited to collaborate with her colleagues on the Student Liaison Committee. She also looks forward to promoting opportunities with OPPI to her peers at Queen’s University.
Safiyyah Omar Saleh
Safiyyah is pursuing a Masters of Planning in Urban Development at Ryerson University and has recently joined OPPI’s Student Liaison Committee as a class representative. She has completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto, achieving an Honours Bachelor of Arts majoring in Human Geography and Geographic Information Systems (GIS).
In the past year, Safiyyah has gained experience in the field of planning, working at WSP|MMM Group Limited in the Transportation Planning department. She has had the opportunity of working on various transportation related projects including transportation master plans, environmental assessments, traffic impact studies, and parking studies.
Her research interests focus on the accessibility of middle and low income households to transit services and the economic impact this has on these households. She is also interested in further exploring the potential of computer analyzing software like GIS in the realm of urban planning and the transportation sector.
Her main goal as OPPI SLC class representative is to seek out events and opportunities that enrich her classmates’ academic experience and expand their professional network. And most importantly, that further their cause as they pursue a career in the field of urban planning.
Kumail is a Master of Planning (Urban Development) Candidate at Ryerson University’s School of Urban and Regional Planning. Prior to attending Ryerson University, Kumail completed a Bachelor of Environmental Studies (Environmental Management) at York University.
Kumail is interested in the intersection between urban planning and ecological processes. Having spent time learning about ecology and sustainability abroad in Costa Rica, and working for the Oak Ridges Moraine Land Trust at home, Kumail has developed a deeper understanding of issues related to sustainable development.
He is proud to serve as a representative on the OPPI’s Student Liaison Committee for the next two years. He is excited to share the amazing opportunities for networking and professional development with his fellow classmates to enrich their academic experience.
Keith is currently in his second year of his Bachelors in Urban and Regional Planning at Ryerson University. When not in school he actively enjoys exploring cities. This past summer he visited Budapest, Prague, Vienna, and many other cities throughout Central Europe.
His main interests include how to improve the function and design of existing transit stations, community use of hydro corridors, and the repurposing of older transit infrastructure to fill other community needs. As a long-time resident of Scarborough, he is also passionate about issues relating to the east end of the city.
Keith is looking forward to working with his colleagues on the Student Liason Committee to improve OPPI outreach to students.
Catherine Tran is on her second year of completing her Bachelor of Urban and Regional Planning degree at Ryerson University.
She is excited to be a part of the OPPI Student Liaison Committee and further her career as a planning professional. Along the way she would love to connect with others in the field while inspiring future planners within the planning realm. This past summer, Catherine had the privilege to travel around Asia, which allowed her to experience first-hand the shift in built forms amongst cities. She was particularly interested in the unique transportation planning that took place in Tokyo and Taipei, and how international spaces can act as inspiration and be brought back and integrated into cities.
In her two-year term, Catherine hopes to bridge Ryerson students with the OPPI community, encouraging young planners to attend conferences and other events to kick start their professional careers.
Natasha Petzold is a candidate for the Masters of Science of Planning Program at the University of Toronto. Before attending the MScPl program, Natasha completed a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Architectural Design and Urban Studies at the University of Toronto.
Natasha has gained experience working in the fields of Engineering, Architectural Design, and Planning for the non-profit and public sectors. She spent the past summer working in municipal planning, which introduced her to the role of the planner and the value of working in an interdisciplinary environment.
Natasha has lived primarily in Southern Ontario, and is interested in planning in both urban and rural contexts. Through academic and work experience, Natasha has developed particular interests in urban design, walkability, and sustainable planning practices for parkland and public spaces. She feels strongly about the role of the natural environment in public space as a key factor for producing healthier and happier communities.
Natasha is proud to join OPPI’s Student Liaison Committee and looks forward to connecting students with the OPPI to create strong networks for future professional planners.
Anson Ma is a student in the Master of Science in Planning at the University of Toronto. Prior to moving to Toronto, he completed a Bachelor of Arts with a double major in Political Science and Economics at the University of British Columbia. In the summer of 2016, his interest in planning began on an academic exchange, with a three-week intensive course in strategies for urban livability at the Danish Institute for Study Abroad in Copenhagen. While having studied within cities for the past several years, he grew up in the town of Banff, Alberta, where he saw planning and development being carefully managed around a strong dual emphasis on stringent environmental protection, and a local economy deeply rooted in tourism.
Inspired both by his undergraduate experiences on studying the link between happiness and economics, as well as reading Charles Montgomery’s Happy City, Anson is particularly interested in understanding how high-quality and welcoming urban design can lead towards a happier and healthier city. His early experiences with planning in Copenhagen has also grown into an interest in transportation planning, especially in active transportation and transit provision.
Anson is excited to connect the OPPI with his cohort, and to work with his peers in bringing the planning student network closer with the greater Ontario planning community.
Darren Pigliacelli is a passionate urbanist that loves traveling and exploring, photographing and studying the planning design and economics of cities, particularly Toronto. He is a graduate of the Urban & Regional Environmental Studies program at York University where he studied urban environments and received certifications in Urban Studies, GIS and Remote Sensing. Currently, he is a Masters of Urban and Regional Planning candidate at York University where he studies urban planning, design and economics and how it relates to the sustainability, prosperity and global competitiveness of urban regions and the Greater Toronto Area.
Darren is dedicated to the field of planning, whether he is researching and studying cities at York University, working with York Regions Planning & Economic Development Branch to monitor the region’s employment and economic growth trends, or working with Lura Consulting to understand communities interests and concerns. He has a wide range of perspectives, knowledge, and understanding of the planning, design and economics of cities and urban regions.
Darren is excited for the opportunity to be a part of the OPPI Student Liaison Committee and looks forward to working with the various members of the Committee. He is proud to represent the organization and promote its various opportunities to students at York University and beyond.
Sarah Jackson is pursuing a Master’s of Environmental Studies (Urban & Regional Planning) at York University in Toronto. Prior to starting her Master’s, she completed a Bachelor of Arts (Hons.) in Geography at Queen’s University in Kingston. During her undergraduate, she studied the environmental effects of climate change in the High Arctic. Now she is taking her understanding of climate change and applying it to the challenges that cities will continue to face in becoming more resilient.
During an exchange at the University of Helsinki in Finland, Sarah had the opportunity to take an urban geography field course where she explored the planning of Nordic cities. The innovative and citizen friendly approach to urban planning is what made Sarah decide to pursue her Master’s. Sarah’s interests include politics in planning, planning for climate change, and community engagement. She recently moved from Victoria B.C. to Toronto and she is looking forward to learning more about the urban planning issues that are unique to the GTA.
Sarah is excited to be a representative on OPPI’s Student Liaison Committee and to have the opportunity to work with students from across Ontario. She is proud to represent the planning students at York and contributing on their behalf to OPPI.