Roger Keil's Final Director's Message

Roger Keil has posted his latest and last Director's Message. Roger has been Director of the CITY Institute since its inception in 2006 and will remain connected to CITY through his involvement in the Global Suburbanisms MCRI. 

 June 19, 2013

Dear friends and associates of the City Institute,

I am delighted to announce that Professor Linda Peake has agreed to be the new Director of CITY. Linda is an accomplished scholar and committed urban activist whose work and renown reach way beyond Toronto and Canada. She is a leading feminist geographer and has been a core member of the Urban Studies Programme at York University. I am excited about Linda taking over the reins at CITY and I invite you to join me in welcoming her to her new responsibilities.

For myself, this is a time to say good-bye and reflect briefly on the time I was privileged to have spent as the Director of CITY. Having been part of the chartering process that created CITY in 2006 (together with Tricia Wood and Engin Isin), I initially agreed to be the Organized Research Unit’s inaugural director for two years. That it turned out to be a run of seven years in the end had many reasons that need not be revisited here. During this time, CITY has established itself as a major presence in the landscape of urban and regional research in Toronto and beyond. I am proud of what we have achieved. We have become a point of reference both locally and globally for thinkers and practitioners in urban affairs in a variety of subject areas. Working on the basis of our mandate of critical urban research, we have carved out an ambitious agenda that points into a productive future. Foremost among our many successful projects is certainly the Major Collaborative Research Initiative Global Suburbanisms: Governance, Land and Infrastructure in the 21st Century (www.yorku.ca/suburbs) which has put us on the map not just of suburban research world wide but of urban research in general.

A host of other projects have been run through CITY: on infrastructure, health, the legacy of socialist modernism, regional governance, suburban identities, the relationship of universities to new urban forms in general and the York University Village in particular, urban unrest in Northern Africa, and several others. We have hosted many visiting scholars from around the world and have been the home to postdoctoral researchers. We have hosted large and successful international conferences and have run a number of much recognized public events, most notably our flagship City Seminar series. We are present in and through the media which has taken an interest in and broadcast our work on a regular basis. Through a number of partnership arrangements, especially the MCRI’s Greater Toronto Suburban Working Group and other partners (the Canadian Urban Institute, the National Film Board of Canada, etc.), we have built deep roots in Toronto’s communities of urbanists. We have hosted events with political and community organizations and have provided a stage for many conversations by activists and policy makers in the Toronto area on a variety of topics from transit to homelessness. We have worked regularly with colleagues at the University of Toronto (most notably through their Cities Centre) and Ryerson University. We are running international exchange programs for students and faculty.

We have had able and enthusiastic staff at CITY over the years. My thanks goes to all of them, past and present. It has been a particular source of pride and joy for me to have worked with dozens of undergraduate and graduate students over the years who have been residents at CITY, have been visiting us through our international exchange programs and have volunteered and worked for us in a variety of positions. My gratitude goes out to all of them and I hope they will remain connected to us as alumni when they go out to work as urbanists locally and globally.

I want to personally thank the Office of the Vice President Research and Innovation which has been supportive of CITY from its inception in 2006 and the Faculty of Environmental Studies, to which I now return, and which has been an important source of much needed institutional resources and personal encouragement over the years for the work we have done at CITY. I am also grateful to the members of the Executive Committee and the Advisory Board of CITY who have supported our work in many important ways. I encourage these communities to extend a helping hand to the new director, Linda Peake, as she leads CITY through the upcoming re-chartering process which the University has required us to enter later this year.

Although I am leaving CITY, I will remain connected through the MCRI which will reach its half way point in the fall of 2013. We will celebrate this milestone with a major international conference on the suburban revolution. More on that some other time. What remains now is to thank the one person who has remained stable in all these years of rapid change and innovation at CITY: the Institute’s and the MCRI’s coordinator, Sara Macdonald. Hired shortly after the chartering in 2006, Sara has been the backbone of the operation, the secret behind our success. I cannot thank Sara enough for the time and energy she has put into making CITY what it is today. Everyone who has worked with her, near or far, will agree that she is the soul and the heart of the operations at CITY. Thanks, Sara!

Leaving CITY means the beginning of a sabbatical for me. I am planning to write a book on suburbs and complete some other longstanding writing projects. As often as time allows, you will find me in my beautiful new canoe that so many of you contributed to. I really appreciated that very much and took it out for a first spin on the lake last weekend.

So long.

Roger Keil