Important progress made at U of T – USP
urban issues conference

October 31st, 2014

Paul Fraumeni

U of T leaders and researchers are delighted with the progress made in forging new research partnerships at the Global Cities 2014 joint conference in Sao Paulo, Brazil October 22 to 24.

A team of 13 U of T professors, President Meric Gertler, Interim Vice-President Research and Innovation, Peter Lewis and Vice-President, University Relations Judith Wolfson met with a similar group of colleagues at the University of Sao Paulo (USP).

The conference was part of the two institutions’ ongoing research collaboration, which has included joint conferences and symposia on oncology, neuroscience, and international relations.

Gertler noted that the Global Cities 2014 conference was “a wonderful event, thanks to two years of planning that started with a brainstorming session in 2012, which I was privileged to attend along with my predecessor President David Naylor.”

The conference focussed on urban issues by way of four themes:

  • The University and the City (co-led by Prof. David Wolfe, political science, U of T Mississauga and Prof. Roberta Kronka, Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning, USP)
David Wolfe

Photo by Munk School of Global Affairs.

“The conference provided us with the opportunity to explore a wide range of topics with colleagues in Brazil’s largest and most dynamic city. While we don’t all approach our research questions in the same manner, it afforded us a deeper insight into some of the key issues and challenges they are dealing with and particularly with respect to the theme of the University and the City, insight into how they see the university contributing to the solution of social, environmental and economic problems in a city that has grown at a dizzying pace.” – David Wolfe






  • Infrastructure, Resilience & Sustainability (co-led by Prof. Eric Miller, civil engineering, U of T and Prof. Orlando Strambi, USP’s Polytechnical School)
Eric Miller

Photo by Roberta Baker

“The idea behind the U of T-USP research partnership is a very simple one: take two great universities located in two big cities that share a wide range of similar urban challenges, bring leading scholars from both universities together in the same room and see what comes out.  What came out of the Global Cities Conference at USP exceeded expectations in terms of exciting synergies between the two research teams.  While contextual details often differ between Toronto and Sao Paulo (we don’t face the same sort of crime and security problems that they do, for example), we found a great deal of common ground upon which to build joint research projects going forward.” – Eric Miller





  • Healthy Cities (co-led by Prof. Patricia O’Campo, Dalla Lana School of Public Health and St. Michael’s Hospital and Prof. Helena Ribeiro, School of Public Health, USP)
Patricia O'Campo

Photo from St. Michael’s faculty page

“It was exciting to be part of a team of experts who were expected to break out of their silos to spend an intensive two days thinking and talking about how the University can more intentionally contribute to improving urban living. While the city contexts differed, it was clear that the two universities have untapped resources that can be mobilized to inform solutions to the cities’ most pressing problems.” – Patricia O’Campo






  • Socio-Economic Issues (co-led by Prof. Deborah Cowen, geography and Prof. Rossana Reis, Faculty of Philosophy, Letters and Human Sciences, USP).
Deborah Cowen

Photo from University of Geography website.

“The conference was a fascinating experiment. Prepare a stellar mixture of urbanists from one institution – many whom have never met before. Get them to talk intensely about their work with a focused goal of finding resonance across disciplines, methods, and areas of expertise. Then throw them in a room together for two days with a group from another institution that has been doing the same thing, now with the goal of finding research resonance across institutions. What we got was an extraordinary and intense set of discussions all oriented towards potential collective creativity. We returned home having explored vast conceptual and empirical terrain, having learned tons, and having made new connections with colleagues here and there that feel lasting.” – Deborah Cowen 





U of T professors participating in the conference included Shiri Breznitz, Munk Centre for Global Affairs; Paul Hess, Geography; Robert Levit, John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape & Design; Matti Siemiatycki, Geography; Greg Evans, Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry; David Henry, Dalla Lana School of Public Health; Eric Fong, Sociology; Alan Walks, Geography; Scot Wortley, Criminology.

“This collaboration demonstrates the value of our partnerships with peer institutions around the world,” said Gertler. “Colleagues in both institutions developed the program, bringing together complementary, multidisciplinary teams of very impressive researchers who work in the area of Global Cities. Our focus on this area of mutual strength and interest will help foster great scholarship on some of the most important issues we face in an increasingly urbanized world.”

Each conference is followed by a joint call for proposals. Successful proposals will receive funding for further research in the priority areas. The next joint call for proposals will be issued on Nov. 6. The closing date for submission will be January 26, 2015 and successful applicants will be notified by April 24, 2015.

University of Sao Paulo main campus (Photo by Gaf.arq/Wikimedia)

University of Sao Paulo main campus (Photo by Gaf.arq/Wikimedia)