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Dr. Leela Viswanathan

I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography and Planning and a Registered Professional Planner in Ontario. I am cross-appointed to the School of Environmental Studies and to the Department of Gender Studies. I hold degrees from McGill (B.A., Sociology) and from York University (M.E.S, Planning; Ph.D., Environmental Studies). I earned my Ph.D. in 2007 after a 10-year career in social policy analysis and community planning in the not-for-profit sector and in provincial government.

In the broadest sense, my research examines how public policies, planning processes, and people shape environments (i.e., built, ecological, social, economic, and cultural environments). I experience planning as both a technical and cultural practice. I also believe that knowledge is situated in different places. As a result, my research focuses on both dominant and alternative narratives to cities and planning, amplifies voices that are often silenced, and seeks to include communities that are socially and spatially marginalized.

My ongoing research interests involve theories and practices of: (1) planning with First Nations; (2) planning pedagogy and service-learning; and (3) race, space, and cross-cultural relations. I collaborate with community-based and academic researchers to address both technical and adaptive planning problems at local and regional geographic scales.


I work with my team of researchers and community partners to foster a collaborative and supportive environment for research, training, and learning. Contact me if you are a graduate student or fourth-year undergraduate student interested in conducting research about planning, diversity, and equity and in pursuing further studies in urban planning, human geography, or environmental studies. You may also visit the Planning With Indigenous Peoples (PWIP) Research Group website for more information about our research projects funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). The PWIP website also provides profiles of current student researchers and of graduates. Graduate students under my team’s supervision obtain skills in academic research (e.g., critical, theoretical, analytical and strategic thinking; qualitative research; community relationship-building; co-authoring publications) as well as professional planning skills (e.g., analyzing policy and legislation; creating documents for planning practitioners; evaluation and monitoring practices).