Queen's University

Dr. Betsy Donald

Professor, Department of Geography and Planning

Governor General's Academic Gold Medal


I am a Professor in the Department of Geography and Planning at Queen’s University. I am also a Member of the Canadian Institute of Planners and a Registered Professional Planner (RPP). I earned my BA in History at McGill, MES in Environmental Studies at York University, and my MScPl in Planning and PhD in Geography at the University of Toronto. I was a Visiting Professor in Canadian Studies at Kwansei Gakuin University, Japan (2016), a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University (2005-2007), a Visiting Fellow at Clare Hall, University of Cambridge (2012-2013), and was the Eccles Centre Visiting Professor in North American Studies at the British Library, London, UK (2012-2013). I have also been a Research Associate at the Centre for Business Research: Judge Business School, at Cambridge University, since 2015. I received the Julian Szeicz Award (2015-2016) for Excellence in Teaching as well as the Eccles Centre Visiting Professor Award, British Library, UK, in 2012.

My research interests fall under three categories: cities, food, and rural economies. I have a wide range of interests which are all connected to the spatial dimensions of contemporary socio-economic-political change, and I teach, research, and consult in the field of economic geography with a focus on innovation and regional economic development, urban planning and governance, and sustainable food systems. 

I have authored over 55 publications including articles in the Journal of Economic Geography, Urban Studies, Regional Studies and Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space. I am currently an editor of the Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society. I have had many Social Sciences and Humanties Research Council (SSHRC)-funded research projects and won awards for my research including the Governor General's Academic Gold Medal.


Most Recent Project

The double crisis: in what sense a regional problem?

Data map: Hazardous waste sites in Silicon Valley, California, next to household incomeWe are now facing Andrew Sayer’s ‘diabolical double crisis’, which encompasses both a deep financial crisis and an environmental one. The scale, scope and nature of this double crisis is downplayed in the regional studies literature, much of which still focuses on innovative growth models often divorced from broader social and ecological contexts.

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Other Projects

  • Sharing economies: moving beyond binaries in a digital age

    Cover: Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and SocietyIn periods of turbulence, the tendency to simplify messages and polarise debates is nothing new. In our hyper-mediated world of online technologies, where it seems that even national policy can be forged in the 140 characters of Twitter, it is more important than ever to retain spaces for in-depth debate of emergent phenomena that have disruptive and transformative potential. In this article, we follow this logic and argue that to fully understand the diverse range of practices and potential consequences of activities uncomfortably corralled under the ambiguous term ‘the sharing economy’ requires not a simplification of arguments, but an opening out of horizons to explore the many ways in which these phenomena have emerged and are evolving.

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  • Food Fears: Making Connections

    Cover for the book Food Fears: From Industrial to Sustainable Food Systems, about the challenges and changes within the industrial food system of the WestIn the chapter Food Fears: making Connections in the book Food Fears: From Industrial to Sustainable Food Systems, (Alison Blay-Palmer), I explore the links between the overwhelming economic pressures exerted on farmers by the industrial food system, shifting production practices and consumer food fears in Canada and the United States.

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