School of Urban and Regional Planning, 1970–71

Celebrating 50 years of success

Founded in 1970 by Stanley Lash as an independent interdisciplinary school within the School of Graduate Studies, the School of Urban and Regional Planning (SURP) recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. More than 60 students, faculty, and alumni gathered to celebrate the milestone event and participate in a series of panel discussions.

Faculty of Arts and Science Dean Barbara Crow brought greetings from the university and highlighted SURP’s recent professional re-accreditation and 94 per cent graduate placement is professional planning positions.

“The School’s most important work is educating the next generation of Canadian planners,” says SURP Director John Meligrana. “Our alumni are in leadership positions in municipalities from coast to coast to coast and are directors of the two largest undergraduate planning programs (Waterloo and Toronto Metropolitan University).

In 1973, Gerald Hodge was appointed director of SURP, and the program moved Civil Engineering’s Ellis Hall to Mackintosh-Corry Hall, the new social-sciences complex. In 1989 the program moved into Robert Sutherland Hall with the School of Policy Studies. In 2015, SURP joined the new Department of Geography and Planning in the Faculty of Arts and Science and two years later SURP moved into renovated space in Mackintosh-Corry Hall to be co-located with other Department of Geography and Planning labs and offices.

“Small schools that only offered graduate degrees did not fit the 21st century economic model for an academic department,” former Director David Gordon explains. “The smaller schools of Policy Studies, Industrial Relations, and Urban and Regional Planning were moved from the School of Graduate Studies into the Faculty of Arts and Science.”

SURP is now part of a new, larger Department of Geography and Planning. It retains its identity as a professional school and control over the Master of Urban and Regional Planning curriculum. A major advantage for the school was immediate access to a strong doctoral program, so the SURP faculty could supervise doctoral students. A major advantage for the department was that SURP faculty could now teach undergraduate students and led the development of an Urban Planning Studies Certificate that is now the largest in the department.

“Our faculty are highly honored by the planning profession for their teaching and research– with six current or emeritus faculty members of the College of Fellows of the Canadian Institute of Planners  (Eric Thrift, Mohammad Qadeer; Gerald Hodge; Hok-Lin Leung; David Gordon and Leela Viswanathan); more than any other school,” says Director John Meligrana. “The books written by SURP faculty are used as texts across the country and their research is frequently cited by Canadian media.”

With such a long and storied history, Dr. Meligrana took time to celebrate the successes but is also focused on the future of SURP.

“In the short term, we look forward to re-building SURP’s international outreach, which has been disrupted by the pandemic and political unrest. We look to restart our exchange programs with our Matariki Network partners; Professor Agarwal wants to offer our India project courses, and Professor Leung continues his China Projects under difficult circumstances.”

To learn more visit the SURP website.