Fraser McLeod

Alumnus Fraser McLeod: the value of collaboration

by Anthony Pugh, June 2016

Portrait of SURP alumnus Fraser McLeod

During his Master’s at Queen’s University School of Urban and Regional Planning (SURP), Fraser McLeod worked collaboratively with community research partners from two First Nations in Southern Ontario. Now, working with local communities is integral to his job in Calgary as a planner with Stantec Inc., an international design and consulting firm. His commitment to building meaningful relationships with others defines both his graduate work and his current employment and has inspired his career.

McLeod completed his BA at the university in Global Development Studies and Geography. He decided to continue on to an MPL in order to apply in a practical manner his critical approach to global issues developed during his undergraduate experience.  “I was interested in learning about how strategic-level planning legislation, policies and plans can help or hinder on-the-ground relations between municipalities and First Nations. I decided to do the degree at Queen’s because for me it was the best place for research opportunities.”

As a part of the Planning with Indigenous Peoples Research Group, McLeod’s graduate research was a partnership between academic and community researchers from Queen’s University, the University of Waterloo, Walpole Island First Nation and Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation. It looked at the current intersection and limits between planning legislation and First Nations’ rights and interests and highlighted opportunities to create meaningful change through key policy shifts. “The thesis was co-authored together with scholars and community practitioners from two First Nations and two universities”, McLeod says.  “It was an iterative process developed collaboratively amongst team members.” The first half of this thesis has now been published for open access in the International Indigenous Policy Journal.

McLeod speaks very highly of his graduate supervisor, Professor Leela Viswanathan and SURP Professor Graham Whitelaw. “Having Dr. Viswanathan along with Dr. Whitelaw there to support my research interests, share their knowledge and expertise and help think through new ideas and concepts was so important to the research process. They played a critical role in who I am today as an individual and practitioner and I'm grateful for the support and connections they provided and their willingness to partner with me as a researcher.”

Work at Stantec for McLeod involves everything from drafting and analyzing policy, making strategic recommendations, facilitating engagements, coordinating projects and determining how to best achieve desired outcomes for a range of public and private clients. “As a planner I am both a facilitator and a mediator as I often work collaboratively with an integrated team of professionals. I find community engagement especially stimulating because I continually learn new things, often about the policy I may be directly involved with.”

The Queen’s MPL program prepared McLeod well for building relationships with diverse clients, community partners and stakeholders. “This is such a valuable and important part of any project whether you're working with a private sector client or out in a community. Building these relationships strengthens processes and creates opportunities to listen, to learn and to do things differently, which helps you in any task or process.” Furthermore, McLeod benefited from the networking opportunities granted through the university. “As a recent graduate, I found that there are definitely a lot of people in the workplace willing to have a conversation with you based on your research experience and these conversations can lead to new opportunities.”

What McLeod appreciates most of all is the opportunity he has had, both at Queen’s and in practice, to work with others from diverse backgrounds and experiences.            

“Having the opportunity to do collaborative research taught me the value of learning and listening to others. I learned early on that there is not always a perfect solution to every issue and that you need to be flexible and accountable to different communities and partners by creating processes that respects the knowledge and insight that others are willing to share with you. Sometimes simply going out and connecting with others makes all the difference in how a process unfolds.”

Fraser McLeod
Master’s Urban and Regional Planning ‘14