Award for Distinction in Outreach & Engagement - Spring 2012
Dr. Ryan Walker’s commitment to urban planning and bridging the gap between classroom work and community involvement has provided powerful learning opportunities for students, enhanced local, national and international partnerships, and benefited both the community of Saskatoon and the University of Saskatchewan.
Dr. Walker, MCIP, has been a professor in the Regional and Urban Planning Program since 2006. His areas of expertise include urban planning, geography, and design; comparative urban Indigenous studies in Canada, New Zealand and Australia; housing studies; multi level governance and urban policy; First Nations community planning; and citizenship theory.
Dr. Walker has contributed to the local and provincial community in many ways. In 2008, he used his expertise in urban planning to develop a relationship with the City of Prince Albert, while assisting city administration and the mayor with the drafting of the city’s condominium conversion policy. This led to field trips for Walker’s urban planning class, which one student nominator described as “[making] our planning classes real in a way that isn’t often achieved at the university level.”
In 2009, he was one of the initiators and key organizers of “Great Places”, which has been a major stimulant of local discussion aimed at informing and inspiring an ongoing dialogue about what makes a great place. This group consists of design professionals, government officials and citizens, and involves workshops and discussions on downtown planning, civic parks and squares, a program in architecture for Saskatoon and other important topics.
Dr. Walker is involved in the international community as well. He was the University of Saskatchewan’s Director of the Indigenous Planning Exchange from 2007 to 2011, which involved student and faculty exchanges between six universities across Canada, Mexico and the United States. This partnership helped to enrich the academic environment and provide powerful, stimulating and intellectual experiences for both students and faculty at universities throughout North America.
Frequently noted throughout the letters of support for Dr. Walker was his commitment to bringing the community into the classroom and the classroom into the community. A Saskatoon city councillor said that he is “most willing to cross the river from the university to the city council chambers and share what he is learning about the issues he is researching with us to help inform our debates.” A community association president commented that “he has entrenched [the] culture of volunteerism deep into his classroom, ensuring that both he and the Department of Geography and Planning will continue to contribute to healthy urban planning city-wide for many years to come.” Dr. Walker’s commitment to community-based research, urban planning and community engagement makes him a very deserving recipient of the University of Saskatchewan award for distinction in outreach and engagement.