Faculty & Staff



Working in urban systems requires an ability to understand large and complex issues in a holistic way. Students in the Master of Engineering Leadership in Urban Systems program — which draws on the resources of UBC’s engineering programs and the School of Community and Regional Planning (SCARP) in the Faculty of Applied Science — will be immersed in this integrated approach. They will be able to deepen their technical understanding, while also broadening their focus to encompass planning processes and frameworks.

This is important, because urban infrastructure projects are complex and it is crucial that people working in this area understand the larger planning processes within which decisions are made. There are many factors at play in large infrastructure projects, requiring the ability to consider a wide range of multi-sectoral issues and to collaborate with many different stakeholders.

The Urban Systems program’s emphasis on planning helps students develop the tools to do this successfully. This is further reinforced by the courses on leadership, sustainability and project management, which develop the skills graduates will need as they move into senior leadership positions and manage large-scale projects.

I am the director of SCARP and I have been at UBC since 1991. Following an undergraduate degree in sociology, I completed three degrees in architecture (a BArch, MArch and PhD). Much of my research examines the social and cultural aspects of design and planning issues. This is one of the areas that students will explore in Urban Systems and Society, a course they will take in the first term of the program.

The faculty members who are coming together to teach the Urban Systems program are exceptional. Many have expertise in both engineering and planning, and they recognize the need for the integration of the perspectives that define this program. This integrated perspective is what will help us develop more sustainable cities.


Dr. Penelope Gurstein is Professor and Director of the School of Community and Regional Planning (SCARP) and the Centre for Human Settlements at UBC. She specializes in the socio-cultural aspects of community planning with particular emphasis on strategies and interventions that encourage diversity, equity and urban sustainability. She is currently principal investigator of the Future of Public Housing Project, focusing on publicly assisted housing, and co-principal investigator of Housing Justice, a Peter Wall Solutions Initiative project, focusing on housing access and affordability. Recent books include: Learning Civil Societies: Shifting Contexts for Democratic Planning and Governance (with L. Angeles, 2007, U. of Toronto Press); and Wired to the World, Chained to the Home: Telework in Daily Life (2001, UBC Press). Dr. Gurstein has also worked on capacity-building projects in developing countries focusing on gender and youth development issues, most notably in Brazil, and has considerable experience working with community groups in the greater Vancouver region. Dr. Gurstein is a member of the Canadian Institute of Planners.