Staff, Urban Studies, Alumni

Staff Profile: Terri Evans, Urban Studies

April 18, 2017

Terri Evans is the recipient of the 2017 SFU President’s Award for Sustainability Leadership recognizing her as a catalyst for civic engagement and progress in food security and sustainability movements. As the Manager of Academic and Administrative Services in Urban Studies, her contributions have also helped to grow and sustain the Urban Studies Program since its inception in 2002.

In her role as Manager, Evans looks after student recruitment, advising and enrollment services, and alumni relations; she manages annual and multi-year budgets (operating, research, special purpose, endowment); and she plans and executes sustainability-focused public education and engagement events and initiatives with strategic partners both within and beyond the university. As Dr. Peter Hall, Director of the Urban Studies Program, notes, Evans’ involvement has been instrumental to the success of the Program: “Terri deals with a professional and graduate student population whose needs, concerns and ambitions are often more complex and diverse than those faced elsewhere in the University. Prospective students often have questions about work-study-family balance. Terri is the frontline point of contact with [the Program’s] applicants, students and alumnus. She meets them regularly, supports them and cajoles them.”

When asked what she is most proud of in her role with Urban Studies, Evans speaks of a collective effort, and of the Program’s alumni: “We just celebrated the 150th graduate of our Program, and that is a tremendous accomplishment. It’s been incredibly rewarding to see the interest in, and demand for Urban Studies graduate education grow over time.” Alumni, she says, are a large part of the success of Urban Studies: “we identified early on that keeping our alumni connected with the Program and its activities was important to our future success, so it’s satisfying to regularly see and remain connected with the next generation of urban professionals. They are out there making their mark on the world, and they are the Program’s best ambassadors… Beyond that,” she notes, “our role in bringing leading edge conversations about urban and regional issues into the public domain, is also an important contribution.”

Evans (standing, centre, in green shirt), with fellow Coquitlam Farmers Market organizers in 1997. Photo: submitted

Evans serves as an example of both achievements: she has a Master’s Degree in Political Science, and a Post Baccalaureate Diploma in Urban Studies, both from SFU. She has published academic papers on urban food systems research, is an instructor in Geography and, as a member of the curriculum development team for SFU’s City Program, she co-designed, co-authored, and evaluated the Program’s new online professional development certificate in sustainable urban transportation, the Next-Generation Transportation Certificate. She is also a co-founder and current board member (past-Chair) of the Coquitlam Farmers Market, where she focuses on food policy-related research and advocacy, contributing to strategic directions, and mentoring other board members.

Her dedication to food security and sustainability extends across local borders. The Coquitlam Farmers Market was born from an undergraduate class project that was part of the final course of Evans’ diploma program in Urban Studies. Now considered a Coquitlam institution, the market provides an example of environmental sustainability through its promotion of healthy food choices, and as a venue for small-scale, local food producers and vendors.

When she stepped down as longtime chair of the Coquitlam farmers Market Society in 2014, she was recognized at all levels of government, including by Member of Parliament Fin Donnelly,  MLA Selina Robinson, and Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart. In 2002 she received the Queen’s Golden Jubilee medal for her contribution to community. Also notable is how Evans advocates for local food security in creative, and perhaps surprising, ways: in 2012 she helped orchestrate a sustainability partnership with the Port Moody Police Department, developing and implementing a community garden on their land.

Evans (third from R) at the end of her tenure as Chair of the Coquitlam Farmers Market Society. Beside Evans is MLA Selena Robinson (second from R), MP Finn Donnelly (far R), and Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart (L). Photo: submitted

Evans says she’d like to see more agriculture integrated and available in urban environments, whether as public orchards, edible trails, or dedicating more public and private land for growing food. From a city development perspective, she advocates for the return of the 10-minute neighbourhood, where all of our daily needs can be met within a 10-minute walk or short transit ride. She points out the current planning model, of separating land uses in a city and needing an automobile to navigate these areas successfully, especially in suburban contexts, has “not served us well socially, economically, or environmentally, and so we need to work to change that.”

A community garden plot in Port Coquitlam, B.C.

In this respect, her interests in community gardens will continue this summer as she and Siobhan Ashe, a colleague from Douglas College, will study Tri-Cities (Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody) community garden users. Evans says “there is very little information available about these people and this activity to inform municipal policy, so our study will fill a gap.”

Of her many roles, Evans cites the importance of the interdisciplinarity of her academic training for allowing her to stretch her interests in a number of different, but connected directions. “At the core,” she says, “they centre around urban studies and local and regional government and politics.” She says her work allows her to be engaged in current planning and policy debates of the day, and amongst the next generation of urbanists: “This insight and expertise is carried into my community work, through the research I undertake, or the advocacy work I’m involved in. And all of this informs my teaching. I think it’s really important for students to see their instructors passionate about what they’re teaching, making the curriculum relevant to their own lives, and that it has real-world impact.”

“A lot of my work involves creating connections – whether between rural farmers and urban citizens, or transportation practitioners near and far with each other (as in the Next-Generation Transportation Certificate), or linking undergraduate students with the frameworks of city-building and its relevance to their own lives - all of this works to build capacity amongst individuals and groups. This work also involves envisioning a city that is different in the future than it is today, and working to achieve this through a lens of education, collaboration, and action.”