QTBIPOC & International Student Admissions Peer Support Program

QTBIPOC and International Students are encouraged to reach out to one of our QTBIPOC and/or International Student Mentors to learn more about our programs, and about student life in Graduate Geography and Planning. Please see mentor bios and contact information following the program description.

Questions about application instructions, minimum qualifications, program requirements and funding eligibility can be directed to graduate.geography@utoronto.ca or graduate.planning@utoronto.ca

Current students interested in joining the QTBIPOC & International Student Admissions Peer Support Program as a mentor, please contact Ron Buliung (ron.buliung@utoronto.ca) or Beverley Mullings (beverley.mullings@utoronto.ca).

Program Description 

Graduate Geography and Planning is piloting a QTBIPOC & International Student Admissions Peer Support initiative. The intention of this work is to build more equitable and supportive application processes for QTBIPOC and international applicants to graduate programs in the Department of Geography & Planning. Data gathered as part of this initiative will support the longer-term development of knowledge, resources, and infrastructure to support a larger and permanent outreach and mentoring initiative.


Portrait photograph of Laura Vaz-Jones. Laura Vaz-Jones

Graduate Geography (she/her)


Laura Vaz-Jones is a PhD candidate in Human Geography. Her work examines how anti-Black patriarchy was constitutive of early urban development in Salvador, Brazil and the ways in which Black women working as domestic servants and market vendors throughout the nineteenth century shaped processes of urbanization by contesting dominant power structures and carving out spaces of freedom, fugitivity and life-making. Laura is committed to an intersectional and transnational feminist praxis. She is a Vanier scholar and has experience doing popular education, policy research, and community-engaged work. She is currently a member of the Feminist Collective at the University of Toronto Scarborough and an Urban Fellow at the School of Cities.


Portrait photograph of Loren March. Loren March

Graduate Geography (they/them)


Loren March is a queer and trans geographer, a PhD Candidate in Human Geography and an instructor in the Department of Geography and Planning at the University of Toronto. Their work focuses broadly on queer urban ecologies, examining shifting affective relations with more-than-human spaces amidst processes of parks-led redevelopment and environmental gentrification in Toronto. Loren engages with the possibilities of queer affective ethnography as a style of doing research that pays attention to marginalized relational lifeworlds, affective experiences and stories. They are a member of the Affordable Housing Challenge Project at the University of Toronto's School of Cities, and a convener at Anthropology's Ethnography Lab. They are also co-editor of the book Critical Dialogues of Urban Governance, Development and Activism: London and Toronto from UCL Press. Loren received their Masters of Environmental Studies, with a focus in Critical Urban Theory and Planning, from York University. 


Portrait photograph of Nokuzola Songo. Nokuzola Songo 

Graduate Geography 


Nokuzola Songo is a feminist political geographer and holds an MSc from the University of Oxford, UK, an MA from the University of Witwatersrand, SA, and is a Mandela-Washington fellow as part of Barack Obama’s flagship programme, Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). Nokuzola is a Vanier and International Development Research Award (IDRA) recipient with over ten years of experience consulting in the social development sector across the globe.

Through her doctoral project, Nokuzola Songo explores the use of Feminist Political Geography’s intersection with Transitional Justice to strengthen post-conflict reintegration policies by illuminating black women’s experiences of conflict-induced internal displacement. She is constantly exploring inclusive and creative methods such as photography and videography to portray the essence of survivor testimonies and share research output with research participants. 


Portrait photograph of Maryam Owodunni. Maryam Owodunni (she/ her)

2nd Year PhD Student, Graduate Geography


My research interests are urban place-making & rights to the city, Sino-African relations, and African urban futures. I currently seek to understand the everyday lives of Chinese and African migrants, the effect of the encounters between these migrants and the local population on the urban landscape, and how these relationships and encounters impact the hegemonic narratives on Sino-African relations. Decolonial theories, urban political ecologies, political economy and diaspora studies inform my work. I am a proud Black Muslim Nigerian who called the city of Suzhou in Jiangsu province China, home for about half a decade. Beyond geography, I enjoy language learning, volunteering, cooking for friends and family, trying out new recipes and listening to podcasts in Chinese and French.

Please feel free to reach out with any questions about being an international student, graduate courses, working as a Teaching Assistant, coping with school and caregiving responsibilities, etc.


Portrait photograph of Ameer Idreis. Ameer Idreis

Graduate Planning (MScPl) (he/him) 


Ameer Idreis is in his second year of the Master of Science in Planning (MScPl) program. He holds a BAh in Political Studies and has published research on the Canadian Constitution and its impacts on both securing queer rights and yet impeding the decolonization of Indigenous rights. During his first year in the MScPl program, Ameer worked as a research assistant at Monumental Projects through the School of Cities. He is focused on how our urban landscapes can adapt to support more sustainable and equitable communities, green space, and transit, particularly in light of the climate crisis and wealth inequality. Please feel free to reach out with any questions about the MScPl program, life in Toronto, or even just to say hey!


Portrait photograph of Kathia Johnson. Kathia Johnson

Graduate Planning (MScPl)


Kathia Johnson is a Master of Science in Planning (MScPl) candidate currently in her second year. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from York University in Human Geography (major), French Studies (minor), and GIS and Remote Sensing (cert). Kathia’s research is focused on the intersection of Critical Disability and the Black experience in navigating cities under systems of ableism that lead to displacement. She is currently collaborating with organizations such as the Black Planners and Urbanists Association to develop anti-displacement planning frameworks that will inform planning policy change, and support equity-deserving communities undergoing neighborhood development within the city of Toronto. As a professional working in the Design and Architecture industry, her real estate portfolio has shaped the physical landscape of Toronto and the Greater Golden Horseshoe. This degree is supporting her pivot into social purpose real estate as she works to address the need for more accessible spaces that foster inclusion.

Faizaan Khan

Graduate Planning (MscPl) (he/him/they/them)


Faizaan Khan is a second year MSc. Planning student and holds a B.A. in Architectural Studies. Faizaan's research interests are in cultural planning, racialized suburbs, urban design, and built heritage. Broadly, their work is embedded within Toronto's racialized urban peripheries. He is grounded in an acknowledgement of the complex cultures and communities that have emerged in these geographies despite a hostile urban form and is focused on how these spaces can be reimagined with dignity and care. Specifically, they are focused on the cultural value and heritage embedded in Scarborough’s strip malls and how to invest in this social and cultural value amid an intense period of development/redesign. Faizaan is part of a grassroots arts collective in Scarborough and prior to joining the MscPl program, he worked in non-profit educational, public space, and arts programming. Faizaan was raised in an international context in Dubai and is queer and South Asian. He settled on these lands at the age of 16. Outside of planning, Faizaan likes to swim, laugh at live comedy, and ride the bus. Feel free to say hi and send any questions about the MScPl program, living in Toronto, your research etc.

Notice of Collection

Our peer support initiative is part of a program wide quality improvement and mentoring development initiative. Student mentors may take notes during your conversations. None of this recorded information will include elements that would enable anyone to specifically identify you in the data. These notes could include information about the questions you’ve asked, concerns you might have, the program you are interested in, the date and method of contact, keywords used to summarize your correspondence, and a general description of the location (globally) where you have contacted us from. Our mentors will also record information about the programs, subdisciplines, or concentrations in geography or planning that you have expressed some interest in. It is our aim to better serve students interested in our programs, we thank you for reaching out and for sharing your time with us. 

If you have any questions about this data collection initiative and how your information might be used, please contact Jasmine Kara (Event & Communications Coordinator) at events@geog.utoronto.ca.