Celebrating Black History Month and Black Graduate Scholars in Geography and Planning

February 1, 2023 by Department of Geography & Planning

As part of Black History Month, Graduate Geography and Planning wishes to acknowledge and celebrate recent recipients of the Black Graduate Scholar Award in Geography & Planning and the Geography & Planning Award for Black Students. These awards recognize the exceptional academic and professional achievements of Black graduate students. We express our gratitude to colleagues at the Black Research Network for their support, and to our fantastic students for choosing to continue their education in our Geography and Planning graduate programs.

Please take a moment to read the biographical details and research stories shared by this year’s award recipients. 


Portrait photograph of Robert Nutifafa Arku.Robert Nutifafa Arku


Robert’s research interests span both the global north and south.

In the global north, he is currently investigating the concept of transit-induced gentrification and displacement in Ethnic Minority societies, including Black communities, in Canada. He recently identified the average price of single-family detached homes in different transit station community types along the Eglinton Crosstown LRT in Toronto.

In the global south, Robert is interested in urban growth and management in Africa. He recently conducted a sentiment analysis of 'tweets' related to smart cities to understand public perceptions of smart cities in Africa.

Robert holds an MA Planning degree (University of Waterloo) and BSc. Land Economy (Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana).


Portrait photograph of Abdul-Salam Ibrahim.Abdul-Salam Ibrahim 


Abdul-Salam Ibrahim is a Graduate Fellow at the School of Cities and a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Geography and Planning at the University of Toronto. He has an MPhil. in Development Management and a B.Sc. in Planning from the University for Development Studies, Ghana.

His research examines resilient city planning and environmental governance through the lens of Indigenous political ecology.

He is passionate about how traditional knowledge systems could better shape city planning and environmental governance practices within the African continent.



Portrait photograph of Kathia Johnson.Kathia Johnson


Kathia is passionate about the built environment and its ability to support sustainable cities.

She is pursuing a Master of Science in Planning at the University of Toronto and focusing her research on the intersection of Critical Disability and the Black experience in navigating cities under systems of ableism.

As a professional working in the Design and Architecture industry, she has worked on multiple real estate developments shaping 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.




Portrait photograph of Irenius Konkor.Irenius Konkor


Irenius Konkor is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Human Geography Program at the University of Toronto with a specialization in Health Geography.

His research interests include transport and health, non-communicable diseases, and HIV/AIDS among Black African and Caribbean men.

His current research focuses on the double burden of chronic and infectious diseases in low-and-middle-income countries with a special focus on Ghanaian cities. Irenius seeks to understand the intersection of gender, neighborhood environments, and the double burden of chronic and infectious diseases to inform health policy in Ghana and other developing settings.



Brianna Lane


Brianna Lane is a second year MSc student studying Physical Geography. Brianna’s research interests include lake ice climate interactions, cryosphere research, and climate change. Her current research focuses on monitoring changing snow and lake ice using in situ digital camera imagery in the Central Canadian High Arctic.

Brianna has developed a feasible and accessible method for snow and ice data quantification using ground-based trail cameras. Her study also examined recent variability in snow and icephenology. Her next step is to compare this variability to longer historical changes in the study region in order to assess Arctic climate change.

Brianna loves being out in the field and exploring the Arctic tundra!



Maryam Owodunni


Maryam Owodunni is an international student from Nigeria with a passion for language, culture, and human relationships. She is proficient in Yoruba, English, and Mandarin Chinese, and has intermediate level proficiency in French and Arabic.

Her research focuses on the right to the city and how it translates differently for different people, as well as how relationships are formed in urban environments and how people navigate urban life, especially in light of the increasing influence of neoliberalism. Maryam is particularly interested in urban development, transformation, and communities in the global South, as well as the ongoing effects of colonialism and settler colonialism.

She has previously conducted research on spatial justice in contemporary urban development using Lagos, Nigeria as a case study. With a focus on Nigeria and China, she is currently exploring the relationship between States and how these relationships influence human migration, the everyday life of migrants and the urban space.


Jane O'Brien Davis


Jane is a MScPl student in the Department of Geography and Planning.

Her interests lie in heritage planning, cultural planning, and public histories. Jane’s research looks at counter-monuments and alternative commemorations of space and place.

She is interested in how grassroots organizing in Canadian cities engages with built heritage in a settler colonial context.





Justin Rhoden

Justin is a first-year MA in Human Geography student living and learning on Anishinaabe lands. His graduate research explores the intersections of Blackness and Indigeneity in colonial space-making and anti-colonial struggles.

His research interest builds upon critical scholarship and relationships such as the Critical Student Collective at the University of Toronto Scarborough with fellow MA Human Geography students Tyanna Carpenter and Anu Makinde, the Feminist Collective at UofT with Dr. Sharlene Mollett and our incredible group of graduate and undergraduate students, his work with TAIBU Community Health Centre and Malvern’s vibrant communities, his wonderful mentor Dr. Suzanne Sicchia and graduate supervisor Dr. Nicole Latulippe.