McMaster Launches Big Ideas, Better Cities Series

Big Ideas, Better Cities is a year-long series of public events featuring renowned McMaster and international experts exploring ways to build smart, healthy, creative cities.

By Dave Heidebrecht
Published September 08, 2015

How can McMaster research help build great cities? That's the focus of Big Ideas, Better Cities, a year-long series of public events featuring renowned McMaster and international experts from a wide range of disciplines exploring ways to build smart, healthy, creative cities.

Over the coming year, McMaster will host a number of events in Hamilton including high profile public talks and community workshops and lectures that will feature cutting-edge research and consider the ways in which research being undertaken at McMaster can shed light on the challenges facing urban communities such as Hamilton and help cities respond to those challenges.

Big Ideas, Better Cities will officially launch on September 11 with a public talk featuring Stephen Huddart, President and CEO of The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, who will speak about the powerful role university/city cooperation plays in generating prosperity and shaping civic culture and wellbeing.

"Creating vibrant, innovative cities that work for people; young and old, is critically important in the 21st century," says Susan Searls Giroux, Associate Vice-President, Faculty who is leading this initiative. "McMaster has built considerable research strength in this area. We invite the McMaster and Hamilton communities to join us for Big Ideas, Better Cities events and be a part of this important dialogue."

Big Ideas, Better Cities involves more than 60 McMaster researchers campus-wide. Each event is being organized by a team of interdisciplinary researchers and is the result of consultations within the University community and with City of Hamilton officials.

"McMaster researchers have achieved extraordinary successes throughout the years," says McMaster University president Patrick Deane. "Big Ideas Better Cities is an opportunity to highlight the range and significance of McMaster's research enterprise and to showcase the ways in which our researchers are working with each other and with the communities we serve to engage in cutting-edge, interdisciplinary research that is uniquely responsive to the significant challenges facing cities today."

Big Ideas, Better Cities schedule of events

How Universities Can Help Make Cities Great, September 11, 2015

Cooperation among universities, cities and local leaders can be a powerful force for good. As civic actors in their own right, universities play a vital role in shaping civic culture and wellbeing. But what does this kind of collaboration look like in practice, and what is needed that isn't being done already?

Stephen Huddart kicks off the Big Ideas, Better Cities series by talking about the economic and social challenges facing cities and our post-secondary institutions, and ways that renewed city/university collaboration can generate prosperity and social progress.

Living long, Living well: A Symposium on the Plasticity of Aging, September 29-October 1, 2015

Explore the latest research on optimal aging and learn more about how we can ensure that our cities and communities have the tools and information they need to help people live longer and better.

This event includes an academic symposium highlighting leading-edge research on aging by more than 60 McMaster faculty members and graduate students and renowned international experts. It will also feature high profile public talks by Margaret Trudeau.

Better Communities through Better Data, November 3-4, 2015

This two-day event focuses on how "big data" is helping to build healthy, smart communities. McMaster experts will deliver a series of 10 minute mini-lectures, or MacTalks, that focus on how "big data" is influencing public policy and fuelling social and health innovation.

Building Healthy Communities, February 5-11, 2016

This week of events will explore ways to build healthy, vibrant communities that work for everyone, young and old. Events include a Saturday lecture sponsored by McMaster Children and Youth University, public talks, research-based workshops and a community-focused "health crawl" made up of tours, demonstrations and lectures in various McMaster-based locations across Hamilton and Burlington.

During the week, McMaster will also host a special event in partnership with The Walrus Foundation featuring a panel of leading experts from McMaster and beyond to discuss ways to build healthy cities in the 21st century.

Climate Change and Environment: Navigating from Risk to Resilience, April 18-22, 2016

How can cities respond to the threat of climate change, protect our precious natural resources like water and plan smart, sustainable transportation for future generations? Learn more from McMaster experts as they explore research on the effects of climate change and its impact on community building and health.

Also, join McMaster experts at field research sites across Hamilton to see first-hand how researchers are working in the Hamilton community to better understand the effects of climate change locally and beyond.

Big Ideas, Better Cities is funded through Forward with Integrity and is part of a number of initiatives currently underway to enhance and support research at McMaster.

To stay up to date on this and other community events, follow the McMaster University Network for Community-Campus Partnerships on Twitter or Facebook. You can also subscribe to a regular mailing list on community-campus news, or contact the Network via email at

Dave Heidebrecht is the Manager of McMaster University’s Office of Community Engagement.


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By Mad Hatter (anonymous) | Posted September 08, 2015 at 14:32:08

While I am happy to see this event, Mac has been slow to the game when it comes to urban and city discourse. Richard Harris of the History department is a well published author on urban housing and history, but in other fields where faculties from other schools have numerous urban or city experts in Sociology, Geography and Political Science, Mac comes up short.

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By red24 (registered) | Posted September 09, 2015 at 07:11:39 in reply to Comment 113788

Richard is actually in the Geography department. The McMaster Institute for Transportation and Logistics (based in the Geography Dept) has done a great deal. CRUNCH (Collaboratory for Research on Urban Neighbourhoods, Community Health and Housing) has been very active with the Neighbourhood Action Strategy. The McMaster Institute for Healthier Environments has had a close relationship with Hamilton Public Health for many years. Many other groups in Nursing, Social Work, Labour Studies have been active - and lots of it started long before Forward With Integrity. Nursing, for example, was doing neighbourhood development in places like McQuesten long before the City was and long before FWI.The Bay Area Restoration Council (BARC) has been supported by Mac and works closely with the City. The list goes on

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted September 08, 2015 at 19:03:13

Too bad it is on Friday at 11:30 AM. I would be interested in going, but have to work...

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By scrap (anonymous) | Posted September 10, 2015 at 03:13:56

Too much emphasis is put on academia while ignoring those who are suffering.

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