The Rotman CityLab Fellowship Program
From the classroom to the neighbourhood
CityLab offers a unique, hands-on learning experience – and the opportunity to tackle a real-world urban challenge. Over eight months, students partner with local organizations to stimulate social and economic activity at the neighbourhood level.
What is CityLab
In this elective course, which is open to those in the full-time, morning and evening MBA programs, students immerse themselves in local economic challenges, working with businesses and business improvement areas (BIAs) on current issues that they are facing. CityLab fellows act as a consulting and advisory resource to complete a strategic project with a real-world impact.
In the two years since the Lab began, fellows have taken on a range of issues, from developing a strategy for increasing foot traffic in one neighbourhood during off-peak winter months to providing economic impact metrics for an initiative aimed at getting Toronto businesses to adopt digital tools and technology.
Faculty from across the university are also available to students as mentors and advisors, sharing their expertise in management, industrial relations and urban planning.
“It was an unforgettable experience, working with a real organization and solving a real urban challenge.”
—Mohsin Bin Latheef (MBA ’18), CityLab fellow
The program pairs students with seasoned professionals, including Rotman faculty advisors and industry experts. And while a lot of valuable learning happens in the classroom, the most transformational experiences happen in the field, which is why our MBA candidates work directly with neighbourhood-based organizations.
In the first two years of the program, CityLab fellows have completed nine projects for seven local organizations. Beginning with local BIAs, the program has since expanded to work with other groups focused on stimulating local social and economic activity.
Click on each image below to learn about some of our past and current partners:
To address our partners’ challenges, CityLab assembles project teams with diverse skill sets in accounting, consulting, finance, marketing, HR and other functional areas to make a meaningful impact in local neighbourhoods in the greater City of Toronto. Examples of recent CityLab projects:
- Developing a marketing strategy for the Kensington Market BIA to increase foot traffic during the winter months
- Conducting a study for the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA) to understand ROI for festivals and, consequently, increase the impact of BIA festivals across the city
- Providing recommendations to the Dupont by the Castle BIA on the implementation of its streetscape project. This consultation included budgetary assessment, sourcing external financing options, establishing a timeline, and prioritizing phases of the streetscape project within the context of available budget
In the media
From U of T News: Measuring success in a suburban oasis: U of T students team up with neighbourhood groups to address urban challenges
From Student and Alumni Stories: MBA students hit the streets and take on business problems with CityLab
From The Globe and Mail: Rotman MBAs take their skills to the streets
In their words
“The CityLab team provided an objective view of the Digital Main Street initiative. Their fresh perspective on the program helped identify changes we could implement. They were also very much in tune with the program dynamics so all recommendations made sense and were highly applicable.”
-Darryl Julott, program manager, Digital Main Street
“WQW has worked with the program twice, and both times the information delivered to was informative and constructive. WQW has used the reports to help improve the BIA.”
-Rob Sysak, executive director, West Queen West Business Improvement Area
“It’s vital to be on the ground talking to stakeholders when trying to address issues that impact the local economy.”
-Ashley Gardner, CityLab fellow
“This was one of the most enjoyable and educational courses of my MBA, and it inspired me to do some of my best project work to date. I was also satisfied to observe that our client was eager to implement our recommendations in the immediate future.”
-Tarang Khare, CityLab fellow