Faculty Members
Leith Deacon, PhD [Principle Investigator]: Leith is an Associate Professor in the School of Environmental Design and Rural Development, in the Ontario Agriculture College, at the University of Guelph. He is a registered professional planner (RPP) and holds membership with the Canadian Institute of Planners (MCIP). Leith is interested in concepts of governance, resiliency, mental health, planning, and policy primarily related to small and rural communities. [ORCID iD: 0000-0002-4858-3722]
Monica Gruzmacher, PhD: Monica Gruzmacher, PhD has worked with development issues and received a PhD on this topic from the Center for Development Studies of the University of Bonn. She has studied social and ecological change mostly in small rural communities. She also has had a long time interest in working with indigenous communities which are integrating into western ways of living and the implications this process of change might have on the use and management of natural resources. She is currently a researcher and Adjunct Professor at the Faculty of Extension, University of Alberta, and involved in projects on rural development, nature conservation and governance for boom and bust. [ORCID iD: 0000-0003-4408-8692]
Kate Mulligan, PhD: Kate Mulligan is an Assistant Professor in Social & Behavioural Health Sciences in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto. Her primary research interest is the role of community-scale leadership, advocacy and intervention in the production of health and wellbeing. Kate directs the Canadian Institute for Social Prescribing and is a senior advisor to the Canadian Red Cross. [ORCID iD: 0000-0001-7249-2823]
Betty Claire Mubangizi, PhD: Betty Mubangizi holds a Doctor of Public Administration and is a full Professor of Public Administration and Governance. South Africa’s National Research Foundation rates her as an established researcher. She holds the Research Chair in Sustainable Rural Livelihoods at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Prof Mubangizi’s Chair endeavours to understand and explain the opportunities and challenges institutions face when implementing development policies in Africa’s rural areas.  [ORCID iD: 0000-0003-0774-7193]
Silvia Sarapura, PhD: Dr. Sarapura is an Assistant Professor in the School of Environmental Design and Rural Development at the University of Guelph. Silvia has more than fifteen years of proven experience in the fields of rural planning for development, gender transformative change and agricultural R4D. As a result of her extensive research engagement in Africa, Asia, South East Asia, and Latin America, Silvia built a strong and innovative track record in international rural and agricultural research for development. Dr. Sarapura’s research interests are in agri-food systems and rural planning, gender transformative change planning, youth in rural development; intersectionality in land use planning; applied research – research for development. [ORCID iD: 0000-0001-8170-2458]
Kristof Van Assche, PhD: Kristof is a Professor in the Faculty of Extension at the University of Albera with interests in evolution and innovation in governance, with focus areas in spatial planning and design, development and environmental policy. He worked in various countries, and often combines fieldwork with theoretical reflection: systems theories, interpretive policy analysis, institutional economics, post- structuralism. He held visiting positions at McGill University, Krakov Agricultural University, Wageningen University, Bonn University. Geographically, his work spans Europe, the America’s, Central Asia and the Caucasus. He published widely on these topics. Kristof is also associated with Wageningen University, where he is Visiting Associate Professor in Strategic Communication, and with Bonn University, where he is Research Fellow at ZEF/ Institute for Development Research. At UAlberta, he also works at Faculty of Extension and has affiliation as Adjunct Professor with the Faculty of Agricultural and Life Sciences (Human Ecology). [ORCID iD: 0000-0003-1745-0043]
Graduate Students
Jacob Papineau, PhD student: Jake is a graduate student in Rural Studies at the University of Guelph, supervised by Dr. Deacon. His research is focused on understanding potential for service delivery and governance innovation in rural and/or resource-based communities in Canada as a driver of change and greater resiliency. Jake is also a Social Planning Consultant with Urban Matters, where he works with communities and organizations to understand challenges related to the social determinants of health and to develop solutions to drive systems change. Prior to joining Urban Matters, Jake was working as a consultant within the parks, recreation, culture, and planning sectors while beginning his PhD studies at the University of Alberta. His educational background includes a BA in Human Geography and History from the U of A (2014) and a Master of Planning (MPlan.) degree from Dalhousie (2016). At Dalhousie, his work focused on First Nations community planning and the implications of integrating sustainable building technologies into housing designs in a First Nations community in Cape Breton, NS. Jake also has professional and academic experience in preparing community plan and strategy documents, facilitating workshops, engaging stakeholders, and policy development.
Amanda Mongeon, PhD candidate: Amanda is a PhD candidate in the University of Guelph’s Rural Studies Program, working under the supervision of Dr. Deacon. Her research interest is governance for health and wellbeing. Amanda is also a Program Manager at Timiskaming Health Unit, where she supports work in Community and School Health. She is a board member with the Canadian Health Association for Sustainability and Equity and founding member of Climate Action Timiskaming. Her educational background includes a Masters of Education focused on Adult Education, Community Development and Environmental Studies from University of Toronto, a Bachelor of Environmental Studies from York University and she holds the Credentialed Evaluator designation with the Canadian Evaluation Society. Amanda lives in Temiskaming Shores in Northern Ontario. 
Masters (thesis)
Michael Kvern, MSc student: Michael is master's student at the University of Guelph in the Rural Planning and Development program. His research investigates how rural communities in Manitoba can integrate energy planning and land-use planning as a tool to achieve net-zero. He has a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Geography from the University of Winnipeg. During his undergraduate degree, he developed an energy consumption profile and a series of vision statements to inform a future community energy plan for Churchill, Manitoba. Michael’s research interests are broadly focused on environmental planning, protected areas, community engagement, and sustainability. He has previous professional experience in municipal politics and in conducing environmental assessments for Indigenous Nations. Presently, he works for Parks Canada reviewing land-use and development policy. Through his work and research, he seeks to support rural communities and protected areas in achieving sustainability and resilience. Michael lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba and takes any opportunity he can to canoe or hike in the backcountry.
Inga Negrave, MSc student:
Research Assistants
Portia Derbedrosian, BSc, MSc: Portia Derbedrosian holds a Bachelor of Science in Life Sciences and a Master of Science in Global Health from McMaster University. Her research interests lie at the intersection of health promotion, knowledge mobilization, and geographies of health. She has a unique research background, with topics ranging from THC use during pregnancy and its impact on placental physiology and neonatal outcomes, to gender-based violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada. Calling upon the knowledge derived from her previous studies and research endeavours, she now works as a research assistant on a CIHR-funded project that seeks to identify supports and structures underpinning rural responses to health disruptions such as COVID-19.
Previous Students
Randi Burke, MSc [University of Guelph] - COVID-19 & Rural Labour Markets: Understanding the Relationships Between Economic and Social Disruptions and its Role on Mental health (2022). View here.
Alberic Marginet, MSc [University of Guelph] - Thesis: Urban is the New Rural: An Exploratory Investigation of Community Gardens and Urban Agriculture in Vancouver, BC (2021). View here.
Sampoorna Bhattacharya, MSc [University of Guelph] - Heritage-led Planning for Rural Community Resilience: Terrace Landscapes in Peru (2021). View here.
Miranda Ivany, MSc. [University of Guelph] -  Thesis: Rural Philanthropy: Mapping Patterns of Charitable Giving in Newfoundland and Labrador and Canada's Atlantic Region (2021). View here.
Trina Lamanes, MA [University of Alberta] - Thesis: Socially Sustainable Urban Development: The Role of Leisure and Recreation in a Canadian Resource Based Community (2016). View here.
Nushrat Jahan, MA [University of Alberta] - Thesis: A Case Study of Regional Economic Resilience of A Canadian Resource-Based Community (2014). View here.