Urban Sociologist Elected as Mayor of Calgary

October 18, 2021 was a momentous day for the discipline of sociology and particularly for those of us in the sub disciplinary field of urban sociology.

Jyoti Gondek is the first woman ever to be elected as Mayor of the City of Calgary, and she is the first woman of colour ever to be elected as Mayor of a major city in Canada.  What is more is that to our knowledge, she is the first sociologist ever to be elected as Mayor of a major city at least in Canada if not in North America.  Jyoti readily identifies with the professional designation of “sociologist” and has been repeatedly identified in the local, national, and international media as a sociologist, and particularly an “urban sociologist”.  From a professional point of view, this is a landmark development for all of us in the discipline of sociology.

Jyoti’s M.A. (2003) was in the field of organizational sociology with her thesis linking corporate stakeholder relations with issues of corporate responsibility (supervised by Bill Zwerman).  Her Ph.D. was in urban sociology where her dissertation examined hybrid urban-rural spaces on the edges of cities where conflicts occurred over spatial meanings and controversial land use changes (supervised by Harry Hiller).

In recognition of her growing impact and contribution in applying sociology within the community, even as a doctoral student, Jyoti was awarded the Angus Reid Applied Sociology Student Award by the Canadian Sociology Association (CSA) in 2013.  But as it became even clearer that Jyoti was channelling a unique path in the field of applied sociology, particularly because of her community service as well as contributions through a consulting company which she established, the CSA granted her the Angus Reid Applied Sociology Practitioners Award in 2016.

After the formal completion of her graduate work, Dr. Gondek was appointed as the first Director of the University’s Westman Centre for Real Estate Studies, a position she held for three years.  Because of her many contributions to community organizations, it was no surprise that Dr. Gondek was elected to City Council in 2017.  Among the many roles which she filled was serving as Chair of the Standing Policy Committee on Planning and Urban Development.  All this activity became excellent preparation for being elected and serving as Mayor.

Jyoti is proud to call herself an urban sociologist and very much identifies with the field although in an applied format.  She has chosen to use her urban knowledge and insights for what she describes as “city-building” and to seek solutions to urban problems.  She does have a chapter on “Urban Sustainability” in our third edition of Urban Canada (2014).

The national and international interest in her election (following the tenure of Naheed Nenshi) is intriguing.  But it is even more intriguing for us as it is an urban sociologist that has been elected to serve in this high-profile position.

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