Living in Montréal was the highlight of my undergraduate career, and I became fascinated by it and by cities in general - from their ethnic diversity to their public transit systems. I decided that was what I wanted to study; I thought perhaps someday I might become an urban planner. McGill had a specialized major program in "urban systems", but for some reason it was only available as a regular degree (three years) and not the Honours degree (four years) that I wanted. So I took a joint honours degree in geography and sociology, specializing in urban studies. I wrote an undergraduate thesis on gated communities in Canada, a phenomenon many fellow Canadians were surprised to hear existed.
I was fortunate to find a summer job working for the planning department at the United Counties of Prescott and Russell in rural Ontario; I designed a system to organize their files and documents. There was nothing remotely urban about the counties, except perhaps for a few tiny (but growing) exurbs of Ottawa in the far west end. But working in the office was a great opportunity to learn what actually goes on in a municipal planning office.
Many years later, my background in urban studies (and international development) got me my first job at BU, with the Center for Global Health and Development. The CGHD was about to expand its initiatives in the area of urban global health, and wanted to kick off its new initiatives by bringing the field's renowned experts in for a conference. They hired me to research and plan the programming for the conference, which would become the 2011 Global Urban Health Summit.