By Zein Mari Alsaka

Nathan Rogers (MPlan’08) wasn’t even aware of the planning profession while pursuing his graduate certificate in Environmental Management and Assessment at Niagara College. It was only when the school’s director at the time—who happened to be a planner—introduced his class to the Ontario Planning Act that Rogers realized he might be interested. “That there was a degree and a career possible in planning cities that I had previously not known about set me on a completely different path,” he says.

Seeking new experiences, Rogers joined the Master of Planning program at Dal. He had never been to the East Coast and believed the maritime province would offer a very different perspective to city planning than a bigger, busier and much more populated province like Ontario.

After completing his degree in 2008, Rogers was hired as a project planner by The Terrain Group, a local consulting company that was later acquired by WSP. Over five years, he worked on a variety of commercial and residential developments for a variety of clients. One of Rogers’ clients was Dalhousie University. Rogers recalls being contracted by Dal’s Facilities Management department for some work on the Fenwick Tower as well as a study on the university’s land use. He became very interested in university planning projects and when an opportunity to help implement Dal’s Campus Master Plan came up, he seized it.

From Dal student to employee

Rogers has worked at Dal for over 10 years and is now the assistant director, capital planning with Facilities Management. He develops the Campus Master Plan, an ambitious document detailing the visions for the university’s campuses, as well as strategically implements these visions and other capital projects to address the needs of the campuses. According to Rogers, the plan focuses on meeting or exceeding accessibility and sustainability guidelines in any new constructions, and improving these standards in existing buildings.

“The Dalplex Fitness Center was the first project I worked on when I came here in 2013. It was already somewhat underway with the funding already approved, but the design and planning had yet to be undertaken,” Rogers mentions.

On Sexton Campus, the home of The Faculty of Architecture and Planning, Rogers led the planning operations for the establishment of the Emera IdeaHub and the Richard Murray Design Building. “Big building projects start off as ideas,” he says. “Then you have to engage with the stakeholders and end users to define the different pieces within those ideas.” Rogers also stresses the importance of being forward-looking in his profession and accounting for possible future changes. Knowing how to navigate different opinions while maintaining due diligence towards the project is a skill that Rogers gained while working at the university. He also mentions that committee meetings greatly developed his communication skills, as most decisions are not made by one person in academic environments, rather by a group of people that all partake in the discussion.

“What I love about working at the university is that you feel like you’re making a real change. I can actually see the transformations in the campuses and the products of the work that I do.” He continues, “the campus is always evolving to suit the needs of our growing student population.”

Industry involvement

During his time as a student at Dal, Rogers was the president of the Graduate Planning Society. He enjoyed organizing and attending events that brought the different School of Planning classes together for a fun and interactive time. The memories of that time greatly influenced his career choices.

“The program was fantastic!” Rogers says about his experience at Dal. “The faculty members were engaging, and I felt like I had excellent connections to my colleagues in the program, many of whom I’m still close friends with.”

Rogers has also been a very active member of the local planning community. He served as the president of the Licensed Professional Planners Association of Nova Scotia (LPPANS) for three and a half terms lasting seven years in total. During that time, he enjoyed going around the province talking to other planners about the issues they face and believes that maintaining a strong professional network and continuous collaborations are key to success.

He is also actively involved in mentorship and sponsorship programs targeted at young planners seeking their professional designation.

Rogers mentions that just like he was not aware of what planning really was, many high school students don’t consider pursuing a planning degree because they are not educated about what a career in planning would look like and how rewarding it could be. This is an issue that he believes mentorship and networking activities could solve.

Advice for future planners

Rogers believes that confidence is a key contributor to success and that each planner should be aware of their skills and should not be timid of sharing their expertise. “Be confident, don’t hesitate to speak up during a meeting or do a public presentation,” he advises. “Get involved with the profession, with LPPANS, with your school, and engage with other planners,” Rogers stresses. “Just get out there and meet as many people as you possibly can. Conferences, presentations and workshops are full of opportunities that you don’t want to miss out on.”