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Uytae Lee

President and Executive Director 
PLANifax Productions in Halifax, Nova Scotia

While doing his undergraduate degree in Community Design at Dalhousie University, Uytae Lee focussed his efforts on urban, community and regional planning. Drawing on his enthusiasm for the discipline, Lee and a group of friends began developing a project that aimed to educate and empower citizens about little-known municipal and bureaucratic processes. The initiative has since grown into a non-profit organization, called PLANifax, where he creates videos that turn difficult concepts and policies into material that is easy to understand and fun to watch. Lee attributes much of PLANifax’s success to the mapping and spatial analysis skills that help his team convey complex urban planning concepts visually. Whether explaining changes to transit networks, demonstrating food deserts or showing future development areas in a city, PLANifax regularly finds applications for geography in its content. 

1. Can you describe your career path since you graduated?

PLANifax really started as a hobby of mine during my studies. I have always had a genuine interest in sharing planning policy with my friends, family and others. Many people do not realize that planning is a profession because it often feels inaccessible to the public. Through PLANifax, I aim to share my keen interest in planning with a broad local audience. The hope is to generate enough interest so our non-profit can operate full-time.

2. What resources offered by your university helped you find a job after graduation?

Dalhousie University provided us with an office space to explore the concept that would lead to PLANifax. Many faculty members that I developed relationships with are actively involved in issues related to public engagement. PLANifax fell within their fields of research and I attribute a lot of our non-profit’s initial success to my supportive professors.

3. How do you incorporate geography into your work?

A lot of people compare what we do to journalism. What gives us a bit of an edge, though, is that we use maps and spatial knowledge to report on events. Everyone at PLANifax is familiar with GIS and we quickly realized that mapping is a very effective tool to communicate a compelling story. In my opinion, any interesting report on planning is usually accompanied by a map. For instance, one video we created discussed the different ways people can access food within Halifax and that was something we could show spatially. In another video focusing on Halifax’s Centre Plan, we mapped out which areas of the city would be affected most by development. 

4. Do you have any advice for students wishing to attain a fulfilling career in geography?

Seek out your passions early on in your education. Discover what really drives you within the field and try to play around with the rules a little bit. Sometimes the way a subject is taught may not be the best method out there. As a student, you bring a completely different perspective and may be aware of certain things that a professor is not. It might seem like there is a clear-cut direction for how you apply your degree but I would encourage students to challenge that. Have confidence in your own abilities and just follow your passions.

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