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The new Graduate Fellowship in Sustainable Urban Mobility is a first at U of T - but donor Michael W. Roschlau has a history of giving

head shot of Dr. Michael W. Roschlau
March 30, 2023

Above: Dr. Michael W. Roschlau (photo supplied).

Roschlau aims to encourage inspirational research to inform future public policy

A gift from Michael W. Roschlau, PhD, U of T alumnus and former President & CEO of the Canadian Urban Transit Association, has established the first-ever Graduate Fellowship in Sustainable Urban Mobility at the University of Toronto.

"The vision behind the new fellowship is to move environmental and economic sustainability, and social equity, in the right direction for a better quality of urban life," says Roschlau.

The University of Toronto Mobility Network announced the launch of the new fellowship earlier this month. The new $5,000 scholarship is aimed at graduate students who are passionate about research related to sustainable urban mobility. The fellowship will be offered annually for a period of five years. Applications for 2023-2024 are currently open.

The goals of the Roschlau Graduate Fellowship in Sustainable Urban Mobility are to stimulate innovative applied research, to inform public policy and to assist a student in pursuing their field of study. Recipients will produce a policy paper on their research and share their findings at a public seminar organized by Mobility Network.

Professor Eric Miller, Director of Mobility Network, says that student scholarship awards are important in two ways: first, in encouraging and supporting innovative student research; and second, in developing the highly-qualified personnel who will solve the future problems of our society.

head shot of Dr. Eric Miller
Dr. Eric Miller, Director, Mobility Network

"Graduate students are the lifeblood of university research. Scholarships such as the Roschlau scholarship are invaluable in attracting and retaining high-quality students," says Miller. "The investment by the Roschlau family is particularly welcome as a very tangible investment in growing Mobility Network’s training and mentorship program."

Students will undoubtedly play an important role in shaping the world’s future. By engaging with sustainable mobility research, they will develop the knowledge and ability to improve the sustainability of our transportation systems.

head shot of Dr. Judy Farvolden (photo: Jenna Muirhead)
Dr. Judy Farvolden, Managing Director, Mobility Network

"Dr. Roschlau’s objectives in establishing this new fellowship align perfectly with Mobility Network’s mission to address the global challenge of advancing sustainable urban mobility solutions," says Dr. Judy Farvolden, Managing Director of Mobility Network. "Mobility Network believes that significant challenges require an interdisciplinary approach. The fellowship is open to graduate students in almost any discipline who are pursuing research related to sustainable urban mobility."

"Roschlau’s career has been dedicated to building support for sustainable mobility. Mobility Network is very grateful that he chose to continue his legacy with the Roschlau Graduate Fellowship in Sustainable Urban Mobility," says Farvolden.

"This graduate fellowship is a way of giving back and encouraging future generations to expand our collective knowledge and expertise in an ever-changing field," says Roschlau.

In the hope that it may inspire others, Roschlau kindly agreed to share some details of his personal journey and motivation to philanthropy. Read on!


A spark of curiosity leads Roschlau to a visionary career in transportation

"As a child, I was fascinated by moving objects, and it kindled my early interest in transportation," says Roschlau

He credits his undergraduate degree program in geography at U of T with inspiring him toward a lifelong career devoted to public transit and urban mobility.

He says, "The contributions I hoped to make had underlying pillars of effectiveness, efficiency and innovation in a search for a better quality of urban life, environmental and economic sustainability as well as social equity."

Roschlau went on to post-graduate studies in Vancouver and Australia before enjoying a thirty-year long career at CUTA supporting education, training, research, information sharing and investment in sustainable urban transport.

He says, "During my time at the Canadian Urban Transit Association we maintained a relentless focus on service quality and the customer. We created Transit Vision 2040, a generational vision which has become a national blueprint for public transit development across Canada. We championed a paradigm shift, broadening the scope of traditional public transit to embrace integrated urban mobility and new technology."

Roschlau's history of giving to U of T begins with tribute to late father

Roschlau says, "My father was a professor of pharmacology at U of T’s Faculty of Medicine and was heavily involved in research, teaching and the development of instructional materials. He co-wrote an influential textbook that was translated into numerous languages and adopted by universities around the world.

"After his passing in 2011, I co-created, with Dr. Harold Kalant, the Dr. Walter Roschlau Memorial Award in Pharmacology in his honour. This award has recognized 19 outstanding students since its inception and promises to support two additional students every year in perpetuity."

A desire to support research in his own field finds "a home" at Mobility Network

"Once my father’s memorial award was fully endowed in 2022, my attention turned to areas closer to my own academic interest, which planted the seeds for the Roschlau Graduate Fellowship in Sustainable Urban Mobility.

"I am delighted that the Mobility Network has agreed to support the idea and give it a home.

"The value of the Mobility Network is that is acts as a locus to bring together parallel and intersecting pursuits in urban mobility from all fields and disciplines."

"The coronavirus pandemic upended much of the conventional and evolving thought around patterns of urban mobility,” says Roschlau. “New and ground-breaking concepts and ideas need to be developed."

"It is my hope that this award will attract a broad range of interest and serve to encourage inspirational research in valuable areas of applied academic enquiry to inform future public policy."


Short biography of Michael W. Roschlau

Michael W. Roschlau is a strategic adviser in the field of public transit and urban mobility. His career has been dedicated to promoting efficient and effective public transit, most recently as President & CEO of the Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA). During his 29 years at CUTA, Michael became known as a strong advocate for public transit, initiating a highly successful government relations profile.  He maintained a relentless focus on service quality and was instrumental in creating Transit Vision 2040 - a generational vision which has become a national blueprint for transit development in Canada. Michael championed a paradigm shift at CUTA, broadening the scope of traditional public transit to embrace integrated urban mobility and new technology. He also pioneered a comprehensive training and professional development curriculum, elements of which have been adopted by public transit agencies worldwide.

Dozens of municipal councils and corporate boards passed resolutions adopting Transit Vision 2040 as their guiding document for transit development, and public transit rose to become a high priority for the federal government as well as provinces and municipalities across Canada.

Since his retirement from CUTA in 2015, Michael has acted as strategic adviser to the Canadian Urban Transit Research & Innovation Consortium (CUTRIC), the Canadian Transit Heritage Foundation and Vicinity Motor Corp.

He holds a PhD in transport geography from the Australian National University, as well as a Master of Arts degree from the University of British Columbia and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Toronto.

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