Among our many high achieving graduates, one of the more impressive is Dr Crystal Legacy. A native Canadian, Crystal came to Australia in 2005 to take on a cross-disciplinary Masters of Environment at the University of Melbourne.
She chose Melbourne University because of its research reputation, and found she loved being in Melbourne – she felt she was part of something big. That feeling strengthened when she won a scholarship to work with Professor Nick Low at GAMUT (The Australasian Centre for the Governance and Management of Urban Transport), where she took up a PhD studying “deliberative democracy” in planning.
Crystal’s passion is investigating how people make planning decisions together, and during her PhD she produced a comparative study of planning in Perth and Vancouver. Being a student of collaboration, one of the things she most loved about her PhD years was the way the 50-strong group of researchers worked together.
“We called the open plan room we were all in ‘The Pods’ and it was fantastic - we felt it was our place. We went there to vent, to laugh, to eat, sometimes to cry, and above all to feel safe and supported. As a result we turned into this great professional network, which years’ later is still strong, and which has tentacles into many different countries around the world.”
Crystal feels she owes a lot to the mentoring she received at ABP, first from Nick Low and Alan March and then from Carolyn Whitzman, with whom she worked on a research project looking at urban safety across 20 cities. This research culminated in the book Building Inclusive Cities: Women’s Safety and the Right to the City (Routledge, 2012).
Crystal has also been growing a reputation as a great teacher, and while she loves the teaching she has done and looks forward to getting back to it, Crystal is relishing the idea of three more years of pure research, based at RMIT this time, where in 2013 she not only won the Vice Chancellor’s Research Fellow award but also a hotly contested Discovery Early Career Researcher Award from the ARC. Her project, ‘Planning in a state of panic: Did the economic crisis transform city making practices for the long term?’” – a comparative study between Melbourne and Toronto - looks at how economic events shape how we plan our cities.
In her spare time, Crystal is the lead catalyst in a new network for young academics undertaking urban research in Australia. “Transitioning from PhD to academic life, can be a muddled and insecure time. If I can do something to help people, in the way I have been helped, I will feel I have made a worthwhile contribution.”