Semester at CityLAB.png

CityLAB was created because we realize that complex challenges need different ways of approaching problems. We think that the best people to lead this change are young people who are given the support and guidance to test their ideas out in the real world. This course will be intense. It will challenge you personally as you learn more about yourself and your place in the world; it will challenge you socially as you navigate working with interdisciplinary teams, city staff members, and members of the broader community; and it will challenge you academically as you stretch beyond the limits of your disciplinary training and gain a deeper understanding of complex issues facing our city. You will learn that problems are not as easily solved as they might appear, that a positive attitude goes a long way, and that real success lies in collaboration.

How will a 15 unit course fit in with my schedule/program requirements?

Great question! The Semester at CityLAB course is meant to be an immersive experience and will not necessarily fit everyone’s program requirements. Depending on your program, you may be able to use all or part of the credits towards your degree requirements, you should discuss this possibility as early as possible with your academic advisor. CityLAB is here to assist in any way that we can, so please apply early so we know you are interested.

How do applications work?

The application deadline for the Fall 2018 program has now passed. We will review applications and let you know if you have been accepted into the program before June 15th. McMaster students accepted into the program will be provided with course permission and will be able to register as usual using Mosaic after they have been accepted. Redeemer students are encouraged to meet with Kim Lammers ( to modify the courses they have already selected. Redeemer students need a 7.0 cumulative GPA (70 or B-) to be eligible. If you have difficulties with the application form, please email Patrick Byrne (

Where are classes held?

Semester at CityLAB takes place downtown Hamilton in the newly renovated CityLAB innovation hub, right beside City Hall in the former CFL Hall of Fame building. You will be right at the centre of the municipal action :)

What does a typical day look like?

Monday to Thursday will be spent downtown at CityLAB from approximately 9am-4pm. This will be our home base as well as our experimental lab where we develop ideas and interventions to make Hamilton a better place. On Fridays we will stretch our legs by exploring the city, conducting fieldwork, and taking part in the life of the city.


Arrive at CityLAB, gather, plan, and share

Instructor led workshops and discussions focused on project design and dialogue


Student hosted guest dialogue session (we invite a member from city staff or a community guest to talk to us about an issue of shared interest)

Meetings with city staff and time to work on projects

Who is this class for?

This class is for passionate, motivated, and enthusiastic students who want to learn from the community, apply their studies to make change, and expand their personal and professional networks. Students in any faculty from McMaster or Redeemer are welcome to apply. We recommend that applicants speak with their academic advisors as soon as possible to see how they can incorporate the CityLAB course into their program requirements (we can help you with this).

Who is teaching the course?

Our core teaching team is made up of an interdisciplinary team of educators, including:

CityLAB Project Manager and Depth Instructor - Patrick Byrne, PhD. Cand.;

Dialogue Instructor - Anna Marie Pietrantonio, MSW;

Design Instructor - Brian W. Baetz, PhD, P.Eng;

What kind of projects will we work on?

The projects will be co-created between city staff, faculty members, and students, so they will change depending on specific interests, as long as they align with the city’s Strategic Priorities. By way of example, some of the challenges we have developed with city staff are as follows:

How can we help people choose healthy, local food?

How might we make recycling and green bin use more attractive for people living in multi-residential buildings?              

How can we mitigate impacts of stormwater overflows?     

How might we encourage more cycle tourism/cycling in Hamilton? 

How can the city enact carbon reduction policies?   

What are the course objectives?

Subject to change, the course objectives are:

  1. To develop a considerable awareness of the issues and complexities facing municipalities in the provision of equitable services and safe and resilient infrastructure for current and future citizens;

  2. To develop capacities to achieve effective dialogue between municipal governments and the citizens they serve;

  3. To develop a broader awareness of the qualitative knowledge and quantitative data that are needed to make effective decisions within a municipal context, along with an understanding of the complexity of community and the interconnectedness of local and global communities;

  4. To develop a capacity to use design thinking, principles and tools to generate solutions that incorporate sustainability, resiliency, equity and cost-effectiveness goals;

  5. To develop a greater awareness within individual students of their full potential as downstream citizens and engaged professionals;

  6. To develop and improve skills for effective project completion, including but not limited to:

  7. Effective and purposeful communication

    1. Observation and research

    2. Understanding of municipal structure and jurisdictional constraints

    3. Reflection

    4. Team work

    5. Collaborative planning

    6. Conflict resolution

    7. Organizational skills

    8. Use of creativity and imagination

    9. Effective communication of proposed Solutions

How will this course be graded?

Students will be assessed in a variety of ways throughout the course, including completion of mini design projects, personal reflections, final project design and installation, and public communication of their work. Since this is an interdisciplinary course, assessments will take a range of forms.

Will there be an exam?