Gerardo Sierra wanders from Mexico to the streets

Karen Herland

University of the Streets Café coordinator Gerardo Sierra is seen during “Graff & Public Art: Citizen Explorations in the City,” one of four walking tours organized by the program in August.

photo by Rob Maguire

The University of the Streets Café left the lattés behind and finished off the year with four Walking Conversations held around Montreal.

Taking the program onto the pavement was an idea that germinated last year in a conversation between the program’s then coordinator Eric Abitbol and Gerardo Sierra.

Abitbol handed the program (part of the Institute in Management and Community Development) to Sierra over the summer. “I want to continue exploring the idea of keeping the University of the Streets, without the ‘café.’” Sierra hopes to develop other ways to make ivory tower walls more permeable.

Sierra came to Canada from Mexico four years ago. There, he worked in a business college and developed a program that brought small entrepreneurs together in thematic discussions. Attendance ranged from 60 to 350 people at the monthly meetings.

“It was a real opportunity for people to learn from one another. There was always someone who had the answer.” Since coming here, Sierra has earned an MA in Human Systems Inter-vention through the Applied Social Sciences Department.

Sierra, like all the moderators who organize events over the academic year, is a volunteer. “I am impressed by the time, ideas and energy dozens of community members have been willing to invest in the program’s development.”

The Institute offers office space and a phone to support the initiative.

Plans are already well underway for this term’s events. At 5:30 pm on Sept. 14, a discussion on rooftop gardens (which both produce food and conserve building energy) will take place at the garden located at 4750 Henri-Julien. In case of rain, the discussion will be held at Santropol Roulant, 4050 Saint Urbain. Other events are listed at