Urban technology expert joins faculty to lead smart cities research and education

Urban technology expert joins faculty to lead smart cities research and education

September 23, 2019

John Tolva, urban technology expert and visionary of the smart cities movement, joined CU Denver’s College of Engineering, Design and Computing as a Scholar in Residence to lead research that engages local governments, the private sector, faculty and students in finding solutions for contemporary urban challenges.

John Tolva’s broad perspectives on technology and how it can be designed and deployed to benefit society, especially in cities, will enrich our students experiences, and help shape our research agenda, said Martin Dunn, dean of the College of Engineering, Design and Computing.

Smarter cities through partnerships, research and education

“As Colorado’s only public urban research university, our smart cities focus is a key differentiator. John’s appointment advances our strategic goals of deepening public and private sector partnerships and integrating research and education to meet the grand challenges of the urban world,” said Dunn.

At CU Denver, Tolva will play a role convening interdisciplinary talent from multiple schools and colleges, including the School of Public Affairs, the College of Architecture and Planning, the Business School and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. In addition to his research appointment, Tolva will teach a smart cities course that he developed in 2018 within the School of Public Affairs, which is ranked as a top 25 graduate school by U.S. News & World Report.

Employers applaud smart cities talent pipeline

“John Tolva wants cities to become smarter to improve people’s lives and interactions. He builds upon technology expertise, urban planning fundamentals and innovative policy ideas to create smart and livable cities,” said Paul Teske, dean of the School of Public Affairs. “Public affairs students and the public-sector employers who hire them appreciate the highly relevant, responsive training our grads receive at the intersection of technology, sustainability and public policy.”

John Tolva
John Tolva joins CU Denver as Scholar in Residence for smart cities research and education.

Setting Colorado’s smart cities agenda

As co-founder of the Colorado Smart Cities Alliance and as a principal at the urban change management consulting firm Cityfi, Tolva is involved in several regional initiatives; he advises urban governments and the private sector on smart city initiatives. He is an expert on addressing 21st century challenges with people-centric solutions for a data-driven, sustainable future.

“Denver is the epicenter of the trends in Colorado that are reshaping how we live, work, and play in urban communities,” said Tolva. “I am proud to assist CU Denver’s College of Engineering, Design and Computing in crafting a multi-disciplinary approach to problem-solving for our cities in our state and beyond.”

Track record solving grand challenges of the urban world

Tolva has served as a consultant for major smart cities initatives throughout the United States and internationally, including projects in Istanbul, Turkey and Wuhan, China.

Tolva served as the City of Chicago’s first Chief Technology Officer (CTO) under Mayor Rahm Emanuel. He developed Chicago’s first citywide technology initiative which included technology sector growth, infrastructure improvements, digital inclusion, civic innovation and reducing government costs through technology. Major accomplishments of this initiative include the creation of a gigabit-speed, open network in 15 commercial zones throughout Chicago specifically focused on fomenting business development and retention in next-generation industries and bringing free high-speed wireless to Millennium Park.