2018 Award Nomination Deadline: December 1, 2017
Award decision: February 1, 2018
The UAA-SAGE Marilyn Gittell Activist Scholar Award has been established to highlight the importance of field-based urban scholarship and promote the dissemination of work by activist urban scholars.
The inspiration for this award and lecture is the career of Dr. Marilyn Gittell, former Director of the Howard Samuels Center and Professor of Political Science at The Graduate School at City University of New York. Dr. Gittell was an outstanding scholar and a community activist who wrote seminal works on citizen participation, and was founding editor of Urban Affairs Quarterly, (now known as Urban Affairs Review). She was deeply committed to training young urban scholars of color and women, and taught them to understand the workings of democracy from the ground up, using the methods of rigorous field research. Over the course of her career, Dr. Gittell became well-known for research that dealt with difficult policy issues, that directly engaged the communities impacted by those issues, and that challenged both scholars and policymakers to consider the community impacts of policy actions. Thus, the award seeks to honor the contributions of a scholar whose research record shows a direct relationship between activism, scholarship and engagement with community(ies).
The award is designed to focus on the research of an individual who is, or has been engaged in field-based research in the host city of the UAA conference. The research would ideally incorporate direct engagement with local community-based organizations and/or local residents around a policy area of high importance.
UAA provides a special award plaque and the award recipient will receive an honorarium of $1,000. A press release will be prepared announcing the winner. The award recipient will lead a special session at the annual UAA conference to share her/his research, its findings and implications for practice and policy. The presentation session will include two discussants who are members of the community(ies) studied. The community discussants will receive honorariums of $250 each.
Nomination Deadline: December 1, 2017
The award winner is selected by a seven-person committee appointed by the Governing Board Chair. The committee consists of two SAGE representatives, two UAA Board members, the UAA Executive Director, and two representatives from the Local Host Committee of the annual conference.
(San Diego State University)
Nico Calavita recently retired after 30 years of teaching in the Graduate Program in City Planning at San Diego State University. Calavita’s areas of interest include affordable housing and community development, growth management, the politics of growth and comparative planning. In his work, research and community service – based on equity planning principles – are inextricably linked. For example, his research and publications on housing policies, such as Housing Trust Funds, Housing Linkage Fees and Inclusionary Housing are based on his direct involvement in the attempts to implement those programs in the City of San Diego, including being Chair of the City of San Diego Housing Trust Fund Board of Trustees during the 1990s. Over the years he has published many Op-Ed pieces in the San Diego Union and LA Times, on affordable housing, equity planning and smart growth. He is the author with Alan Mallach of “Inclusionary Housing in International Perspective: Affordable Housing, Social Inclusion, and Land Value Recapture” published in 2010 by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.
(Florida International University)
Dr. Nissen is the Director of Research at the Center for Labor Research and Studies at Florida International University (FIU). He has published several dozen refereed journal articles, book chapters, and research reports based on field research in Miami. All of the research has been based on involvement in or close consultation with community and labor organizations in Miami. Living wage research arose out of close collaboration with the Community Coalition for a Living Wage, which successfully won living wage ordinances in Miami-Dade County, the city of Miami, and the city of Miami Beach. Research examining labor-community coalitions grew from that collaboration and other ongoing engagement with the Miami Workers Center, the Power U Center for Social Change, South Florida Jobs with Justice, South Florida Interfaith Worker Justice, and others. Research on immigrant labor and safety conditions and unions was based on close contact with community-based immigrant groups like We Count! Labor union research has centered on activist unions that attempt to transform the lives and civic engagement of their members, such as SEIU Florida Healthcare Union.
In 2004 Dr. Nissen founded the Research Institute on Social and Economic Policy (RISEP) within FIU’s Center for Labor Research and Studies. Foundations interested in funding “social justice infrastructure” organizations in Florida asked him to develop a research capability in south Florida, which RISEP became. In the five years that Dr. Nissen led RISEP, it published over 80 research reports that directly addressed the concerns and programmatic issues of these organizations. While maintaining rigorous scholarly standards, this research did address issues that are often overlooked by academic research disconnected from activist and community based organizations.
2015 Honorable Mention
(Florida International University)
Joan Wynne, Ph.D. directs the Urban Education Program at FIU. The influence of her students and educators like Lisa Delpit, Asa G. Hilliard III, Robert P. Moses has driven her research and writing about transformational leadership, quality education as a constitutional right, and building partnerships among youth, parents, schools and communities. Her newest book, Confessions of a white educator: Stories in search of justice and diversity, explores what works and doesn’t work in public education. In the fall, 2015, her book, Who speaks for justice? Finding our voices in the noise of hegemony will be published.
Wynne, for 10 years at Morehouse College, taught and directed The Mays Teacher Scholars Program. At Georgia State University, she co-directed the Crim Center for Urban Educational Excellence, directed an Urban Teacher Leadership Master’s Program and codesigned two research grants awarded by the Annenberg Foundation and the Spencer Foundation. At FIU, she has continued her research in education for liberation, supported by
grants from the Urban Education Corps, the National Science Foundation, and the Children’s Trust.
Her last ten years have been dedicated to researching the visionary curriculum and pedagogy of the Algebra Project and the Young People’s Project, organizations that are deeply rooted in American history and grassroots communities. In 2001, she received “The MLK Torch of Peace Award for the Promotion of Racial Harmony.”
Drennon served as the research partner on the Promise Neighborhood planning effort, and is currently the research director of the Choice Neighborhood Initiative, and the Byrne Criminal Justice Initiative – three federally-funded projects geared to revitalizing San Antonio’s eastside neighborhoods. Those neighborhoods have the highest poverty rates, lowest educational attainment rates, and highest recidivism rates in the City. In that capacity, she is responsible for community engagement, data collection and analysis, and project impact assessment — ensuring that resident voices are represented in these neighborhood revitalization efforts.
Recently, her work revealed the strong correlation between pre-K attendance and later success in school and led to the creation of additional pre-K sites. Her findings on the lack of social services and amenities in the area resulted in the designation of the local middle school as a ”community school” by the school district. Additional engagement in the neighborhood with youth on probation revealed that issues as simple as transportation cause many to miss their appointments with probation officials, thus violating probation and often having it revoked. Presentation of these findings to the probation department, police department, housing authority, and city officials resulted in proposed strategies to place probation officers in the neighborhood for increased access.
Dr. Drennon received her M.A. in Geography from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and her Ph.D. in Geography at the University of Texas, Austin. She serves on the Board of the Ella Austin Community Center and the Alamo Community Group (an affordable housing provider). She has served as an expert witness for MALDEF, and finally, she has published most recently in the Geographical Review and Journal of Geography in Higher Education.
Kitty Kelly Epstein
(School of Educational Leadership & Change, Fielding Graduate University)
Dr. Epstein is a Professor of Urban Studies and Education at Holy Names University. She recently completed a four-year leave of absence during which she served as Director of Policy and Resident Engagement for the Mayor of Oakland. Her 2012 book, Organizing for Change in a City, captures the results and insights drawn from her service to the city. In a previous book, A Different View of Urban Schools, she advocated for more ethnically accurate curriculum materials for use in California schools. Through a combination of scholarship and her various service and community organizing efforts, she has shown a deep commitment to equity and meaningful change in urban communities.
Dr. John M. Wallace Jr.
(Philip Hallen Chair in Community Health and Social Justice, in the School of Social Work at the University of Pittsburgh)
Dr. Wallace is the lead investigator for the Center on Race and Social Problems’ Comm-Univer-City of Pittsburgh Project, an integrated program of research, teaching, and service that seeks to examine and directly address challenges faced by economically disadvantaged children, families, and communities. Dr. Wallace also is a co-investigator on Monitoring the Future, the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s ongoing national study of drug use among American youth. His recent research efforts have focused on comprehensive community revitalization initiatives, racial and ethnic disparities, the effect of crime on clergy and congregations, and violence and substance abuse among adolescents. Dr. Wallace earned his PhD and Master’s degree in sociology from the University of Michigan, and his BA in sociology from the University of Chicago. His work has been widely published in books and peer-reviewed journals, including DRUG AND ALCOHOL DEPENDENCE, AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PUBLIC HEALTH, and the ENCYCLOPEDIA OF SOCIAL WORK. He serves on several local and national boards. Dr. Wallace is a community leader and pastor of the Bible Center Church of God in Christ in the Homewood neighborhood.
Marla K. Nelson
(Department of Planning and Urban Studies, University of New Orleans)
Marla Nelson, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in the Department of Planning and Urban Studies at the University of New Orleans where she serves as coordinator of the Master of Urban and Regional Planning program, the only accredited planning program in the state of Louisiana. Her areas of expertise include local and regional economic development, community development and urban revitalization. Nelson’s current research focuses on how cities cope with population decline, whether sudden or prolonged, sustained or temporary, and the tensions among equity, efficiency and environmental management in the implementation of redevelopment strategies. Her recent work on New Orleans addresses planning and policy interventions to deal with vacant and abandoned property and the difficulties city officials have faced in translating the desire for a safer, better city into policies that could direct a just redevelopment. Active in local, national and international organizations, Nelson is member of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning, the national and Louisiana chapters of the American Planning Association (APA), the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP), the Neighborhood Housing Services of New Orleans Board of Directors, the Planners Network Steering Committee, the Urban Affairs Association Board Governing Board and the Urban Conservancy Board of Directors.
(Dillard University Deep South Center for Environmental Justice)
Dr. Beverly Wright, environmental justice scholar and advocate is the founder of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice at Dillard University. The Center addresses environmental and health inequities along the Mississippi River Chemical Corridor and is a community/university partnership providing education, training, and job placement. Since Hurricane Katrina, the Center has focused largely on research, policy, community outreach, assistance, and the education of displaced African-American residents of New Orleans. Most recently, her focus has been on the education, training and public policy needs of those communities affected by the BP oil spill disaster. Among her many committee service and leadership roles, Dr. Wright served as the co-chair of Sustainable Energy and Environmental Taskforce for New Orleans Mayor Mitchell Landrieu’s transition team. Dr. Wright received the Robert Wood Johnson Community Health Leadership Award in 2006, the 2008 EPA Environmental Justice Achievement Award, the Rainbow PUSH Coalition 2008 Community Award, the Ford Motor Company’s Freedom’s Sisters Award in 2009, the prestigious 2009 Heinz Award, the 2010 Beta Kappa Chi Humanitarian Assistance Award of the National Institute of Science, and the 2010 Conrad Arensberg Award from the Society for the Anthropology of Work. She was also recognized by the Grios 100 History Makers in the Making in 2010.
William P. Quigley
(School of Law, Loyola University New Orleans)
William P. Quigley is the Janet Mary Riley Professor of Law and Director of the Law Clinic and the Gillis Long Poverty Law Center at Loyola University New Orleans. He has been an active public interest lawyer since 1977. He has served as counsel with a wide range of public interest organizations on issues including Katrina social justice issues, public housing, voting rights, death penalty, living wage, civil liberties, educational reform, constitutional rights and civil disobedience. Bill has litigated numerous cases with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., the Advancement Project, and with the ACLU of Louisiana, for which he served as General Counsel for over 15 years. Bill received the 2006 Camille Gravel Civil Pro Bono Award from the Federal Bar Association New Orleans Chapter. Bill received the 2006 Stanford Law School National Public Service Award and the 2006 National Lawyers Guild Ernie Goodman award. He has also been an active volunteer lawyer with School of the Americas Watch and the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti. Bill is the author of Ending Poverty As We Know It: Guaranteeing A Right to A Job At A Living Wage (2003) and Storms Still Raging: Katrina, New Orleans and Social Justice (2008). In 2003, he was named the Pope Paul VI National Teacher of Peace by Pax Christi USA and is the recipient of the 2004 SALT Teaching Award presented by the Society of American Law Teachers. For the past two years Bill has also served as Legal Director for the Center for Constitutional Rights, a national legal and educational organization dedicated to advancing and defending the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.