2018 Alma H. Young Emerging Scholar Award

Joan Wesley And Natalie Kivell
Pictured from left to right: Joan Wesley, Committee Chair (Jackson State University) and Natalie Kivell (University of Miami) Copyright rhlphoto.com

The Urban Affairs Association (UAA), the international professional association for urban scholars, researchers and public service professionals, convened its 48th Annual Conference in Toronto Ontario, April 4-7, 2018. More than 1,000 participants, representing universities, research institutions, non-profit organizations, and public and private organizations/institutions from around the world met to discuss 21st century issues impacting urban populations and places. Conference participants represented institutions from North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. The University of Toronto, York University, and Ryerson University served as the local sponsors for the event.

During the conference, awards were presented in recognition of outstanding scholarship and service. Among those honored was Natalie Kivell (University of Miami). Kivell was awarded the 2018 Alma H. Young Emerging Scholar Award. The award is given to a promising Ph.D. candidate or early career researcher whose work demonstrates a commitment to rigorous and impactful research and service.

Award Committee Assessment:

Ms. Natalie Kivell, a doctoral candidate at the University of Miami, is the recipient of the 2018 Alma H. Young Emerging Scholar Award. The prestigious award is presented by the Urban Affairs Association to young scholars who demonstrate outstanding scholarship and exemplary commitment to community engagement and social justice. Ms. Kivell’s partnerships with organizers and activists inform her work and advance her efforts to address the interconnected structural injustice in Miami-Dade County. Her attention to grassroots initiatives and participatory action give voice to marginalized populations. Dr. Scot Evans, the award recipient’s mentor and PhD Advisor, describes Ms. Kivell’s pioneering work as the development of an adaptable theory of transformative change. Ms. Kivell’s stellar performance as a scholar and community advocate is evident in her dissertation topic: “What is transformation? Resisting epistemic injustice through participatory theory development with community organizers and activists.” She views her scholar-community dissertation as a first step in advancing collective movement work in urban settings. Ms. Kivell will receive her PhD in Community Well-Being from the University of Miami, School of Education and Human Development in Summer 2018. She received her MA in 2009 and an Honours BA in 2007 from Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, Canada. 

Award Committee:

Joan Wesley, Committee Chair (Jackson State University), Ferzana Havewala (University of Baltimore), Megan Heim-LaFrombois (Auburn University), Louise Jezierski (Michigan State University), and Kirk McClure (University of Kansas)

Award Winner:

Natalie Kivell, a doctoral candidate at the University of Miami in Community Well-Being, focuses her research on increasing the transformative potential of collective movement work in Miami-Dade County and the City of Miami. Natalie is dedicated to centering the voices of the community and those most impacted by the social issues at hand through her participatory methodologies and epistemological stance. Natalie is the first author of “Community power structure analysis and the ethical considerations of ‘studying up’” published in the American Journal of Community Psychology (2017), and Co-author of ‘The transformation team: An enabling structure for organizational learning in action” Published in the Journal of Community Psychology (2015). Natalie has worked in community psychology, community development and community organizing for 11 years, and before completing her PhD was the founder and director of Common Thread Consulting: A community consulting firm where she partnered with organizations and government departments in Waterloo, Ontario to shift collective practices towards transformative goals. Finally, Natalie is the host of a Community Psychology and social justice Radio show out of the University Miami called RadioActive that provides a platform for community partners and researchers to discuss and disseminate important knowledge in the processes of social transformation.


The Urban Affairs Association (UAA) is the international professional organization for urban scholars, researchers, and public service providers. UAA is dedicated to creating interdisciplinary spaces for engaging in intellectual and practical discussions about urban life. Through theoretical, empirical, and action-oriented research, the UAA fosters diverse activities to understand and shape a more just and equitable urban world. UAA sponsors the Journal of Urban Affairs, a refereed annual journal, publishing manuscripts related to urban research and policy analysis of interest to both scholars and practitioners. UAA also sponsors Upsilon Sigma – The Urban Studies Honor Society, an international, multidisciplinary honor society dedicated to recognizing and encouraging excellence in scholarship, leadership, and engagement in urban studies and related fields. The Urban Affairs Association hosts a conference each spring in an urban center. The conference program features both topics of institutional concern and those related to urban issues.


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