2018 Marilyn J. Gittell Activist Scholar Award, Honorable Mention

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Elizabeth Sweet
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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 Elizabeth Sweet (Temple University). Sweet was awarded the 2018 Marilyn J. Gittell Activist Scholar Award-Honorable Mention.

The UAA-SAGE Marilyn J. Gittell Activist Scholar Award-Honorable Mention was established to highlight field-based urban scholarship and promote the dissemination of work by activist urban scholars. The award is co-sponsored by SAGE Publishing and UAA. The inspiration for this award is the career of Dr. Marilyn J. 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). 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).

Award Committee Assessment:

Elizabeth Sweet is on the faculty at Temple University. Her work focuses on feminist and anti-racist approaches to safe cities and sustainable community development in Latina/o and Latin American communities. She is committed to collaborating with communities in order to influence policy, and she has worked with groups in the U.S., Mexico, and Colombia. She uses a mixed-methods and place-based approach. Among her many projects are a chapter on migrant women’s safety and an article on methodologies for making communities safer through reconceptualizing bodies and space. She works with Women for Economic Justice in Chicago and Coalicion Fortalez Latina In Norristown, Pennsylvania with the goal of creating inclusive and equitable cities.

Award Committee:

Kitty Kelly Epstein, Committee Chair (Holy Names University and Fielding Graduate University), Anne Shlay (Georgia State University). Barbara Wilson (University of Virginia). Megan Gilster (Iowa State University), and Travis Young (Pennsylvania State University)

Award Winner:

As an expert in planning theory and qualitative research methodologies, Dr. Elizabeth L. Sweet teaches at Temple University in the Department of Geography and Urban Studies. Dr. Sweet engages in collaborative community economic development with a focus on the links between economies, violence, and identities. Using feminist and anti-racist frameworks, her work in Latino communities in the U.S. and in Latin America has led to long term collaborations and inclusive projects that both push the boundaries of planning theory and methods while at the same time provides practical intervention practices for planners.

In recent publications she has proposed using body map storytelling and community mapping as innovative ways to co-create data with communities on a wide range of issues and solutions to urban problems. Theoretically, these methods create awareness that enables planners and communities to re-envision the relationships between people and their environments and see the visceral, historical, and spiritual bonds. These new understandings promote new practices.

Dr. Sweet has been very active in promoting diversity and inclusion within university settings through organizing events, student recruitment, and publishing both research and teaching articles on the same. She is popular among students to whom she provides extensive mentorship and guidance.


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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