The Urban Affairs Association (UAA), the international professional association for urban scholars, researchers and public service professionals, convened its 49th Annual Conference in Los Angeles, April 24-27, 2019. More than 1,000 participants, representing universities, research institutions, and non-profit, public, and private sector organizations, from around the world, met to discuss current issues impacting urban populations and places. Conference participants represented institutions from North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. Local sponsors for the event included:

  • The University of California, Los Angeles | Luskin School of Public Affairs
  • The University of California, Irvine | Urban Planning and Public Policy
  • California State University, Los Angeles | Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs
  • The University of California, Los Angeles | Department of Public Policy | Institute on Inequality and Democracy | Latino Policy and Politics Initiative
Pictured from left to right: Andrea Roberts (Texas A&M University), Henry Taylor Jr., Marilyn J. Gittell Activist Scholar Award Committee Chair (University at Buffalo)

During the conference, awards were presented in recognition of outstanding scholarship and service. Among those honored was Andrea Roberts (Texas A&M University), who was given an honorable mention for the 2019 Marilyn J. Gittell Activist Scholar Award.

This award 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:

“Dr. Andrea Roberts is an Assistant Professor in Landscape Architecture & Urban Planning, College of Architecture, and Faculty Fellow at the Center for Heritage Conservation, at Texas A&M University. Additionally, she is Associate Director of the Center for Housing and Urban Development, as well as leader of the Black Digital Humanities Working Group. Her research focuses on black community development and heritage conservation. A junior scholar, Roberts is developing an impressive research portfolio, which consists of a solid collection of published articles and essays. Concurrently, to raise consciousness and heighten understanding about the interplay among social justice, heritage conservation, and community development, she is also using varied outlets to reach different publics. Roberts uses her scholarship as a guide to activism. The Texas Freedom Colonies Project, which she founded, for example, is an outgrowth of her scholarship on heritage conservation, and it is a significant community outreach initiative. Using a participatory planning framework, the project seeks to diversify planning and placemaking history by identifying and bringing attention to the struggles and community development efforts of Texas black settlements. She is engaged in the extensive mapping of these colony sites, assisting in the preservation of their histories, and working with residents on their development.”

Award Committee:

Henry Taylor Jr., Committee Chair (University at Buffalo), Kitty Epstein (Fielding Graduate University), Megan Glister (University of Iowa), Kathe Newman (Rutgers University), and Lemir Teron (SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry) 

Award Winner:

Dr. Andrea Robertsis Assistant Professor of Urban Planning and an Associate Director of the Center for Housing & Urban Development at Texas A&M University. She is the founder of The Texas Freedom Colonies Project, a research & social justice initiative documenting African American’s placemaking history and their contemporary planning practices and challenges. Roberts’s scholarship aims to diversify planning history, identify promising grassroots preservation practices, and amplify minority communities’ concerns in policy arenas. She has written about intersectionality and preservation for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, rural Black women’s placemaking in The Journal of Planning History, and storytelling among grassroots preservationists for the Journal of Community Archaeology and Heritage. Current projects include a book about Black historic preservation practice and a statewide Black settlement Atlas. The Atlas is a participatory action research tool designed to crowdsource data while supporting descendant communities’ preservation goals. Most recently, Roberts was an Emerging Scholar Fellow at the University of Texas at Austin’s (UT) School of Architecture where she also earned a Ph.D. in community and regional planning. In addition to her Ph.D., Roberts holds an M.A. in government administration from the University of Pennsylvania, and a B.A. in political science from Vassar College.