The Urban Affairs Association hosts an international conference each spring in a different city. During that conference, UAA recognizes outstanding scholarship and service in the field of urban affairs through international awards. Although the 2020 conference was cancelled due to the current pandemic, award recipients are being announced now, and will be formally recognized at the next UAA conference.


2020 Marilyn J. Gittell Activist Scholar Award


Pictured: Janet L. Smith (University Of Illinois At Chicago)
Pictured: Janet L. Smith (University of Illinois at Chicago)

This year, Dr. Janet L. Smith (University of Illinois at Chicago) was selected as the recipient of the 2020 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:

“The winner of the 2020 Marilyn J. Gittell Activist Scholar Award is Dr. Janet Smith, a professor of Urban Planning and Policy Program in the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs and co-director of the Nathalie P. Voorhees Center for Neighborhood and Community Improvement at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Professor Smith has exhibited a research profile and scholarship that is firmly committed to the spirit of the Marilyn J. Gittell Activist Scholar Award and the work of UAA. Her research and praxis are situated at the intersection of housing, social justice, and urban policy.

Professor Smith has co-edited two books and written numerous articles, book chapters, and reports. Much of her research addresses systemic inequities in housing, with a particular emphasis on the affordability issue. Her publications have deepened and provided new insights into the ways that city-building and land markets impact housing and neighborhood development.

Professor Smith has used the center she co-directs as a change agent and has found multiple ways to use her scholarship in support of community groups

advocating for policy and programs to prevent displacement and promote more permanent affordable housing for lower- income families and individuals. For example, she provided support, data and research to help the Coalition to Protect Public Housing in their efforts to preserve and produce public housing in Chicago.

Professor Smith is a member of the Chicago Housing Justice League, a large citywide coalition that helped shape the City’s affordable housing policy and is currently fighting for passage of a just cause for eviction code. While much of the public component of her work is centered in Chicago, she has worked across urban spaces in a global context. Her contributions and commitment to activist-scholarship are truly outstanding.”

Award Committee:

Henry Taylor Jr., Committee Chair (University at Buffalo), Kitty Epstein (Fielding Graduate University), Andrea Roberts (Texas A&M University), Kathe Newman (Rutgers University), and Lemir Teron (SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry)

Award Winner:

Janet L. Smith earned her PhD in Urban Studies from Cleveland State University. She is Professor of Urban Planning and Policy and Co-Director of the Nathalie P Voorhees Center for Neighborhood and Community Improvement at University of Illinois at Chicago. For the past 30 years, Janet’s teaching, research and community service has focused on community driven strategies to produce and preserve affordable housing. Path breaking research through the Voorhees Center includes a rental market study for tenants to push for more replacement housing in Chicago Housing Authority’s Plan for Transformation and advocates to launch a regional affordable housing dialogue; a study that showed the impact of raising minimum wage on housing affordability used to help raise minimum wage in Illinois; a gentrification index and community toolkit to aid in development without displacement; and spatial analysis of growing income inequality in Chicago, which is helping drive economic development in the city. Books include Where are Poor People to Live?

Transforming Public Housing Communities (M.E. Sharpe, 2006) co-edited and written with Larry Bennett and Patricia Wright, and with John Betancur, Claiming Neighborhoods (University of Illinois Press, 2016), which looks at neighborhood change in relation to capital accumulation and creative destruction.


2020 Best Article in the Journal of Urban Affairs Award

Melissa Anne Currie, Janni Sorensen
Pictured from left to right: Melissa Anne Currie (Mississippi State University), Janni Sorensen (University of North Carolina Charlotte)

This year, Dr. Melissa Anne Currie (Mississippi State University) and Dr. Janni Sorensen (University of North Carolina Charlotte) were selected as the recipient of the 2020 Best Article in the Journal of Urban Affairs Award for their article, “’Repackaged “Urban Renewal”: Issues of Spatial Equity and Environmental Justice in New Construction, Suburban Neighborhoods, and Urban Islands of Infill.” The award is sponsored by Routledge | Taylor & Francis Group, the official publisher of the Journal of Urban Affairs.

Award Committee Assessment:

“We are pleased to announce Melissa Anne Currie and Janni Sorensen as the recipients of the award for the Best Paper in Journal of Urban Affairs for 2019 (volume 41). In their paper entitled “Repackaged “urban renewal”: Issues of spatial equity and environmental justice in new construction, suburban neighborhoods, and urban islands of infill” the authors shed light on both the deliberate nature of exclusionary/discriminatory practices, as well as the unintended consequences of well-intentioned, but short-sighted approaches to affordable housing development. Based on a case study of Charlotte, North Carolina, the authors addressed their research questions using simple but effective methods in their spatial analysis such as reviewing streets and aerial views from Google Earth. The paper is well written, and the demonstration is clear. This study on spatial equity and environmental justice brings new knowledge of interest for a broad audience of scholars and advocates interested in questions regarding planning for housing, community development and LULUs, land use and transportation planning, segregative and exclusionary practices, race and class in housing and cities. Their conclusions also have implications for future research on (sub)urban planning at different scales throughout the US and beyond.”

Award Committee:

Hélène Bélanger, Committee Chair (Université du Québec à Montréal), Maureen Donaghy (Rutgers University), Hee- Jung Jun (Sungkyunkwan University), Travis Young (Pennsylvania State University), Stacy Moak (University of Alabama Birmingham), Katharine Nelson (Rutgers University), and Daniel Scheller (University of Texas at El Paso)

Award Winners:

Dr. Melissa Anne Currie is an assistant professor of Landscape Architecture at Mississippi State University. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Landscape Architecture from Cornell University and a doctoral degree from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in Geography and Urban Regional Analysis. Dr. Currie examines neighborhood- level community resilience using spatial, quantitative, and qualitative methods. The focus is how neighborhoods respond to a stressor event – whether from sudden shocks like natural disasters or through slow collapse such as following the Great Recession of the 2000s. Other research interests include health and the built environment, the health benefits of nature, and regional planning. Dr. Currie’s research draws from diverse fields including community resilience, design, public policy, human geography, landscape architecture, urban planning, public health, and environmental sociology while bridging the gap between academics and the public sector. Her work has recently been published in the Journal of Urban Design, Community Development Journal, Housing and Society, and Action Research. Before transitioning into a career in academics, Dr. Currie worked in the private sector building expertise in site design, master planning, low impact development, and New Urbanism design. She is a licensed landscape architect in the states of Virginia and Alabama.

Dr. Janni Sorensen holds a PhD in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Illinois–Champaign Urbana. In 2008 she established the Charlotte Action Research Project (CHARP) at UNC Charlotte where she was then a new assistant professor. CHARP has long standing partnerships with local marginalized communities, with a mission to consistently work towards a larger agenda of social justice. Her research agenda is focused on neighborhood scale participatory urban planning and community organizing. Dr. Sorensen’s work has led to many journal articles and several grants from local government and foundations that have supported her ongoing work in Charlotte neighborhoods. In 2017, she received the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) “Excellence and Innovation Award for the Civic Learning and Community Engagement Award.” And in 2018 she received the UNC Charlotte Bonnie E. Cone distinguished professorship in Community Engagement. In January 2020, she resigned from her position as associate professor at UNC Charlotte, for family reasons to return to her native country of Denmark. Here she is currently working on establishing herself as a consultant on topics centering on community engagement and participatory planning for local government and colleges in Denmark and internationally.


2020 Best Book in the Field of Urban Affairs

Jessica Trounstine
Pictured: Jessica Trounstine
(University of California, Merced)

This year, Dr. Jessica Trounstine (University of California, Merced) was selected as the recipient of the 2020 Best book in the Field of Urban Affairs for Segregation by Design: Local Politics and Inequality in American Cities.

Thirty-three books were nominated for the Best Book in Urban Affairs Award this year. The authors of these books represented several different disciplines and a variety of urban topics.

Award Committee Assessment:

“The Urban Affairs Association’s Best Book in Urban Affairs Award committee is pleased to award the 2020 Best Book Award to Jessica Trounstine for Segregation by Design: Local Politics and Inequality in American Cities (Cambridge University Press, 2018). Trounstine’s cogent analysis emphasizes the role of local governments and public policy in producing inequality and urban residential segregation. She draws upon historical and contemporary data to demonstrate clearly how the disparity in local funding benefits white homeowners. Trounstine’s book stands out among other excellent titles published to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Fair Housing Act and speaks to key issues facing American cities: segregation and inequality. Her book marks a significant contribution to urban affairs through its interdisciplinary scope and nimble use of mixed methods. Furthermore, we commend Trounstine for her thoughtful approach to constructing an accessible book on this essential topic: her clear writing and original chapter titles draw the reader in, and the 8-page prologue that introduces the issues in graphic novel format is sure to become a required reading in many college courses.”

Award Committee:

Michael Glass, Committee Chair (University of Pittsburgh), Claire Poitras (INRS Urbanisation Culture Société), William Keating (Cleveland State University), Philip Garboden (University of Hawaii-Manoa), and Sowmya Balachandran (University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign)

Award Winner:

Jessica Trounstine earned her Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of California, San Diego in 2004 and now serves as the Foundation Board of Trustees Presidential Chair of Political Science at University of California, Merced. Before joining UC Merced in 2009, Professor Trounstine served as an Assistant Professor of Politics and Public Policy at Princeton University. She is the author of 19 peer-reviewed articles, 6 book chapters, and two award winning books, Segregation by Design: Local Politics and Inequality in American Cities (Cambridge University Press) and Political Monopolies in American Cities: The Rise and Fall of Bosses and Reformers (University of Chicago Press). Professor Trounstine’s work studies the process and quality of representation in American democracy. She is focused on the ways in which formal and informal political institutions enhance or limit the ability of residents to achieve responsive government. Professor Trounstine’s scholarship is mixed-method; reliant on historical analysis, case studies, experiments, and large-n quantitative analyses. She has served as a consultant for the U.S. Department of Justice, city governments, and various community organizations; and serves on numerous editorial and foundation boards. As the 4th political scientists hired at UC Merced, Professor Trounstine has played a crucial role in helping to build the university.


2020 Best Conference Paper Award

Redento Recio
Pictured: Redento Recio (The University of Melbourne)

Dr. Redento Recio (The University of Melbourne) was selected as the recipient of the UAA 2020 Best Conference Paper Award (for a paper presented in 2019 at the UAA Los Angeles conference). Recio’s paper was titled: “Understanding Governing Relations in Informal Trading: Evidence and Implications for Urban Governance.” The award is sponsored by Routledge |Taylor and Francis, the official publisher of the Journal of Urban Affairs.

Award Committee Assessment:

The Committee selects “Understanding governing relations in informal trading: Evidence and implications for urban governance” as the best meeting paper from the 2019 Annual Meeting of the Urban Affairs Association. This excellent paper examines the governance of unregulated street vending in a central district of Manila through investigating the interaction between state action and street vendors. The paper addresses a timely, important and under researched question about governance in the informal economy, showing how formal and informal structures are co-constituted. It further illustrates the contradictory dimensions, both productive and exploitive, of street vending relationships. Committee members were particularly impressed with an engaging introduction to the topic through a strong literature review, and the tremendous breadth of the field interviewing and observation that were used to understand how political relationships work outside traditional channels of communication. The paper has widespread relevance, given the prevalence of street vending throughout the world. It is an outstanding example of how theory and street smarts inform one other. Furthermore, the findings deepen our knowledge of the informal economy and urban politics to help move forward the practice of effective urban governance to promote inclusive development in our communities.

Award Committee:

Renia Ehrenfeucht, Committee Chair (University of New Mexico), Daniel Bliss (Illinois Institute of Technology), Li Fang (Florida State University), John Lauermann (City University of New York-Medgar Evers College), and Drew Westberg (Coe Collage)

Award Winner:

Redento B. Recio has a PhD in urban planning and is currently a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Melbourne’s Informal Urbanism (InfUr) Research Hub. His research focuses on urban informal livelihoods, grassroots collective action, social inclusion, development planning and governance issues in global South cities. Before joining the University of Melbourne in 2018, Dr. Recio worked with academic institutions, development NGOs, social movements, and private consulting groups in the Philippines. He has also conducted development training activities in different Asian countries (e.g. India, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam). His writing has appeared in refereed journals like Cities: Journal of Urban Planning and Policy; Planning Theory; Journal of Transport and Land Use; Environment and Urbanization Asia; Journal in Urban and Regional Planning; and Philippine Political Science Journal, among others.



2020 Contribution to the Field of Urban Affairs Award

Dr. Harold Wolman
Pictured: Dr. Harold Wolman (George Washington University

This year, Dr. Harold Wolman (George Washington University) was selected as the recipient of the 2020 Contribution to the Field of Urban Affairs Award, which is given to individuals whose body of work has contributed to defining the field.

Award Committee Assessment:

“We are pleased to recognize Dr. Harold (Hal) Wolman as the recipient of the 2020 Contribution to the Field of Urban Affairs award. Dr. Wolman is currently Professor Emeritus at George Washington University, where he was also the founding Director of the George Washington Institute for Public Policy. He was integral to the growth of the College of Urban and Metropolitan Affairs at Wayne State University, and served in key roles in federal, state, and local governments and NGOs. Dr. Wolman is a highly productive scholar of housing, economic development, urban politics, and comparative local politics. His six books, eight edited volumes, and nearly 100 peer-reviewed articles and chapters have approximately 8,000 citations. A recommender highlighted Dr. Wolman’s embrace of collaboration, noting “Hal has mentored and developed the work of at least three generations of urban scholars.” Dr. Wolman has distinguished himself as a Governing Board member of the Urban Affairs Association for a total of 16 years, served on the Journal of Urban Affairs editorial board for 13 years, and acted as co-chair of the current 2020 Local Host Committee for the 50th Annual Conference of the Urban Affairs Association. Understandably, his career has earned ample recognition, such as the Norton Long Career Achievement Award from the American Political Science Association and induction as a Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration, and we are excited to add this award.”

Award Committee:

Thomas Skuzinski, Committee Chair (Virginia Tech), Vladimir Kogan (Ohio State University), Clarissa Freitas (Federal University of Ceara), Julia Nevarez (Kean University), Leslie Martin (University of Mary Washington).

Award Winner:

Harold Wolman earned his Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Michigan and his Master of Urban Planning from MIT. He is currently Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Public Policy at George Washington University and Research Professor at the George Washington Institute of Public Policy, an organization that he founded in 2000 and directed until 2012. He also had academic appointments at: University of Maryland, Baltimore County; Wayne State University; University of Salford (England); University of Massachusetts-Boston; and University of Pennsylvania.

Wolman has also served as legislative assistant to Sen. Adlai E. Stevenson III; staff director of the Subcommittee on  Cities in the US House of Representatives; and senior researcher in public finance at the Urban Institute.  He has published over 90 peer-reviewed articles and authored or co-authored six books and eight edited volumes. His publications and research relate to a variety of topics, including urban and regional politics and policy, national urban policy, the politics of urban policy at the national level, comparative urban policy and politics, intergovernmental relations and federalism, and policy transfer. The policy area she has focused on are urban and regional economic development, state and local fiscal problems, housing, and community development.


2020 Mary Helen Callahan Distinguished Service Award

Pictured: Dr. Margaret Wilder (Urban Affairs Association)

Dr. Margaret Wilder (Urban Affairs Association) was selected as the recipient of the Mary Helen Callahan Distinguished Service Award. This award, established in 2009, celebrates the distinguished service and leadership of Mary Helen Callahan, Executive Director of UAA from 1980 until 2000. Ms. Callahan played a central role in establishing the early operational infrastructure and board support that launched UAA as a national professional organization. She was instrumental in building the core activities of the organization from its annual conference to the Journal of Urban Affairs. The award is given on a periodic basis to an individual who has an outstanding record of service to UAA and/or the field of urban affairs.

Award Committee Assessment:

“Margaret Wilder is the heart and hands of the Urban Affairs Association. She has had a remarkable record of service and support over four decades to the organization that have nurtured its growth and maturation as a critical nexus of scholarship and practice in the field of urban affairs. Margaret was described as the “true captain of the UAA ship,” navigating it with an eye toward democracy, equality, and inclusion. In addition to being a recognized and distinguished scholar of urban affairs, within UAA she has been an institutional representative, a Governing Board member, Secretary/Treasurer, Board Chairperson, and–by 2005–Executive Director. Her executive tenure has been marked by financial stability, membership expansion, and a commitment to endeavors–such as new awards and the newly created peer reviewed journal, Journal of Race, Ethnicity and the City–that promote the work of those in the field. The Callahan award is reserved for those individuals whose service to UAA is exceptional and impactful, who have a record of engagement outside the academy, and whose professional service to urban affairs practitioners is distinguished. As one nominator noted, it would be “impossible to conceive of any candidate who would be more deserving.”

Award Committee:

Thomas Skuzinski, Committee Chair (Virginia Tech), Vladimir Kogan (Ohio State University), Clarissa Freitas (Federal University of Ceara), Julia Nevarez (Kean University), Leslie Martin (University of Mary Washington).

Award Winner:

Dr. Margaret Wilder began her involvement in UAA during her early faculty years in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University. She accepted the position at IU teaching land use planning and urban studies after completing her PhD in Geography and Planning in Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan. Prior to her Michigan days, she had spent all of her life in Texas and attained M.A. and B.A. degrees from University of Texas-Arlington. Her early work on state economic development strategies formed the basis for several UAA conference presentations that cemented her attachment to the organization. Her research garnered best paper awards from both UAA and the Journal of the American Planning Association. After accepting a position at Cornell University and attaining tenure there, Dr. Wilder served on several UAA committees and was elected to the Governing Board, eventually assuming the role of Board Chair. Subsequent professional positions at SUNY-Albany and University of Delaware led to administrative roles as department chair and graduate program director. In 2005 she became UAA’s fifth executive director. In 2013, she was inducted into the UAA Service Honor Roll.


2020 Alma H. Young Emerging Scholar Award

Francisca Bogolasky
Pictured: Francisca Bogolasky (University of Texas at Austin)

Francisca Bogolasky (University of Texas at Austin) was selected as the recipient of the 2020 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:

“The Committee recommends that Alma H. Young Emerging Scholar Award for 2020 be given to Francisca Bogolasky of the University of Texas at Austin.

Bogolasky’s research investigates the linkages between residential mobility and educational outcomes. The stated objective of her research is “improving the conditions and working for the rights of vulnerable and underrepresented populations.” Her work has both a Latin American, as well as United Sates context. She performs research in housing, health, and education in colonias in the Rio Grande valley of the U.S. and in impoverished neighborhoods in Chile.

The methodologies employed and the locations studied have the potential to advance the foundational knowledge on the relationship between spatially defined opportunities/constraints and social mobility in urban areas. Specifically, Bogolasky examines the effects of spatial sorting along lines of demographic characteristics. This work is broadly relevant to both housing and education policy. In addition, her research has real life policy implications. There is a clear intent for the research to both engage with the local community and to result in policy guidance that helps to address social injustice.

Bogolasky’s work is very relevant and makes a timely and needed contribution to the literature and demonstrates a commitment to urban scholarship.

Award Committee:

Kirk McClure, Committee Chair (University of Kansas), Allison Bridges (Columbia University), Davia Downey (Grand Valley State University), Megan LaFrombois (Auburn University), and Myron Levine (Wright State University)

Award Winner:

Francisca Bogolasky is a Ph.D. candidate at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research interests include urban and education policy with a particular focus in residential mobility, housing policy and segregation. In her dissertation, she uses mixed methods to explore the consequences of residential mobility for students, households and neighborhoods in Chile’s Metropolitan Region. She holds an MPA from Columbia University, which she conducted with a Fulbright fellowship, and a B.A. in Sociology from Universidad Católica de Chile. She has worked as a researcher in the Center for Public Policy at Universidad Católica de Chile and several NGO’s. Her work has been published in peer reviewed journals and her PhD studies and research are supported by CONICYT, Chile; the Centre for Social Conflict and Cohesion Studies (COES-Chile) and several university grants.

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