Janet Smith Emerging Activist-Scholar Research Award

Urban Affairs Association > Awards & Deadlines > Janet Smith Emerging Activist-Scholar Research Award

The Janet Smith Emerging Activist-Scholar Research Award was established to support emerging activist-scholars.

Janet Smith
Janet Smith, Ph.D. Professor in the Department of Urban Planning & Policy at UIC-Chicago. Director of the Nathalie P. Voorhees Center for Neighborhood & Community Improvement.

This award honors the memory of Dr. Janet Smith, Professor in the Department of Urban Planning and Policy at the University of Illinois Chicago’s College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, and co-director of the Nathalie P. Voorhees Center for Neighborhood and Community Improvement. As an expert in local and national housing policy, Janet dedicated her career to fighting alongside community groups for a right to place and representation within the city. Janet brought to this work a deep respect for the self-determination of communities. Working alongside communities and activists, she brought her own astute analysis – and fierce critique – of the political economy of housing production in the United States.

As an activist-scholar, Janet worked alongside tenant-activists to leverage a fierce critique of the Chicago Housing Authority’s Plan for Transformation and bore witness to the ways in which the plan fragmented existing communities. This work informed her books Where are Poor People to Live?: Transforming Public Housing Communities with Larry Bennett and Patricia Wright, and Claiming Neighborhood: New Ways of Understanding Urban Change with John Betancur.

Within UAA, Janet was an outstanding leader and mentor to both students and faculty. From 2001 to 2007, she served on the UAA Governing Board, becoming Vice-Chair in 2005 and Chair in 2006. Throughout her UAA engagement, Janet chaired countless committees and shared her insights with early career scholars in workshops and professional development sessions.

Janet’s energy, enthusiasm, and determination was inspirational to all that worked with her. This award honors Janet’s contributions as an activist-scholar as well as her commitment to supporting emerging scholars in developing their own models for community engagement and activism.

DEADLINE: November 1, 2022 (11:59pm CST) – Last day to submit a nomination

DEADLINE: December 1, 2022 (11:59pm CST) – Last day for nominated individuals to submit their application materials

Eligibility Guidelines
Award Benefits
Nomination & Application Instructions
Award Selection Process
Eligibility Guidelines

The applicant must be either a current doctoral student or a recent doctoral graduate who received their degree within the past three years (counting from the time of application).

Current Doctoral Graduate Students. Students pursuing doctoral research related to urban affairs, regardless of academic discipline, are eligible to apply. Applicants must:

  1. Have finished their coursework
  2. Be making good progress towards the completion of their dissertation
  3. The applicant OR their nominator must hold a UAA membership


Post-Doctoral Graduates. Recent doctoral graduates who received their degree and completed research related to urban affairs, in any disciplinary field, are eligible to apply. Applicants must:

  1. Provide official documentation of degree earned in 2020, 2021 or 2022 (e.g. picture of degree diploma; letter from university).
  2. The applicant OR their nominator must hold a UAA membership.
Award Benefits

The recipient receives:

  • A plaque
  • A research stipend of $1,000 to support the emerging scholar’s work
  • The opportunity to submit an abstract to the UAA Conference and, if accepted, become part of the Activist Scholar Track
  • The opportunity to submit the completed research as a paper to the Journal of Urban Affairs or the Journal of Race, Ethnicity & the City
  • Three (3) years of UAA Conference support* that includes:
    • A complimentary registration to the conference (valued at $400+ per year)
    • Three (3) nights of conference hotel lodging (valued at $900+ per year)
    • $500 of travel support each year

*This multi-year benefit allows the recipient to participate in professional development workshops, mentoring programs, networking, and research presentations.

The plaque and honorarium will be presented at the annual awards reception held during the UAA conference. Following the conference, a press release will be prepared announcing the winner.

Phase 1: Nomination Instructions

Faculty or self-nominations may be submitted by November 1, 2022. In order to nominate someone, you need the following information: 

  1. Name of nominee
  2. Nominee email address
  3. Current status:  graduate student (pre-dissertation); graduate student (currently working on dissertation); post-doctoral graduate who received their degree within the past three years (2020, 2021 or 2022)

The applicant OR their nominator must hold a UAA membership.


Phase 2: Application Instructions

A UAA staff member will follow up with nominated individuals to request the following materials via the application form by December 1, 2022.

The nominated individual must submit the Emerging Activist-Scholar Nominee Application Form and upload the following documents as PDF files:

  1. Personal Statement: A personal statement by the applicant describing the applicant’s purpose in engaging in activist scholarship. The statement should be no more than 1,000 words (2 pages maximum).
  2. Curriculum Vitae or Resume: A recent curriculum vitae or resume from the applicant.
  3. Description of Activist Research Activities:
    • Current Graduate Students: A 1,000 word description (2 pages maximum) of the applicant’s planned or actual community engagement during the research process and how the research outcomes may benefit the community and/or its institutions or specific members. *Please note: Bibliography references and/or appendices do not count towards the 1,000 word limit. 
    • Post-Doctoral Applicants: A 1,000 word summary (2 pages maximum) of the research outcomes and how these have benefitted the community and/or its institutions or specific persons.
  4. Letter of Support: The applicant must submit:
    • One (1) letter of support from their faculty advisor or community partner involved in the work.
  5. Documentation of degree earned in 2020, 2021 or 2022 (post-doctoral applicants only) Examples of documentation: picture of degree diploma, letter from university, etc.

Important note: Do not submit additional documents. Only the requested documents will be forwarded to the selection committee.

Award Selection Process

The nominations will be reviewed by a committee appointed by the Chairperson of the Governing Board. The winner will be selected based on scholarship and commitment to urban issues. Specifically, candidates for the award are evaluated on the following three criteria:

  1. Evidence of a commitment to community engagement and social justice.
  2. The potential of the research to contribute to urban scholarship.
  3. The potential or actual impacts of the research to support community objectives and well-being.

The awards committee will report its decision to the UAA Executive Director, who will inform all nominees and nominators of the committee’s decision prior to the UAA conference.