Janet Smith Emerging Activist Scholar Research Award (sponsored by The Voorhees Family)

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The Janet Smith Emerging Activist Scholar Research Award (sponsored by The Voorhees Family and Individual Donors) 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.

September 18, 2023 (11:59pm CST) – Last day to submit an application

Step 1: Review the Eligibility Guidelines
Step 2: Submit Your Application
Award Benefits
Selection Process
Past Recipients
Step 1: Review the Eligibility Guidelines

The applicant must be either a current doctoral student or a recent doctoral graduate who received their degree within the past four years.

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; and
  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 a degree earned in 2020, 2021, 2022 or 2023 (e.g. picture of degree diploma; letter from university); and
  2. The applicant OR their nominator must hold a UAA membership.
Application Instructions

The applicant must submit the Emerging Activist Scholar 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: The applicant’s most recent curriculum vitae or resume.
  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, 2022 or 2023 (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.

Submit Your Application


Prior Nominees

All nominations made within the past three (3) years, will be given full review and consideration. For this year’s selection process, previous nominations will be considered for submissions made in:  2021, 2022, and 2023.

If a nomination was made prior to the three years noted above, a new nomination must be submitted to receive consideration by the committee. Each new nomination will remain in the nominee pool for three years (including the year of nomination).

To verify the year of any nomination, contact the UAA Executive Office at awards@uaamail.org

Award Benefits

The recipient receives:

  • A special award plaque
  • A research stipend worth $1,000 USD
  • The opportunity to submit an abstract to the UAA Conference
  • 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 waiver (including meal + reception tickets) to the conference (valued at $500+ USD per year)
    • Three (3) nights of conference hotel lodging (valued at $900+ USD per year)
    • $500 USD of travel support each year
  • Three (3) years of complimentary UAA membership (valued at $83 USD per year)

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

The plaque will be presented at the Awards & Recognition Program held during the annual UAA Conference. Following the conference, a press release will be prepared announcing the recipient.

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.