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Schweitzer wins ACSP award for helping advance women in planning field

Published by USC Bedrosian Center on

In honor of her outstanding efforts to advance women in the field of planning, USC Price School of Public Policy Associate Professor Lisa Schweitzer has been unanimously selected as the recipient of the 2016 Margarita McCoy Award by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP) and its Faculty Women’s Interest Group.

The award recognizes contributions toward the advancement of women in planning at institutions of higher education through service, teaching, and/or research. In notifying Schweitzer of the award, Kathy Quick, vice president of the ACSP Faculty Women’s Interest group, stated that “there is no ‘and/or’ in your record, as you have contributed so meaningfully in all of these areas.”

Faculty colleagues from USC and peer schools nominated Schweitzer for the McCoy Award, citing her exceptional work mentoring junior faculty, as well her scholarly impact and innovation, including being among the first to econometrically estimate the equity impacts of toll-road financing, USC Price Dean Jack Knott noted.

Spotlighting women’s unique challenges

The nominators pointed to many examples of Schweitzer’s research, Knott added, including her work on no-notice evacuations; a study which established that federal and local agency planning – assuming a male-oriented travel pattern – was often blind to the complicated travel patterns and child-care duties that typically fall on women, leading to evacuation plans that disadvantage women, particularly low-income women and women of color.

“I talk about the difference between men and women in my scholarship because that’s an important problem in transportation and in cities in general,” Schweitzer said. “The city you encounter is different from the city your grandma encounters, and what works for you in an urban environment may not work very well for her. So what we do, what kinds of accommodations we implement to make things more workable for a broader swath of people, has been important to my work.”

Her current research project focuses on primarily female Latino caregivers for people with autism.

Knott commended Schweitzer as a scholar who “consistently highlights gender issues in innovative and sophisticated ways and has consistently been a strong voice for women in planning.”

Schweitzer chaired the ACSP Faculty Women’s Interest Group from 2010 to 2013. She will officially receive the award Nov. 5 at the 2016 ACSP Conference in Portland, Ore.

“I’m thrilled with the idea that people think I’m deserving of recognition,” Schweitzer said, “but it also feels like I’m getting an award merely for doing my job. I’ve tried to spend my career amplifying women’s accomplishments. I point out to people when my colleagues and students do well and produce important findings.”

Carrying on a pioneering legacy

In addition, the namesake of the award, Margarita McCoy – who passed away in March at age 92 – was a planning pioneer, who received her Master of Planning degree from USC Price in 1970. McCoy also worked at USC as a program administrator before becoming a professor, and later the first woman to chair a university department of urban planning at California Polytechnic State University, Pomona. The ACSP award was established in her honor in 1995.

Although their times at USC did not intersect, Schweitzer said she encountered McCoy numerous times at conferences and respected her approach to practice.

“We just lost her this year and she was a wonderful person,” Schweitzer said. “In many respects, she embodied a lot of the principles that I think should be part of the profession — particularly a focus on neighborhoods and helping people get to where they want to go. That has been an important part of my career because it’s easy for a public institution to silence women, children and people of color.”

Bedrosian Center