From Nik Theodore, Head and Professor, Department of Urban Planning and Policy
Dear colleagues and students,
I am deeply saddened to write that our friend and colleague, UPP Professor Janet Smith, passed away last night after a long battle with cancer. Our hearts go out to her husband, Jim, and to her many friends within UIC and beyond.
Janet’s research and practice epitomize one of the hallmarks of UIC’s mission: “To create knowledge that transforms our views of the world and, through sharing and application, transforms the world.” An expert in local and national housing planning and policy, and with a focus on equity and social justice, Janet is known for her astute analysis – and fierce critique – of the political economy of housing production in the United States. One of the core themes of her research – that we cannot simply “build our way out of” the urban housing crisis without first addressing structural factors, including racism and class bias – directly challenges prevailing policy paradigms and exposes a central contradiction that policymakers must confront.
As co-Director of UIC’s Voorhees Center, Janet has worked with numerous community organizations to assess housing and health outcomes; expand housing opportunities for people with disabilities; and implement community-driven strategies to preserve affordable housing. The enduring impact of this work has earned Janet many accolades, including the Urban Affairs Association’s 2020 Marilyn J. Gittell Activist Scholar Award for her “truly outstanding … contributions and commitment to activist-scholarship.”
Since joining UPP in 1997, Janet has been mentor to countless PhD and MUPP students who have gone on to work for community organizations and in the public and private sectors and the academy. Their commitment to the principles Janet consistently espoused – social equity, community voice, and valuing community-driven solutions to enduring urban problems – is testament to Janet’s enduring influence on urban planning and policy.
Rest in power, Janet. We miss you.
Nik Theodore He/Him
Professor and Head of Department
Department of Urban Planning and Policy
University of Illinois Chicago
412 S. Peoria St. | 215 CUPPAH, MC 348 | Chicago, IL 60607
Director, Center for Urban Economic Development
Interventions Editor, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research