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2019 – Ciere Boatright, MUPP ’16

Since 2004, the CUPPA Alumni Association Board of Directors has presented the Jim Marek Alumni Appreciation Award recognizing individuals or groups for their dedication to the fields of urban planning and public administration and their contributions to the development of the college's students and alumni. The recipient of this year’s award is Ciere Boatright, MUPP 2016. Ciere’s commitment to community and economic development and wholehearted dedication to connecting with students about her experiences working on Chicago’s South Side make her an invaluable member of the CUPPA community and an incredibly well-deserved recipient of this award.

Prior to starting in the MUPP program, Ciere worked as an assistant branch manager at U.S. Bank for 6 years in Chicago. While she found the experience gratifying and determined that working in the financial world was appealing to her, she knew that she wanted to ultimately work in the community development space. 

As a first semester MUPP enrolled in Keisha Farmer-Smith’s Community Development Theory course, Ciere gained both theoretical and practical knowledge of how development works in communities, and learned of the dynamics at play when working in under-served areas of Chicago. In a project for this course, she was paired with Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives (CNI), an organization working to strengthen low- to moderate-income communities by acting as developer, community collaborator, and capital coordinator. This project was foundational to Ciere’s experience as a MUPP, and she was hired on by CNI as a project manager before getting promoted to Director of Real Estate Development & Inclusion. Six years later, Ciere is still working at CNI, now in a Vice President role. 

Since joining CNI in 2013, Ciere has overseen planning and development of numerous projects on the South Side, including Pullman Park – a 180-acre site that has generated over $350 million in investment and 1,500 new jobs. Ciere has also helped lead the development of other transformational projects in Pullman: the Pullman Community Center, the mixed-use Artspace Lofts, a Whole Foods distribution center, and an industrial park currently home to Method Home Products and Gotham Greens. Throughout CNI’s development efforts, Ciere prioritizes relationship- and consensus-building and spearheads diversity and inclusion efforts for the organization. Through Ciere’s persistent, passionate efforts over the years, CNI has achieved 30-50% Minority and Women Business Enterprise contractor participation in its projects. 

Underpinning all of this impressive work is a philosophy that Ciere carries with her and applies to every project – economic development can’t exist without community development. Ciere also serves as a Commissioner for the Roseland Medical District, a member of the Urban Land Institute, a board member of ULI’s Women’s Leadership Initiative, and a mentor for LINK Unlimited Scholars. Ciere was recognized as one of Crain’s 2019 Notable Women in Commercial Real Estate, was honored on the Chicago Scholars 2019 list of “35 under 35” recognizing diverse, talented young leaders making an impact on Chicago communities, and was recently selected as a Leadership Greater Chicago Fellow in the Class of 2020. 

As a CUPPA alum, Ciere is engaged in the college community and passionate about fostering relationships with students, faculty, and fellow alums alike. She frequently attends student- and faculty-sponsored events to provide her insights on community development, and specifically on how community and economic development function on the South Side. She has served as a panelist for an APA-Illinois Diversity Committee event on “Planning for Equity”, given guest lectures in Urban Planning & Policy classes, and taken students on tours to see development projects. Urban Planning & Policy Professors Janet Smith and Rachel Weber share that throughout these experiences, Ciere provides “invaluable insights about the complexity in doing development in Chicago and the South Side given its long history of disinvestment and racial segregation.” In addition to serving as an expert on development practice, Smith and Weber say Ciere is an exemplary role model to women seeking master’s degrees while raising a family and holding full-time jobs. Many congratulations to Ciere on this achievement, and thank you for your service to the CUPPA community! 

The CUPPA Alumni Association has presented the CUPPA Alumni Appreciation Award recognizing individuals or groups for their dedication to the fields of urban planning and public administration and their contributions to the development of the college's students and alumni. In November 2010, the Board of Directors of the CUPPA-AA voted unanimously to rename the award to the Jim Marek Alumni Appreciation Award honoring the former CUPPA assistant dean for student services, Jim Marek. Marek retired from his post in CUPPA on February 6, 2007 after over twenty-nine years of service to the university, its students and alumni. He unexpectedly died on August 13, 2010.