Davis Receives Marek Alumni Award
Shelley Davis, MUPP '98, Recipient of the Jim Marek Alumni Appreciation Award
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 Shelley Davis, MUPP 1998. Shelley’s dedication and contributions to education, administration, and the community sector throughout the region make her an incredibly well-deserved recipient.
After receiving her Bachelor’s Degree in psychology from Lawrence University, Shelley returned to Chicago and began a career in direct service and policy advocacy. She had been considering returning to school, and was interested in the MSW Program at the Jane Addams College of Social Work at UIC, when she had a chance encounter that helped shape her path. Shelley ran into a high school friend at the gym, and after expressing her interest in a graduate school, and in community development, her friend suggested the Urban Planning and Policy program, instead. At that point Davis had been part of a mentorship program and doing work in community and economic development alongside Wanda White, whose husband, Doug Gills, was a professor of urban planning and policy at UIC. The signs pointed to CUPPA, and Shelley followed.
Shelley began at UIC as a part-time student, continuing to work during the day and come to classes at night. During this time, she took many of her core classes as student at large before committing to program. Eventually, she left her full-time position and committed herself to a full-time student schedule. As a MUPP, Davis had great experiences working as a research assistant through Great Cities Institute and The Center for Urban Economic Development. In these positions, she learned a great deal about public policy, program evaluation, and documentation. Through her RA position with GCI, Shelley supported the creation of the book Empowerment in Chicago: Grassroots Participation in Economic Development and Poverty Alleviation with staff and students from both UIC and DePaul. She also wrote and presented, alongside Michael Bennett, the paper Creating Avenues to Effective Citizen Participation: The Role of Community-Based Organizations in the Empowerment Zone Process, at the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA) Conference in Indianapolis.
Since graduating from CUPPA, Shelley Davis has led an impressive career involving philanthropy, direct service, and advocacy. She has held the positions of vice president of programs and advocacy at the Chicago Foundation for Women, and national adviser at the Women’s Initiative for Self-Employment. Shelley began her current position with the Forest Preserve Foundation in 2013 as their first Executive Director. Additionally, she is a lecturer and senior mentor at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy, serves on the Illinois Commission on Juvenile Justice, is the chair of the Board of the Albert Pick Jr. Fund, and a member of the Board of Trustees of Lawrence University.
Obtaining a Master’s Degree allowed Davis to progress in her career by adding needed skills to her toolbox. The degree continues to connect her to a network of CUPPA alumni throughout the city and country, and across generations.
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.