Cowley honored for her impact on higher education

Award for UTA president comes from Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning

Friday, Mar 31, 2023 • Jeff Carlton : Contact

Jennifer Cowley, president of UTA

The Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP) has selected Jennifer Cowley, president of The University of Texas at Arlington, for its Martin Meyerson Award for Distinguished Leadership in Higher Education. The annual reward recognizes an urban or regional planning scholar or educator for their significant impacts on higher education.

Cowley said she felt “incredibly honored” to receive the award, which will be presented March 31 in Denver at the ACSP Administrators Conference.

“This is a career-long recognition bestowed upon some of the greatest leaders in our field,” Cowley said. “I am humbled to be among this outstanding group of planners.”

Bruce Stiftel, professor emeritus and founder of the School of City and Regional Planning at Georgia Tech, said the UTA president “exemplifies the power of urban planning approaches to governance.”

“As a leader, she emphasizes community participation, shared governance, social justice and the strategic importance of anchor institutions,” said Stiftel, who chaired the award selection committee. “She has championed the importance of putting research into practice, the economic development potential of universities, diversity hiring and high-impact, practice-based education.

“Repeatedly, Cowley has pushed our profession to make use of distance-learning tools, including pioneering planning’s first Massive Open Online Course on how urban planners can use technology to advance decisions.”

Cowley, UTA’s first female president, is also a professor of public affairs and planning in the College of Architecture, Planning, and Public Affairs. She is an advocate for public higher education and passionate about UTA’s role in developing Dallas-Fort Worth’s economy, society and culture by preparing the next generation of talent.

She has a doctorate in urban and regional science, a master’s degree in urban planning and bachelor’s degree in political science from Texas A&M University and master’s degrees in interdisciplinary studies and public administration from the University of North Texas. She is a fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners and the National Academy of Public Administrators.

Cowley said it’s critical for universities and planning professionals to work closely with the communities they serve and to communicate in a way that makes sense to the public.

“One of a planner’s great skills is taking complex ideas and distilling them down into plain English that the public can understand,” she said. “We have to understand what the communities we serve value and speak in ways that explain our impact in the context of what they value.

“We are critical workforce partners, community building partners and experts who lend our expertise to our communities—all in an effort to improve the communities we live and work in. The participatory techniques we teach our students need to live into our work as leaders. Well-designed participatory processes lead to better outcomes and greater trust.”