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Professor Cited as Urban Scholar/Activist

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Trinity’s Christine Drennon receives award from Urban Affairs Association for community engagement research

by Sharon Jones Schweitzer '75

SAN ANTONIO – Christine Drennon, director of Trinity University’s Urban Studies Program, has been named the 2014 recipient of the Marilyn J. Gittell Activist Scholar Award by the Urban Affairs Association (UAA) and SAGE. The national award acknowledges Drennon’s impressive record of scholarship and engagement and her commitment to addressing issues of direct concern to urban communities.

Drennon’s research and activism have recently focused on San Antonio’s East Side neighborhoods. As research director for the Promise and Choice Neighborhood Planning Grants for the City of San Antonio and for the Choice Neighborhood Implementation project, she has focused her work on the relationship between education and community development. “Dr. Drennon was an early advocate for the kind of collaboration that led us to receive the Promise Implementation Grant, which is helping transform the East Side of San Antonio,” said San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro.

Drennon spearheaded an early initiative known as the Trinity Project, one of the early efforts that led to the creation of a Promise Neighborhood Grant, which put school improvement at the center of efforts to revitalize underserved neighborhoods.

“Professor Drennon, with her deep knowledge of San Antonio's neighborhoods and of the workings of city departments, was able to identify areas of mutual benefit and bring the different actors together to develop a unified strategy for improvement,” said Trinity President Dennis A. Ahlburg. Her work in the community also provides Trinity students an opportunity to engage in an interconnected and ever-changing world, added Ahlburg.

Her community outreach, which includes establishing collaborative initiatives with various community agencies and school districts, demonstrates how scholars can build bridges of support and collaboration that make a difference in the lives of community residents. “I am honored and humbled to be recognized with this award,” says Drennon. “I’m from the inner-city; I went from resident of the city – to student of the city – to activist in the city, when the three began to overlap.”

She joined the Trinity faculty in 2002 and within months became engaged in addressing San Antonio’s challenges. An associate professor of sociology and anthropology with expertise in urban geography and community development, Drennon seeks to give her students an intense appreciation for where they come from, both historically and geographically, and help them engage in their individual communities once they leave Trinity. Her students often work alongside her in urban research projects throughout the city.

As recipient of the award, Drennon delivered the plenary address at the UAA’s national conference held in San Antonio March 19-22. “Christine Drennon continues a tremendous legacy left by Marilyn Gittell, one that challenges every research scholar committed to social justice to act on their values. UAA is extremely proud to partner with SAGE in recognizing such individuals who are making a difference in urban communities throughout the U.S.,” said Margaret Wilder, UAA executive director.

Trinity University’s Urban Studies Program exposes students to urban history, urban society, and urban development while encouraging contributions to social change – all in the vibrant, diverse city of San Antonio. Students are actively engaged in local urban affairs through internships and research on local conditions while becoming citizens of the city. Graduates of the program, established in 1968, have become city managers and city planners of major metropolitan areas, CEOs of both public and private corporations, and researchers engaged in making our cities better and more equitable places to live, conduct business, and raise a family.

Sharon Jones Schweitzer ’75 is assistant vice president for External Relations. You can follow her on Twitter at @sjschweitzer.