Jen Jenkins 2018
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A Closer Look with Jen Jenkins
Winner of the Ed McClure Award for Best Masters Paper

The Ed McClure Award recognizes superior scholarship in a paper prepared by a masters student in an ACSP-member school. Submissions may address any topic of investigation generated in the course of pursuing a master’s degree in urban/city/community/town/regional planning.

The 2018 winner of the Ed McClure Award for Best Masters Student Paper is Jen Jenkins, University of Illinois at Chicago

The 2018 Ed McClure Award Committee Chair, Joshua Drucker, had to say about Jen and her winning paper, 

"The Edward McClure Award winning entry this year is Jen Jenkins’s “The Current State of Community Solar in Illinois: Looking to 2025 and Beyond”. This paper is a systematic and comprehensive description and evaluation of the community solar energy model, emphasizing the role of community solar in local and state energy planning and the effects of state legislation and regulation. Jenkins’s paper, which is thoroughly researched and meticulously presented, offers a timely exposition of an emerging area for environmental planning practice and research. Jenkins, a master’s student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, describes the rationale for and implementation of community solar energy planning in Illinois along with several comparison states, while contributing insights and recommendations regarding policy construction and implementation and also critically assessing implications for environmental justice and energy equity."

Here's "A Closer Look" at our winner:

Q: How did you feel when you learned you won?
A: I was very surprised, both for the nomination and the honor of receiving this award. I am grateful (and a bit nervous) for the opportunity to be able to present my research at the ACSP conference, but I am more excited to learn about what other planning students and academics are currently interested in and working on.

Q: Who would you like to thank?
A: I want to thank Professor Ning Ai not only for the nomination but for her guidance throughout the semester. Her environmental planning course was a fury of the most pressing environmental issues we face today and those to come. Professor Ai challenged me to really focus on developing an identifiable narrative in my research. Her advice and encouragement was invaluable.

I also want to thank my husband, Matt, for his unconditional support throughout the last year. It is only because of him that I am able to balance work, school and life and look toward the next phase of my career. 

Q: What inspired you about this project?
A: Professor Ai allowed for a lot of freedom in our final project and for me it was perfect timing. I recently had several energy developers reach out to my environmental firm asking for help in navigating the solar energy landscape in Illinois. I was very curious as to what instigated this sudden interest in renewables in our state, given that Illinois isn't generally associated with being sun-rich. As I dug into my research, the community solar model really stood out as an ideal of sustainability through it's intersecting benefits associated with the environment, economics, and equity.

Q: What's next? 
A: Technically I am still in my first year of the masters program here at UIC so I have some time to explore and narrow down my focus. Recently I have been drawn to the patterns we see in spatial design and how they reflect the stories of a neighborhood as it changes over time. I am also interested in adaptable cities who have developed innovative ways to be resilient against the challenges that come with environmental and population changes.

As I transition from engineer to planner, I hope to continue working in the realm of design but from a more regional perspective. I would love to get involved in some regional watershed or open space planning. I have also been lightly considering taking some landscape architecture classes for fun.

Jen will be presenting her paper at the ACSP Annual Conference, which will be held from October 25-28, in Buffalo, New York.  Click here for more information about #ACSP2018.


The Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning promotes education, research, service and outreach in the United States and throughout the world by seeking to:

  • recognize diverse needs and interests in planning;
  • improve and enhance the accreditation process, and;
  • strengthen the role of planning education in colleges and universities through publications, conferences, and community engagement;
  • extend planning beyond the classroom into the world of practice.


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