SCARP PhD grad receives top planning award

Magdalena Ugarte, a PhD graduate of UBC’s School of Community and Regional Planning, has been awarded the 2019 Barclay Gibbs Jones Award for Best Dissertation in Planning by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning. The award recognizes “superior scholarship in a doctoral dissertation completed by a student enrolled in an ACSP-member school.”

Ugarte’s work examines the role that law, policy and planning practices have played in the dispossession and marginalization of Indigenous peoples in Chile, her home country, from colonial times until today. She explores how a recent government policy aimed at regulating Indigenous consultation restricts the rights and sovereignty of Indigenous peoples by imposing Western legal structures upon them.  

Based on extensive historical archival research and fieldwork, including interviews with dozens of Indigenous leaders and government officials familiar with Indigenous policy, Ugarte’s study was described as a “tour de force” by award committee chair Rachel Weber, a professor and director of graduate studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs.

The committee praised Ugarte’s study for its design, its elegant integration of original findings with critical theory and its “guidance to planners for how to engage across clashing normative systems."

“The most inspiring aspect of the project was not the dissertation research itself, but some of the unanticipated relationships that grew during my fieldwork,” Ugarte told the ACSP. “I’ve been privileged to meet committed folks and organizations working for Indigenous justice and resurgence in my country, who have involved me in some of the work they do. I owe much of the insights developed in my dissertation to the reflections emerging from those encounters.”

Now an assistant professor in the School of Urban and Regional Planning at Ryerson University, Ugarte is working with Mapuche partners in Chile on a community-based research project aimed at addressing challenges relating to Indigenous land use planning and Indigenous law. The project is being funded by an Insight Development Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

Ugarte received her award today at the ACSP’s 59th Annual Conference in Greenville, South Carolina.