Martin, Dewar receive 2020 awards for public engagement


President Mark Schlissel is honoring two University of Michigan faculty members with the 2020 presidential awards for public engagement, recognizing their commitment and contributions to significantly impact society through national and state leadership service, and efforts to address the challenges communities face every day.

Emily Toth Martin, associate professor of epidemiology in the School of Public Health, will receive the President’s Award for National and State Leadership, which honors individuals who provide sustained, dedicated and influential leadership and service in major national or state capacities.

Margaret Dewar, professor emerita of urban and regional planning in the A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, will receive the President’s Award for Public Impact. The award honors individuals whose research and expertise tangibly addresses a major public-sector challenge.

“Professors Dewar and Martin are helping our communities confront monumental challenges, and their service to the public will resonate for generations to come,” Schlissel said. “Professor Martin’s expertise has saved lives during the COVID-19 global pandemic, and Professor Dewar’s focus on American cities is strengthening neighborhoods through safe and affordable housing.”

Martin received multiple nominations for her surveillance and engagement work throughout the COVID-19 pandemic with the U-M community, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s office and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, as well as the many panels and forums she participated in to share critical information and guidance on slowing the spread of the virus. 

“In the midst of this pandemic, there is no person more deserving of this award than Dr. Martin. Since the start of the pandemic, (she) has provided steadfast and clear-eyed leadership to the university, community and state. She has unselfishly given her time and expertise and has provided critical guidance to help our community respond to the biggest public health emergency in recent memory,” said Joseph Eisenberg, chair and professor of epidemiology, who nominated Martin.

Martin has been featured in news outlets across the nation explaining the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, testing methods and how precision public health data can be used to make informed decisions and determine next steps.

“I’m honored to receive this award, and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to be involved in the pandemic response,” Martin said. “COVID-19 has pushed many of us into new roles, and I’ve been lucky to work with so many dedicated colleagues here at U-M and around the state. I’m hopeful that all of these connections with each other and with the community will make us more resilient when we face future crises.” 

Dewar’s work focuses on American cities that have experienced abandonment and loss of employment, with the goal of helping strengthen deteriorated neighborhoods and enhance access to safe and affordable housing. She is being recognized for her innovative approach to research.

For decades, Dewar has developed relationships in Detroit to help residents by working with city officials, community organization leaders and others to combat the issues preventing affordable housing from being available for low-income Detroiters.

Along with Taubman colleague Lan Deng, associate professor of urban and regional planning, she recently helped develop strategies to preserve affordable housing projects built under the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program. 

“Dr. Dewar’s deep partnerships and engaged approach have made a remarkable difference in strengthening neighborhoods and improving access to safe and affordable housing,” said Luke Shaefer, director of Poverty Solutions, the Hermann and Amalie Kohn Professor of Social Justice and Social Policy, and professor of public policy at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, and professor of social work at the School of Social Work.

“For decades, Dr. Dewar has played an active role building relationships in the community and providing evidence-based recommendations that have helped improve access to safe and affordable housing and neighborhoods.”

Dewar said the award was completely unexpected. 

“As I have processed the news, I’ve been thinking of the many remarkable students and Detroiters with whom I’ve worked to bring about change for the better. I feel as if I represent them in receiving this award because their dedication and hard work have made such a difference,” she said. 

“My suggestions, analyses and plans could have fallen on deaf ears, but instead we listened to each other, and they figured out what to do and took action. They are heroes.” 

A virtual event honoring Martin and Dewar is set for 4-6 p.m. March 22. The event also will include the 2019 winners, since the event scheduled for March 2020 to honor them was postponed due to COVID-19 safety guidelines.

Marc Zimmerman, director of the Prevention Research Center and the Michigan Youth Violence Prevention Center, the Marshall H. Becker Collegiate Professor of Public Health, and professor of health behavior and health education in the School of Public Health, and professor of psychology in LSA, received the 2019 President’s Award for Public Impact.

J. Alex Halderman, director of the Center for Computer Security and Society and professor of electrical engineering and computer science in the College of Engineering, received the 2019 President’s Award for National and State Leadership. 


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