‘It’s important to leave home and find your way’

Valerie Werner, Silver Circle winner

Valerie Werner helped develop the first undergraduate program in urban and public affairs. Photo: Troy Heinzeroth

2013 Silver Circle Award

Since 1966, the Silver Circle has been presented to some of UIC’s best teachers. What makes the award especially meaningful is its selection committee: the graduating seniors.


Valerie Werner
Former director, Urban & Public Affairs
College of Urban Planning & Policy


Valerie Werner spent a lot of one-on-one time with her undergraduate students last semester, overseeing their independent research, overseas studies and internships with municipalities, federal agencies and local nonprofits.

She wanted to be sure the interns could use what they’d learned about civic engagement.

“They do a contract with the agency and with me, with learning objectives. I want to make sure they’re not just answering phones,” Werner says.

At the same time, she took over a key class in the program.

“I taught Political Economy to this graduating class. I wasn’t the original teacher, and I filled in with no prep time. And we did all right in the end,” she says.

In 2006, Werner began developing the first undergraduate program in the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs. The resulting Urban and Public Affairs degree is taught by faculty from the graduate programs in urban planning and public administration.

The program, which began enrolling students in 2007, combines course instruction, service learning and research to address human, social and environmental concerns.

At the same time, Werner was completing her own degree at UIC, with a doctoral dissertation on Mary Parker Follet whom Werner calls “the mother of public administration.”

Armed with her Ph.D., she was offered a position to develop another new program at the Adler School of Psychology.

Since January she has been an adjunct at UIC and a faculty member at Adler, where she is developing a master’s program in public policy and administration with concentrations in human rights or urban mental health.

“I think it’s important to leave home and find your way outside of your home institution,” she says of her new position. “And I think it’s good for the undergrad program. My work as the Urban and Public Affairs director established the program and ensured its existence; my leaving brings faculty back into the discussion on how it can grow, change, become even better.”

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