On the 18th of September, a special event unfolded, bringing together the IJURR Foundation Trustees and Editors of the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research (IJURR) to meet the newest generation of IJURR Foundation Awardees. The aim of this online gathering was two-fold: firstly, to acquaint ourselves with the awardees who had been selected through a rigorous process by the IJURRF Trustees Board, and, more importantly, to provide a platform for the awardees to get to know each other.

This deliberate effort was made to foster connections and create a sense of community, which we believed had been missing in our alumni network over the years. Until now, we had primarily reached out to our alumni via email communications. However, recognizing the need for more engagement, we decided to organize online meetings to initiate a dialogue with our awardees and we also connect them during conferences where IJURR board members or Foundation trustees are present. Above all, we want to convey our unwavering support, appreciation for their work, eagerness to hear about their achievements, and a commitment to assist them beyond the scholarships they received.

During this heartwarming event, Professor Mona Fawaz, representing the IJURR Editorial Collective, and IJURR Chair Professor Tuna Tasan-Kok delivered inspiring speeches emphasizing the importance of our alumni to us and our eagerness to stay connected. IJURR Foundation Trustees Dr. Champaka Rajagopal (SciencePo), Professor Tom Goodfellow (University of Sheffield), Dr. Barbara Lipietz (UCL), and Dr. Li Wan (University of Cambridge) took turns engaging with the awardees. Additionally, our invaluable administrator and company secretary, Sarah Daisy, was introduced to the awardees, who were delighted to finally put a face to the name behind all the communications.

Around the virtual table, we had the privilege of hosting 16 awardees hailing from various corners of the globe: Ceyda Sungur, Maria Khristine Alvarez, Sanjana Krishnan, Giovanna Lucio Monteiro, Maureen Abi-Ghanem, Robert Nutifafa Arku, Prerna Singh, Özge Yüksekkaya, Vivek Mishra, Zhiwu Wei, Vinisha Singh Basnet, Bojana Babic, Angana Banerjee, Angel Gomez, Joyce Angnayeli Eledi Kuusaana and Aireen Grace Andal. As part of the program, we invited a distinguished earlier-generation IJURRF alumnus, Dr. Tuna Kuyucu, currently an Associate Professor at Bosphorus University, Istanbul (Turkey). Dr. Kuyucu received his scholarship during his PhD studies at the University of Washington. In his candid speech, he shared how the funds came at a critical juncture in his academic journey when he was overwhelmed as a Teaching Assistant with grading exams and essays, leaving little time for his research. Thanks to the support he received, he could return to Istanbul, conduct fieldwork, and dedicate himself to his research. Today, Dr. Kuyucu is not only a talented and established scholar with publications in high-impact journals, including IJURR but also a recognized authority in the field of the political economy of urban revitalization and affordable housing.

As final part of the program, we organized breakout rooms to allow the awardees to freely discuss their projects, challenges, future aspirations, and questions they hoped to address. Despite the constraints of an online encounter, it was a candid and warm engagement, in which small groups discussed issues as diverse as career ambitious, difficulties in managing fieldwork, favourite urban theorists, and how they thought the Foundation could continue to engage with awardees in the future. Everyone left the meeting with a sense of positivity and eagerness for future interactions. Who knows, perhaps one day we will have the opportunity to meet in person…