Margo Hill Receives the Trustees’ Medal Award

June 12, 2023

The Trustees’ Medal Award is the university’s highest form of recognition for faculty achievement. Each year, since 1978, the award has honored teaching excellence, significant contributions to scholarship and research, and accomplishments in the development of academic programs and curriculums. The award consists of a silver medallion and a $1,500 cash prize from the EWU Foundation.

For the past decade, Margo Hill, JD, MURP, has made a positive impact on Eastern Washington University and the larger community through her outstanding work as an associate professor of urban and regional planning who is known for mentoring and supporting students, performing specialized research and advocating to improve conditions for tribal communities, Indigenous women and people.

Hill, a Spokane Tribal citizen, combines expertise in federal Indian law, gained through a decade of experience as a Spokane tribal attorney and a Coeur d’Alene tribal court judge, with expertise in urban planning. Her combination of skills results in a broad-based education for students while providing the framework to seek solutions to issues that put Indigenous women and people at a greater risk of human trafficking, abuse and death.

“Through her relentless advocacy efforts to support the needs of Native communities, Dr. Hill aims to advance Indigenous People’s rights and cultures by addressing social justice issues such as the reduction of addiction rates, tribal traffic safety, better infrastructures, the missing and murdered Indigenous women epidemic, cultural and political resilience, self-determination, and much more,” says Nydia Martinez, associate dean of the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Science, in a letter nominating Hill for the award.

Hill earned a Juris Doctorate from Gonzaga School of Law, and a bachelor’s degree in political science from University of Washington, in addition to earning a master’s degree in urban planning from EWU.

Hill, a first-generation student, “goes out of her way to support Native families who need additional support for their sons and daughters to learn how to access the resources available across EWU,” Martinez says.

In addition to teaching classes that include Planning Law and Legislation, American Indian Health and Community, Understanding Addiction in Tribal Communities, Administrative Law, Community Development, Tribal Planning classes and American Indian Law, Hill serves as the associate director of the Small, Urban, Rural and Tribal Center on Mobility (SURTCOM).

She regularly applies for and receives government grants – and employs graduate students, helping them to develop professional skills and connections that lead to career opportunities.

Kurtis Johnson, who earned a Master of Urban Planning in 2022, says Hill’s collaborative approach was tremendously beneficial.

“Whether it was Spokane city planners, Spokane Police representatives, or social justice advocates working in the community, Dr. Hill was the facilitator for these remarkable opportunities to interact with planning experts,” says Johnson.

Johnson credits Hill with mentoring and advocating for students and the entire program, saying, “She is committed to student experiences, learning, and professional connections to develop a broader education in planning.”

Hill regularly presents at state and national conferences and organizes community events to raise awareness and increase knowledge about environmental and human issues. In addition, she volunteers her time to serve on nonprofit boards and task forces.

Her work includes publishing papers and articles, some collaboratively, that serve as a springboard for presentations that generate deeper conversations about important topics, such as the missing and murdered indigenous women crisis.

Matt Anderson, PhD, associate professor and director of Urban and Regional Planning at EWU, works with Hill and sometimes collaborates on research. “What is perhaps most striking is how well integrated Margo’s research is with her professional and community service.”

Anderson says Hill “is a big name in tribal planning, law and activism” and calls her service to the university as “nothing short of astounding.”