APA Minnesota Planning Awards provide an exciting opportunity to give credit to outstanding projects and people who have contributed to the planning profession over the previous year. 

APA Minnesota's Awards program typically features the categories listed below.  A Call for Nominations is issued later this Summer. 

Award recipients are recognized at our annual fall conference and in Planning Minnesota.

If you have any questions about APA Minnsota's Awards Program, contact  info@planningmn.org.


Current categories:

Lifetime Achievement Award
Peg and Otto Schmid Award
Gunnar C Isberg Student Scholarship
Innovation in Planning
Excellence in Community Engagement
Partnerships in Planning
Success Stories in Implementation
Planning in Context
Outstanding Student Project



Lifetime Achievement Award

The Lifetime Achievement Award, as given by the Minnesota Chapter of the American Planning Association, celebrates the contributions across the career of a member of the chapter. As a professional, the nominee will be recognized for invention and creativity. The nominee will exhibit commitment and dedication to the field of planning, expressed through practice, education, and/or community service. As a leader, the nominee will have contributed to the vitality of the chapter or national association through elected or appointed roles. Nominees should be widely recognized as visible leaders in the field, who have had sustained impacts and have been advocates for planning throughout their careers.


  • The Nominee should have been a member in good standing for a minimum of 10 years with APA National or APA Minnesota during his/her employment career. Was the Nominee a member?
  • As the Award is a Lifetime Achievement award, the Nominee should be at or near the end of the employment career. Is the Nominee retired or near retirement?
  • The Nominee should have demonstrated leadership in the profession through elected, appointed, and/or volunteer positions in the chapter or the national organization. List these leadership roles.
  • The Nominee should demonstrate a passion and commitment to the field of planning expressed through planning practice, planning education, and/or community service. List employment and activities and/or body of work that demonstrates these criteria.
  • Please list any planning related awards, achievements, and/or innovations associated with this Nominee.

Selection Process

The APA Minnesota Board of Directors will appoint a Nominating/Selection Committee to review the criteria and make a recommendation for selection to the Board. The APA Minnesota Board of Directors will make the final decision on the award.


Peg and Otto Schmid Award

The Peg and Otto Schmid Award is awarded to a mid-career individual or group of individuals. The award was originally known as the APA Minnesota Planner of the Year Award and was intended to supplement the Lifetime Achievement Award.


Open to APA Minnesota members and nonmembers, individuals cannot self-nominate. Existing APA Minnesota Board Members (Executive Committee and District Directors) are not eligible for the award. Individuals may be nominated posthumously.


  • Impact on Planning. Describe the nomination’s innovations or new models that directly influenced the future of Minnesota planning and explain how these developments significantly and positively redirected planning practice, education, theory, or organization. List any accomplishments, activities, and/or awards that demonstrate the impact of the Nominee’s work.
  • Nominee’s Chapter/State Significance and Influence. Describe the state impacts or effects of the planning contributions. Detail the nominee’s ongoing positive influence on the direction and professional advancement of planning. Examples may include: collaborating among other design disciplines, innovations in practice, or advancing the art and science of planning. How has the nominee advanced previously pioneering work using new methodologies, and/or influenced the use of technology in planning applications. List any leadership roles (elected, appointed, and/or volunteer) that the Nominee holds or has held in the past in an organization that advances the principles of the APA Minnesota Strategic Plan and Policy Platform.
  • Non-Traditional Contributions to Planning. APA Minnesota encourages individuals or a group of individuals to nominate for non-traditional forms of contributions to the planning profession. If the nominee is not an APA Minnesota member, please describe how their contributions have advanced the planning profession.

Selection Process

The APA Minnesota Board of Directors will appoint a Nominating/Selection Committee to review the criteria and make a recommendation for selection to the Board. The APA Minnesota Board of Directors will make the final decision on the award.


Gunnar C. Isberg Student Scholarship

The Gunnar Isberg Student Scholarship is awarded to undergraduate or graduate students pursuing an education at a school or university in the State of Minnesota in planning or planning related field. Review criteria include Excellence in Reputation, Excellence in Academic Achievement, Involvement in the Planning Field and Dedication to the Professional Organization outside of school. The scholarship was established by the Isberg family to recognize Mr. Isberg’s devotion to planning. The scholarship is aptly named, as Mr. Isberg was passionate about the field of planning. He used his professional and volunteer positions, and his writings as an advocate for the profession, and to educate the public about planning.

Review Criteria for the Gunnar Isberg Scholarship Award

  • Excellence in Reputation (40 pts): How do peers, co-workers, supervisors, and/or professors view the applicant? Are they highly regarded in all aspects of their life? Do they have specific examples of excellence to speak of regarding the student?
  • Excellence in Academic Achievement (30 pts): How does the student epitomize excellence in their school work?
  • Involvement in the Planning Field (20 pts): Does the applicant make efforts to gain experience in the field and contribute to planning processes and ideas either in an internship, job, or on a volunteer basis? Does the student contribute to the field through academic research, newsletter or paper articles? Are they active in community-level planning efforts?
  • Dedication to the Professional Organization outside of school (10 pts): Is the student a member of the Minnesota Chapter of the American Planning Association? Have they been active in APA-Minnesota Chapter or National APA?

The scholarship is competitive and is reviewed by the APA-MN Executive Board. The following items must be submitted:

  • Cover letter stating how you fit the criteria of the Gunner Isberg Scholarship.
  • Proof of enrollment (copy of tuition receipt or current registration card).
  • Most recent transcript (copy or original accepted).
  • Letter of recommendation from a professor or job supervisor.

Learn more about Gunnar C. Isberg


Innovation in Planning

Innovation occurs when there is a change in the thought process for achieving an outcome. Through innovation, the planning process is renewed and improved with fresh ways of thinking and renewed methods of accomplishing tasks. An innovative plan is one which achieves its role as the leading policy or document for governmental agencies while pursuing new ways to realize objectives. An innovative plan/project will present a visionary approach to addressing the needs of those it serves.

Innovation could be applied to a wide variety of areas, including:

  • Energy efficiency
  • Green infrastructure
  • Conservation
  • Transportation modes
  • Sustainable development
  • Resilience
  • Redevelopment opportunities
  • Job growth
  • Equitable planning

Review Criteria for the Innovation in Planning Award

  • Originality (30 pts): Is the project original, innovative and a unique concept?
  • Implementation (30 pts): Does the work have the ability of being carried out?
  • Applicability (10 pts): Can the results of the project be applied to other areas or projects?
  • Measurability (10 pts): Does the project include measurable ways to determine the success of the plan?
  • Effectiveness (15 pts): Has the entry addressed the need or problem that prompted its initiation? Could these results make a difference in the lives of the public or in the way planners perform their duties?
  • Equity (5 pts.): Does it pioneer new ideas and best practices to reduce disparities?


Excellence in Community Engagement

Community engagement is a critical piece to all planning and land-use projects. Commitment to inclusive and productive engagement will lead to ultimate project success. This award will honor those communities that instituted successful community engagement as part of an approval process. This award is open to local units of government (cities, townships, and counties), as well as neighborhood organizations and non-profits (or their consultants), for their use of community engagement tools utilized as part of a land-use or planning process. Special attention will be placed on methodologies to include underrepresented populations throughout the process, and the impact thereof.

Review Criteria for the Excellence in Community Engagement Award

  • Innovation (25 pts): Did the engagement use a unique way to solicit comments from the public? Were non-traditional methods used to promote and conduct the meeting? Were any non- traditional resources used to reach out to often underrepresented populations?
  • Participation Level (25 pts): Was there large participation by all affected stakeholders? Was there sufficient time for all points of view to be taking into account? Did all voices have an opportunity to participate throughout the engagement process? How were underrepresented populations engaged throughout the process?
  • Impact of Participation (25 pts): How was the participation of the community used? Did the public participation affect the final product? Was something brought forward as part of the public process that otherwise may not have?
  • Success (15 pts): Was the community engagement a success? Did it work as planned? Did the process give the decision makers the information needed to approve the project?
  • Legacy (10 pts): Is the community engagement process used something that will be used again in the future. Is there buy-in by the community and policy-makers that this process should be continued?


Partnerships in Planning

This award category recognizes planning efforts that involved a partnership between different organizations. Partnerships involve organizations collaborating to provide differing capabilities and resources to create the desired outcome. Partnerships involve each organization sharing the risk and reward of the collaborative process. Partnerships are important in planning because they facilitate an outcome that could not be accomplished by an individual organization. Successful partnerships result in an outcome that meets the objectives of each of the participating organizations.

Review Criteria for the Partnerships in Planning Award

  • Common Objective (30 pts): Did the partnership establish a common objective or shared vision?
  • Meeting Objectives (20 pts): Did the results of the planning efforts meet the objectives of each of the organizations?
  • Unique Outcome (20 pts): Did the project provide an outcome that would otherwise not be possible without the partnership?
  • Coordinating Leadership (15 pts): Did the partnership coordinate leadership between the organizations?
  • Leveraging Resources (15 pts): Did the partnership leverage the individual capabilities and resources of each organization?


Success Stories in Implementation

Plans only truly begin to shape communities and influence growth when the vision is successfully implemented. Recognizing that this final step in the planning process may take years, even decades. This award seeks to honor projects that are currently serving as on-the-ground proof of good planning. A representative photo should be included with the submission.

Review Criteria for the Success Stories in Implementation Award

  • Vision (35 pts): Was the primary vision of the plan achieved?
  • Guidance (20 pts): Was the plan used effectively to guide the process?
  • Funding (15 pts): Did the plan identify funding sources that were ultimately utilized? If not, how were the funding sources for the implementation of the plan determined/acquired?
  • Tools (15 pts): Were the implementation strategies and proposed action items identified within the plan effectively used?
  • Legacy (15 pts): Will the project serve as an example of sound planning and effective implementation? Does the plan equitably benefit the community as a whole?


Planning in Context

This award focuses on the success in tailoring a plan within its given context. While all plans should, and do, take their surroundings into account, this award recognizes plans that go above and beyond in the level of sensitivity of their surroundings, as well as the ability to embrace and take advantage of past, present, or predicted aspects. The project must be unique and demonstrate careful study.

Examples of planning in context may include plans that focus upon:

  • Historic preservation
  • Design or form-based guidelines
  • Land use and transportation
  • Environmental/natural resource preservation
  • Sustainability
  • Rural communities
  • Racial/cultural communities
  • Changing demographics

Review Criteria for the Planning in Context Award

  • Information Gathering (35 pts): Development of the plan involved significant information gathering and public input to ensure that the plan fit within the given context.
  • Contextual Issues (25 pts): The plan was successful in addressing and communicating contextual issues.
  • Community Support (20 pts): The plan is supported by the community because of its contextual meaning.
  • Implementation (20 pts): The plan has the ability to be implemented.


Outstanding Student Project*

This category recognizes the superior work that is produced by students in planning programs in Minnesota. A plan or project that has applicability to the planning profession may be submitted.

This category will be judged based on originality, transferability from the academic setting to the planning profession, quality, use of collaboration, and effectiveness. A project may be submitted under this category if the majority of the work was completed by a student or a group of students. Students enrolled in a Minnesota collegiate program or who maintain residency in Minnesota are eligible.

Review Criteria for the Outstanding Student Project Award

  • Originality or Innovation (25 pts): Does the entry present a visionary approach or innovative concept within the broad context of planning?
  • Transferability (25 pts): Does the entry provide an example for other jurisdictions or planning concepts that could be applied to a wide range of jurisdictions? Or would broader application of this effort’s components and methodology further the cause of good planning?
  • Effectiveness (20 pts): Has the entry addressed the need or problem that prompted its initiation? Could these results make a difference in the lives of the public or in the way planners perform their duties? Quality (15 pts): Does the entry show excellence in thought, analysis, writing, graphics, and application of ethical planning principles? Were available resources used in a well-conceived and appropriate format?
  • Collaboration (15 pts): Did the public participate in the effort or did the student(s) consult with the public or stakeholders outside the academic setting (advisory groups, etc.)?

*Students may submit projects in any other above category if they think the project can compete with other professional projects. If a project is submitted in one of the above categories, then it cannot be submitted for the Outstanding Student Project category.