The American Educational Research Association (AERA) announced Friday, April 7, that professor William A. Smith is a recipient of a 2023 award for excellence in education research.
Smith received the 2023 Scholars of Color Distinguished Career Contribution Award. The award is presented to a senior-level scholar, usually 20 years or more after receipt of a doctorate, who has made significant contributions to the understanding of issues that disproportionately affect minority populations and minority scholars who have made significant contributions to education research and development.
AERA, founded in 1916, is the largest national interdisciplinary research association devoted to the scientific study of education and learning. Smith will officially receive the award during AERA’s annual meeting in Chicago on April 15, 2023.
“I am deeply humbled and honored to receive the Scholars of Color Distinguished Career Contribution Award from AERA,” Smith said. “This recognition is a testament to the importance of advocating for justice, equity, diversity and inclusion in education and mental health, and I am grateful for the opportunity to have made a meaningful impact in these areas. I hope to continue to use my platform to create positive change and inspire the next generation of scholars and advocates.”
Smith currently serves as the chief executive administrator at the Huntsman Mental Health Institute in the School of Medicine and Department of Psychiatry, where he is leading efforts around justice, equity, diversity and inclusion and in national projects. He also is a professor jointly appointed in the Department of Education, Culture & Society in the U’s College of Education and the Division of Ethnic Studies in the School for Cultural and Social Transformation.
Smith’s influence as a senior scholar goes beyond the field of education and ethnic studies. Smith’s research focuses on racial battle fatigue, a framework he created to describe the cumulative emotional, psychological, physiological and behavioral effects of racial micro- and macro-level aggressions experienced by people of color. Racial battle fatigue is increasingly used by other academic fields, such as a recent study examining racism in dental schools, and is even informing and providing a framework for conversations outside of academia about racism’s role in mental health, teacher attrition and even the defunding of diversity in academia.
“This award is well deserved,” said Laurence Parker, professor and chair of Educational Leadership & Policy, who nominated Smith for the award. “Smith is a true scholar-practitioner and citizen regarding his community service work, both locally and nationally in public engagement and linking this work to his research and teaching.”
In a joint statement, Kathryn Bond Stockton, dean of the School for Cultural & Social Transformation, and Edmond Fong, chair of Ethnic Studies, said: “Those of us in Ethnic Studies and the School for Cultural and Social Transformation have long cherished William’s wisdom regarding the lived experience of racism. It is a testament to his brilliance that his concept of racial battle fatigue, so simple in phrase, can resonate so deeply for so many across our society.”
This is Smith’s second significant award in less than a year. In 2022, Smith was awarded the Critical Race Studies in Education Association (CRESA) Derrick Bell Legacy Award for his career accomplishments and personal courage and professional commitment to supporting and advocating for underrepresented and underserved students.
“A renowned scholar, William’s research on micro-aggressions experienced by Black faculty and students has made significant theoretical, policy and practice contributions,” said Frankie Santos Laanan, interim dean of the U’s College of Education. “His cumulative body of research has made direct impact on fostering systemic and institutional change. This acknowledgment of his contributions to academia, research and the community by the world’s premier educational research organization will further the public dialogue his work has started and elevate the University of Utah and College of Education missions.”