Skip to main content

HMHI’s William A. Smith among 2023 Award Winners in Education Research

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH (April 6, 2023) – William Smith, Ph.D., Chief Executive Administrator for Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) at Huntsman Mental Health Institute (HMHI) at the University of Utah, is being honored with the 2023 Scholars of Color Distinguished Career Contribution Award by the American Educational Research Association (AERA).

“Dr. Smith's research raises awareness and enhances understanding of the traumatic impact of racism and discrimination on mental health,” says Mark H. Rapaport, M.D., CEO at HMHI. “At HMHI, we deeply appreciate his dedication and congratulate him on receiving this esteemed award from AERA. Dr. Smith’s research is pivotal to our mission to transform mental health care, eliminate stigma, and provide excellent, culturally sensitive, trauma-informed care to all our patients.”

AERA presents this annual award to a senior-level scholar, usually 20 years or more after receipt of the doctoral degree. The award is intended to recognize scholars who have made significant contributions to the understanding of issues that disproportionately affect minority populations and minority scholars who have made a significant contribution to education research and development.

“We are honored to present this year’s awards to an excellent and deserving group of scholars,” AERA Executive Director Felice J. Levine said in a press release announcing the 2023 winners. “Their contributions to education research, across all career stages and fields, have made and continue to make a difference in the lives of students and educators.”

AERA will honor the recipients at an awards ceremony at the 2023 Annual Meeting on Saturday, April 15, from 4:40 p.m. to 6:10 p.m. CT, at the Hyatt Regency Chicago.

Smith, recognized nationally for his research on racial battle fatigue, said he was honored by the recognition.

“Twenty years ago in April, at the AERA meeting in Chicago, I presented my first paper on racial battle fatigue. This year, we meet again in my hometown to be honored with this incredibly meaningful award.”

About William A. Smith, Ph.D.

As chief executive administrator for JEDI at HMHI, Smith works to implement necessary programmatic changes and policies related to JEDI into the foundational work of HMHI. Smith integrates JEDI principles and practices into many of HMHI’s strategic priorities, including the programming and building of the new Translational Research Building and Kem and Carolyn Gardner Mental Health Crisis Care Center facilities, along with HMHI’s national anti-stigma campaign. Smith leads the JEDI committee in the Department of Psychiatry and serves as lead for JEDI on all HMHI initiatives.

Smith, a professor in the Department of Education, Culture, and Society in the College of Education, is one of University of Utah’s most influential scholars. He has written extensively about micro-aggressions experienced by Black faculty and students and coined the term “racial battle fatigue” in 2003. Smith developed the racial battle fatigue framework to describe the psychophysiological symptoms—from frustration and anger to anxiety and depression—experienced by people of color. The term is now widely used throughout academia and in the media to analyze, describe, and deepen understanding of the physical and mental health impact of racism.

Smith’s work has appeared in many prestigious journals, such as the “International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education,” “Harvard Educational Review,” “Educational Administration Quarterly,” “American Educational Research Journal,” and “Race Ethnicity and Education,” among others. Smith is highly sought after for presentations and interviews both nationally and globally. He has provided more than 100 keynote presentations and discussions over the past two years to government leaders, Fortune 500 companies, and college campuses. In 2021, he was awarded one of University of Utah’s highest honors, the Distinguished Professor Award for Scholarly Research, and he was awarded the Black faculty and staff’s highest award, the James McCune Smith Award of Veneration.

Smith received his undergraduate and master’s degrees at Eastern Illinois University in psychology and his Ph.D. in educational policy and sociology/social psychology. His appointment as chief executive administrator for Justice, Equity, and Diversity began July 1, 2022.

About Huntsman Mental Health Institute

Huntsman Mental Health Institute (HMHI) was established in 2021 following the Huntsman Foundation’s historic gift of $150 million to the University of Utah. HMHI is a university-wide Institute with a reputation throughout the Mountain West as a leader in advanced psychiatric treatment and care, serving a diverse population from young children to geriatric patients. Researchers at HMHI develop and apply the most advanced methods in genetics, imaging, epidemiology, and big data analysis. HMHI is also the regional training center for psychiatry and other mental health disciplines. HMHI’s main 170-bed full-service hospital is adjacent to the University of Utah campus, and HMHI’s 1,644 faculty, staff, and students provide clinical, research, and training programs in more than 20 locations across Utah and Idaho.

For more information, visit and join the conversation on TikTokInstagramTwitterLinkedInYouTube, and Facebook.