For Immediate Release
William Smith, Ph.D., recognized nationally for his research on racial battle fatigue, has been appointed Chief Executive Administrator for Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) at Huntsman Mental Health Institute (HMHI) at the University of Utah.
"Dr. Smith has been instrumental in deepening our country’s understanding of the mental health toll of racism and will be an incredible asset to the work we do at HMHI," says Mark H. Rapaport, M.D., CEO at HMHI. "We conducted a nationwide search for this position and determined that we could not find anyone more qualified than Dr. Smith. We are fortunate to have him in this leadership role as we develop an institutional JEDI strategy."
As Chief Executive Administrator for JEDI at HMHI, Smith will work to implement necessary programmatic changes and policies related to JEDI into the foundational work of HMHI. Smith will take an active role in integrating 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 will lead the JEDI committee in the Department of Psychiatry and serve as lead for JEDI on all HMHI initiatives.
"I am looking forward to joining HMHI’s incredible faculty and staff’s effort to stop stigma, bias, and discrimination across the university, the state of Utah, and beyond," Smith says. "This appointment is a step toward consolidating the dedicated efforts of individuals to improve the mental and physical health of all people, and minoritized groups in particular. Mental health scholars and professionals have become aware of the tremendous weight that causes racial battle fatigue. I hope to bring more awareness to the systemic and institutional matters that cause these biopsychosocial strains."
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.
"The entire College of Education community is excited about this new role for Dr. Smith and what it means for mental health services for Utah and the surrounding region," says Nancy Butler Songer, Ph.D., Dean of the College of Education. "Smith’s expertise and knowledge will be vital in developing and delivering equitable health services and addressing the mental and physical stressors caused by racial battle fatigue. Dr. Smith’s appointment demonstrates HMHI’s commitment to improving mental health equity and access."
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.
Smith’s position is newly created and a unique collaboration between HMHI and the College of Education. As a university-wide institute, HMHI will develop more positions that create synergy across the University’s broad spectrum of colleges, academic departments, and programs and their various efforts to transform mental health research, treatment, and training.