William A. Smith headshot
  • Chief Executive Administrator , Huntsman Mental Health Institute
  • Professor, Ethnic Studies
  • Professor, Education, Culture & Society
  • Adjunct Professor, Psychiatry

Research Summary

Dr. Smith’s research focuses on Racial Battle Fatigue, a framework he coined, as the cumulative emotional, psychological, physiological, and behavioral effects of racial micro-level aggressions and macro-level aggressions (microaggressions and macroaggressions) have on racialized Targets of Racism. He summarizes this definition by saying it is a systemic race-related repetitive stress injury.


Dr. William A. Smith is the Chief Executive Administrator in the Huntsman Mental Health Institute (HMHI) in the School of Medicine and the Department of Psychiatry. In this position, one of Dr. Smith’s responsibilities is to lead HMHI in its efforts around Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at the institutional level and in national projects.   

He is also a full professor and former department chair of Education, Culture & Society at the University of Utah. Additionally, he holds a joint appointment in the Ethnic Studies Program (African American Studies division) as a full professor. Dr. Smith has served as the Associate Dean for Diversity, Access, & Equity in the College of Education (2007-2014) and a Special Assistant to the President as the NCAA Faculty Athletics Representative (2007-2013) at the University of Utah. 

Dr. Smith is the co-editor (with Philip Altbach & Kofi Lomotey) of the book, The Racial Crisis in American Higher Education: The Continuing Challenges for the 21st Century (2002).  The 3rd revised edition of The Racial Crisis in American Higher Education was published in 2023 with all-new chapters. Dr. Smith’s work has appeared in such prestigious journals as The International Journal of Qualitative Studies in EducationJournal of Negro EducationHarvard Educational ReviewEducational Administration QuarterlyAmerican Educational Research JournalRace Ethnicity and Education, Journal of Minority Achievement, Creativity, and Leadership, Spectrum: The Journal of Black Males, and American Behavioral Scientist, to name a few. In addition, Dr. Smith is an internationally known scholar who is often sought out for keynote presentations and interviews. In the past two years alone, he has provided almost 100 keynote lectures, presentations, and interviews from South Africa to Australia and Fortune 500 companies in the US. Among his most influential presentations have been to the Utah Supreme Court Justices, the Chicago Center for Psychoanalysis & Psychotherapy, and some of the US’s leading Colleges of Medicine (e.g., Cornell Weil Medical, University of Utah Medical, and the University of California-Riverside Medical). Additionally, he is one of the University of Utah’s most highly cited scholars (top 10 percent according to Google Scholar).   

In 2018, Dr. Smith received the College of Education’s Faculty Service Award for Outstanding Research & Scholarship. In 2020, Dr. he was awarded the Spencer Foundation’s Mentor Award and the University of Utah’s Distinguished Graduate & Postdoctoral Scholar Mentor Award. In 2021, Dr. Smith was again awarded one of the University of Utah’s highest honors with the Distinguished Professor Award for Scholarly Research and the Black Faculty & Staff’s highest award, the James McCune Smith Award of Veneration. In October 2022 he was a recipient of the Derrick Bell Legacy Award from the Critical Race Studies Education Association (CRSEA). The 12th District of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. awarded him with its Omega Man of the Year in 2011, the Citizen of the Year and the Superior Service Awards in 2018, and the Founders Lifetime Achievement Award in 2021. Also, in 2021, Living Color Utah honored Dr. Smith with its award in Education for people who have made it their mission to impact the areas of diversity. Dr. Smith's outstanding contributions as an interdisciplinary scholar earned him the esteemed Jon M. Huntsman Presidential Chair in 2023. This highly coveted award recognizes Dr. Smith's exceptional talent and dedication to eliminating race-related stress in our society. The Distinguished Professor Advisory Committee recommended that Dr. Smith become a Distinguished Professor of Education, Culture, & Society, and Ethnic Studies, effective July 1, 2024.

Dr. Smith’s research focuses on his theoretical and scholarly contributions of Racial Battle Fatigue (a concept he coined in 2003): the cumulative emotional, psychological, physiological, and behavioral effects of racial micro-level aggressions and macro-level aggressions (microaggressions and macroaggressions) have on racialized Targets of White Supremacy. He summarizes this definition by saying that it is a systemic race-related repetitive stress injury.

Dr. Smith received his undergraduate and master’s degrees from Eastern Illinois University (BA in psychology and MS in counseling psychology). His Ph.D. is from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (educational policy studies, sociology/social psychology of higher education).