Montana State University

MSU psychology professor Jessi Smith awarded fellowship in the American Psychological Association and Association for Psychological Science

January 28, 2016 -- MSU News Service

Montana State University psychology professor Jessi Smith has been granted fellow status in the American Psychological Association and Association for Psychological Science for her contributions to the science of psychology. MSU photo by Kelly Gorham.

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A Montana State University psychology professor known for her work in diversity, gender studies, motivation and performance, has been awarded fellowship into two prestigious organizations.

Jessi Smith, a professor in the Department of Psychology in the College of Letters and Science, was granted fellow status in both the American Psychological Association and the Association for Psychological Science for her accomplishments in the field of psychology.

Fellow status in the APA is granted by the APA Fellows Committee to members who have shown evidence of unusual and outstanding contributions or performance in the field of psychology. To be considered for the honor, the nominee’s work must have had a demonstrated national impact on the field of psychology. Smith is the first person to be elected an APA fellow while at MSU.

Fellow status in the APS is awarded to members who have made sustained outstanding contributions to the science of psychology in the areas of research, teaching, service and/or application. Nominees must have at least 10 years postdoctoral contribution and are selected by the APS Fellows Committee. Smith’s selection into the prestigious fellowship makes her the second person in the Department of Psychology to receive the honor.

In letters to the APS supporting her nomination, Smith was lauded for her large volume of peer-reviewed publications, the more than $5 million in external grant funding she has been awarded to support her projects, and her contributions to the application of psychological science to important social issues.

Nicol Rae, dean of the College of Letters and Science, said Smith’s accomplishments to the university and to the field of psychology are numerous.

“Jessi has made a signification contribution to MSU as a teacher, mentor and a scholar,” Rae said. “Along with being the first woman to advance through the faculty ranks to receive tenure and later be promoted to full professor in the department, she has an outstanding record of obtaining external funding to support her research, which has achieved national and international recognition. We are happy to see her efforts recognized through these prestigious fellowships.”

Keith Hutchison, chair of the Department of Psychology, said Smith’s elections into the APA and the APS were well-deserved honors.

“It is not surprising to me that Jessi would be elected into these prestigious societies, given her strong publication record, grant success and vast national and international impact,” he said. “Jessi’s work is very heavily funded, especially for a scientist working in the social sciences. She has also published 48 peer-reviewed journal articles and her work has been featured within sources such as the Wall Street Journal, Parenting Magazine, Huffington Post, and National Public Radio.”

Smith is the principal investigator for the ADVANCE Project TRACS program, a $3.4 million grant funded by the National Science Foundation to broaden the participation of women faculty in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and underrepresented areas of social and behavioral science.

She also sits on the Champions Board of the National Girls Collaborative Project, an effort that brings together organizations throughout the U.S. that are committed to informing and encouraging girls to pursue careers in STEM.

And, earlier this year, a hiring standard developed by Smith to increase gender diversity in STEM fields garnered national attention on Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, a blog with more than 1.2 million Facebook followers.

Smith says it was her sixth-grade dream of becoming a computer scientist that led her to dedicate her career to understanding how biases and stereotypes harm women and other minorities.

“I had big plans to revolutionize Xerox,” she said. “Once in high school, I finally had a chance to take an actual AP Computer Science course. From the moment I walked into that class, I felt immediately out of place. There were only two women, and many of the people were from wealthy and privileged families. I simply did not fit in with the people in that class. I suffered through one semester but opted not to take the second and did not take the AP exam.”

That experience led Smith to explore it further in her graduate school dissertation on women skilled at, but not motivated for, computer science.

“All these years later, I am still working to understand both how it feels to be a woman (or other minority) learning or working in a given context and how other people view those women and minorities,” Smith said. “I have dedicated my career to understanding how not to change the person, but to change the situation to be more inclusive and welcoming for anyone and everyone."

Jessi Smith, jsismith@montana.edu, (406) 994-5228

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