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Dr. Paula Smith Honored by the Society for Prevention Research

Advancing SPR's Mission Since 1998

The Society for Prevention Research (SPR) is proud to announce that Dr. Paula Smith, Associate Professor of Educational Leadership & Policy in the College of Education at The University of Utah, has been awarded the prestigious Service to SPR Award at the 2023 SPR Annual Conference. This esteemed recognition is presented to individuals who have demonstrated exceptional dedication and made significant contributions to the advancement of SPR's mission.

With a membership spanning 25 years, Smith has been an exemplary member of SPR since 1998. “I am honored that SPR chose to recognize my service with this award. I am deeply appreciative of the support that I have received for doing what felt right by expanding the table of leadership in the field of prevention science to include those researchers early in their careers and diverse scholars whose voices have led to innovation and exceptional progress in prevention research,” said Smith. Indeed, her unwavering commitment to the organization is evident through her extensive involvement in numerous leadership positions. She is a co-founder of the Early Career Preventionist Network (ECPN) and served as its chair from 2001 to 2003 while also serving on the Board of Directors. Moreover, she has been an active and influential member of the Diversity Network Committee (DNC) since its inception as the Diversity Network Reception in 2006. Over the years, she has played an integral role in shaping the committee, which transitioned into the Diversity Network Task Force from 2006 to 2010 and ultimately became a standing committee in 2011. Currently, Smith serves on the Board of Directors (2020-2023) and holds the position of Chair of the Advocacy Committee. In this role, Smith also serves as a liaison to and Board Member of the National Prevention Science Coalition, a non-partisan policy-focused advocacy organization.

Smith's exceptional service and commitment to SPR have significantly contributed to the organization's mission of advancing scientific investigation into the etiology and prevention of social, physical, and mental health and academic problems. This award recognizes Smith’s advocacy for the inclusion of researchers early in their careers in prevention science as well as increasing the diversity of the scholars interested in prevention research careers. As a prevention researcher, Smith uses her background as a developmental psychologist to incorporate an understanding of youth development into school-based preventive interventions. Smith’s research focuses on understanding the risk and protective factors to prevent youth suicide and substance misuse in K-12 schools. One of the hallmarks of her research is the collaborative framework she employs, working closely with teachers and school leaders to foster positive school climates. By providing youth with social and emotional support and setting expectations for academic excellence, her work promotes positive youth development while simultaneously addressing risk factors. Dr. Smith's approach emphasizes a systemic, comprehensive, and sustainable strategy to empower young people and support them in their development.

More recently, she has sought to extend these preventive interventions to college campuses to address the current mental health challenges of young adult populations. “So much of my work has been done in collaboration with teachers, school leaders, administrators, and mental health professionals. I work closely with them to provide them with the tools to help the young people they support. Using a collaborative framework allows prevention to merge within their existing systems of support for youth and young adults,” said Smith.

"Dr. Paula Smith's contributions to the field of preventive intervention and her dedicated service to the Society for Prevention Research are truly remarkable," said Dean Frankie Santos Laanan. "Her research and leadership have had a profound impact on our understanding of youth risk factors and how to effectively prevent their engagement with risky behaviors. We are delighted to see her honored with the Service to SPR Award in recognition of her outstanding achievements."

Smith’s work exemplifies the spirit and mission of SPR, advancing scientific knowledge and promoting health, well-being, and positive youth development.

About the Society for Prevention Research (SPR)

The Society for Prevention Research is an esteemed organization dedicated to advancing scientific investigation into the etiology and prevention of social, physical, and mental health and academic problems. With a strong focus on translating research findings into practical applications, SPR aims to promote health and well-being among individuals and communities. To learn more, visit

Last Updated: 10/25/23