By David Miller

June 22, 2021

The Southern Regional Education Board has named second-year doctoral student Angela Smith to its State Doctoral Scholars Program.

Smith’s fellowship includes up to five years of tuition assistance, research funding, career counseling and mentorship. The program’s purpose is to provide minority students who earn a PhD and choose to become faculty at colleges or universities.

Smith, a Bessemer native who earned her MSW at the University of Alabama School of Social Work in May 2020, said the SREB fellowship is a highly competitive process and a “huge opportunity” that will continue a multi-layered network of support she’s received throughout her academic career. Smith, a first-generation student, is a former McNair Scholar and McNair Fellow.

“I’ve really been blessed,” Smith said. “I’ve met mentors who said I should get a bachelors, then some who said to get a master’s. But then I talked to [UA SSW faculty] Dr. (Sebrena) Jackson and Dr. (Brenda) Smith, and I realized I wanted to mentor and give back the way people have taught me.

“It’s cliche, but the story about ‘give a man a fish’ … I feel like, going into academia and teaching others the skills I’ve learned along the way, and mentoring them is what I want to do.”

Smith said the guidance and mentorship she’s received from faculty in the School of Social Work has been invaluable. She currently serves as a graduate research assistant for Dr. Smith, who previously chaired the doctoral program for the School, and with whom she co-authored “A national study of child maltreatment reporting at the county level: Interactions among race/ethnicity, rurality, and poverty,” which appeared in Children and Youth Services Review this year.

Smith said that both faculty and fellow doctoral students in her cohort have played key roles in helping her navigate the rigors of her first year in the program, particularly a pair of stats classes.

“Sometimes I felt like I wouldn’t make it, like I was in over my head in the program,” Smith said. “But everyone who talked with me, we worked it out, and were a great support system. I passed that class with a B.

“In both the MSW and PhD program, the professors look and support you with all your needs.”

Smith hasn’t yet finalized her dissertation proposal, but she plans to focus on systemic racism and policing as it relates to mental health among Black people. She has working interests in public health, mental health and social justice, but the increasing number of documented deaths of Black Americans following encounters with police over the last few years helped narrow her dissertation focus.

“And, as a black female, as I’m driving and doing nothing wrong, I’m sometimes fearful when police are behind me,” Smith said. “So, in doing this research, I hope to provide this data to police and help address this issue.”