Naila A. Smith earned a Ph.D. in Applied Developmental Psychology from Fordham University, an MA in Developmental Psychology from Columbia University, and a BSc (First Class Honors) in Psychology from the University of the West Indies, Jamaica. She is currently on leave from Dickinson College, where she is an Assistant Professor of Psychology.
Dr. Smith’s research examines the role of social and cultural risks (e.g., discrimination, microaggressions), developmental resources (e.g., parent and peer relationships), and cultural assets (e.g., ethnic identity) in the academic, social, and emotional development of adolescents and emerging adults (ages 18-25). She explores these processes primarily in immigrant and ethnic-racial minority (e.g., African American) populations across multiple contexts, such as online and in the classroom. In her research, she employs quantitative and qualitative methods to study these processes. This includes advanced longitudinal methods to understand long-term changes in academic and socioemotional experiences and the consequences of risks and assets on development.
She also uses person-centered methods such as latent profile analyses to understand how a combination of factors, working together simultaneously, might explain youth development more richly than considering each factor separately. Finally, she is trained in qualitative methodology and uses this in her work to gain an in-depth, nuanced understanding of the experiences of Black/African American youth in their own voice.
Dr. Smith has published her work in leading journals such as Child Development, Educational Researcher, and the International Journal of Psychology and presents regularly at major conferences held by the Society of Research in Child Development and the Society for Research on Adolescence. During the fellowship period, Dr. Smith will focus on projects centering on the educational and socio-cultural experiences of African Americans, and Black immigrants. Her goal is to better understand their unique challenges (e.g., anti-Black racism, xenophobia) and sociocultural strengths (e.g., ethnic-racial socialization) to inform solutions to social problems such as education and health disparities.
She recently received an American Postdoctoral Fellowship from the American Association of University Women (AAUW) for the 2021-2022 academic year, and is also now a Research Associate at Penn State’s Population Research Institute.