Richard Smith

Richard Smith

Professor and Associate Dean for Research

 Expert in community and economic development, sustainability, urban policy, and social policy

5447 Woodward Avenue, Rm 256

 By appointment

(313) 577-2262

Richard Smith


Richard Smith, PhD is a native of Michigan. In Detroit he is currently working with community-based organizations on Detroit's East Side to plan ways to mitigate basement flooding. He also serves on the Hope Village Steering Committee and the Urban Learning and Leadership Collaborative. Smith's research has been published in Journal of Urban Affairs, Journal of Policy Practice, International Journal of Social Welfare, Risk, Hazards & Crisis in Public Policy, Social Work, Urban Studies and others. His international work includes serving as a core advisor for Ecocity Builders, Inc. as well as participating in an exchange with the Zurich University of Applied Sciences.

While studying at the University of California, Berkeley, he received a US Dept. of Housing and Urban Development Doctoral Dissertation Grant. Smith also held research appointments at the California Social Work Education Center and the University of California Labor Center. Before pursuing his doctorate, he served as a Presidential Management Intern at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in Washington, D.C., where he obtained a professional certificate in economic development finance from the National Development Council.

While studying for his master of social work at the University of Michigan, Smith obtained a Ford Foundation community development internship through the National Congress for Community Economic Development in Cleveland, Ohio. Smith also worked in Mongolia, where he served in the U.S. Peace Corps training English teachers; managed the Spring English Language Center; and consulted for UNICEF and a World Bank/UNDP project.

Click here to view Curriculum Vitae


  • Lead teacher for the Innovation in Community, Leadership and Policy concentration in the MSW program.
  • Chair, Social Work Budget Advisory Committee
  • Editor, Journal of Community Practice

Degrees and Certifications

  • Ph.D., Social Welfare, University of California, Berkeley
  • M.S.W., University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • M.F.A., Creative Writing, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo
  • B.A., English Language and Literature, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Awards and Honors

  • Wayne State University Postdoctoral Mentor of the Year
  • Society for Social Work and Research Excellence in Research Award Honorable Mention
  • Council on Social Work Education/SAGE Award for Teaching Innovation (As member of the Social Entrepreneurship Committee)
  • Wayne State University School of Social Work Teacher of the Year
  • Urban Affairs Association Best Conference Paper
  • Society for Social Work and Research Fellow
  • Best Article in Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare
  • Rose Dobrof Award for outstanding article in the Journal for Gerontological Social Work
  • Association of Community Organization and Social Administration (ACOSA) Emerging Scholar Award


Teaching Interests

  • Data analysis and visualization
  • Social welfare policy
  • Social work practice in communities and organizations
  • International social work

Areas of Expertise


  • Urban neighborhoods in regions
  • Local governments nested in state governments
  • Organizations and firms


  • Causal Inference, Complex Sample Analysis, Quasi-experimental Design, Genetic Matching (Matching, genoud), Generalized Linear Models, Hierarchical Linear Modeling (R, Stata, SPSS), Structural Equation Models (LISREL, R) & Bayesian Model Averaging (WinBUGS, R), Bayesian network modeling
  • Demographic Methods, Survival Analysis, Sequence Analysis (R, Stata, SPSS)
  • Geographic Information Science (ArcGIS, QGIS, R-Spatial, OpenGeoDA), Spatial Statistics, & Spatial Inequality
  • Analysis of texts from participant observation, semi-structured interviews, administrative documents and other historical texts (Atlas.ti, N-Vivo, TAMS Analyzer)


  • Sustainable community development, ecocities, & ecosocial work
  • Technology in communities and organizations
  • Urban neighborhood change, segregation, and migration
  • Poverty, inequality and comparative social policy


  • Sustainability
  • Green
  • Ecocities
  • Community development
  • Economic development
  • Neighborhood change (e.g., gentrification, spatial assimilation, segregation)
  • Urban policy
  • Immigrant friendly communities
  • Poverty and inequality
  • Social policy
  • Technology in communities and organizations


  • Using Technology for Social Good
  • Responding to a Changing Environment


Recent Publications

Google Scholar Profile

Research Interests

Smith's research interests include sustainable community development, spatial inequality, and migration. He is currently involved with the following projects:

I. Recovering from Expected Flooding Under Residential Buildings (REFURB). REFURB will use technology to improve recovery from and preparation for persistent and increasing severe basement flooding that impacts homes in Eastside Detroit.

II. The Dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline (DSTOPP) (Camille Willson, PI, Jashan Larsosa, co-PI). This initiative in Detroit is a research-practice partnership funded by the Spencer Foundation. It is allied with the Urban Learning and Leadership Collaborative of Detroit’s Hope Village. DSTOPP is dedicated to building and supporting a collaborative network of community members, high-school-aged youth, and faculty members from various universities who advance justice through community-driven, action research.

III. Water and Health Infrastructure, Resilience and Learning (Shawn McEllmurray and Matthew Seeger, Principal Investigators)

The Goals of WHIRL are to 1. Describe how drinking water, public health and communities depend on each other and the kinds of challenges different groups see; 2. Describe what we have learned from past water-related problems and how we can make drinking water and public health stronger for our future; and 3. Develop a way to warn people about water safety issues and to quickly respond to these issues.

IV. Aging in Place and Age Friendly Communities

Smith has been collaborating with Amanda Lehning and Nicole Mattocks of the University of Maryland, Baltimore and Kyeongmo Kim of Virginia Commonwealth University to analyze the health outcomes of older adults in different kinds of neighborhood contexts. 

V. Immigrant Friendly Communities

Smith worked with Wayne State University students to compile a database of local governments that are actively welcoming or literally attempting to recruit immigrants to purchase homes, start businesses or contribute to needed skills in the workplace. 

Personal Interests

Smith is a patron of the visual and performing arts. In his free time he is learning guitar, piano, song writing, and music production. He loves vegan cooking and supporting local food entrepreneurs. He is an avid bike commuter. 

Homepage description

LinkedIn Profile

Homepage URL



Grand Challenges Project

Responding to a Changing Environment

CIVIC Community challenge accepted: Wayne State University investigators with expertise in Social Work, Anthropology, Civil & Environmental Engineering, Communication, and Environmental Science will collaborate with the Eastside Community Network, Jefferson East, Inc., and the United Way for Southeastern Michigan to ensure that residents who have faced racial and economic discrimination have the information and resources needed to prepare for and respond to climate change induced flooding. 

Social Work Associate Dean for Research and Professor, Richard Smith, is the principal investigator for this project called “Recovering from Expected Flooding Under Residential Buildings” (REFURB). REFURB will use technology to improve recovery from and preparation for persistent and increasing severe basement flooding that impacts homes in Eastside Detroit.

“Our focus will be in neighborhoods with older homes connected to again sewer systems that are undersized and poorly maintained due to racially-driven development policy and investment decisions,” Smith said.

To that end, Wayne State (WSU) was recently awarded a six-month, $50,000 planning grant from The National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Energy, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as part of a Civic Innovation Challenge. The Civic Innovation Challenge is a competition that funds ready-to-implement, researched-based pilot projects that have the potential for scalable, sustainable, and transferable impact on community-driven projects. WSU is among just 56 U.S. teams that were awarded grants. Learn More. 

Courses taught by Richard Smith

Fall Term 2024 (future)

Winter Term 2024

Fall Term 2023

Winter Term 2023

Fall Term 2022

Winter Term 2022

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