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Curt Smith

Lecturer, Sociology
Office: Morison Hall 139 | 781.891._2027 |

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Dr. Curt Smith’s research focuses on issues of poverty, social inequality, and social justice with an emphasis on homelessness and social policy research. He has experience and continued interest involving undergraduates in research projects and developing public, participatory, and community work in our local areas. He utilizes a mix of qualitative methods to develop rich and detailed data on homeless service providers by recognizing them as street-level bureaucrats. He serves in professional roles in several organizations, including as a board member for a national conference called the Association for Applied and Clinical Sociology where he is chair of the Client Problem Competition.

Teaching Interests

His teaching philosophy is centered on inspiring students to realize the various frameworks that have constructed how they see the world and, also, how the social sciences can help them understand and develop their own perspectives of how they want the world to be. He prioritizes the development of their own scientific inquiry by encouraging them to entertain multiple positions on topics while covering various theoretical perspectives of social issues, as social scientists do. He values the “funds of knowledge” theory that acknowledges students’ valuable backgrounds that often contribute greatly to class discussion and go beyond simple call-and-response-based lecture. He actively moves around the room calling on students during class discussion to share their own ideas. He encourages student involvement, community engagement, and classroom discussion and debate. Using a combination of Socratic questioning and their input, he utilizes discussion-based engagement allowing students to share their own personal experiences to hone their collective thoughts and ideas to direct discussion of formal topics covered in class. Research shows that students remember more when they are emotionally responsive to topics covered, so he designs his courses so that learning is as immersive as possible relating to ideas beyond the classroom. His most recent publication, Improving Homeless Point-In-Time Counts: Uncovering the Marginally Housed, used student-researchers in a research methods course to study homelessness, which was facilitated in a project-based learning environment (available upon request). He was honored to be a finalist for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences Graduate Instructor of the Year award for the past two years in the Department of Sociology, Social Work, & Anthropology at Utah State University.

Research Interests

He has made contributions to several areas of scholarship related to homelessness by averaging one publication every year since 2012. He has published on subjects that include addressing methodological issues related to “point-in-time” homeless counts, health issues among Hispanic immigrants in low-income housing, public policy, social movements, and activism related to the homeless. His most recent publication entitled Fitting Stories: Outreach Worker Strategies for Housing Homeless Clients was recently published in the Journal of Contemporary Ethnography. His current research utilizes a mix of qualitative methods and includes research from his dissertation that focuses on issues of homelessness and social policy. Another of his publications is used in the new edition of Sage’s Frankfort-Nachmias and Leon-Guerrero’s methods textbook called Social Statistics for a Diverse Society (2018). <br>His interest in the topic of homelessness comes from when he worked with homeless populations as a social service worker for six years in Cincinnati, OH; Covington, KY; and Phoenix, AZ from 2002-2008. Such experiences inform his academic work with the homeless in El Paso, TX, from 2012 to 2014, Salt Lake City, UT 2014-2018, and Boston, MA starting in 2018. He has used his insights from the field to formulate hypotheses that have been tested through surveys, homeless censuses, and in-depth grounded ethnographic study. His recent dissertation work used Michael Lipsky’s notion of street-level bureaucracy to study social service workers who work with homeless populations. He uses a mix of qualitative methods but is also trained in demography.

Consulting/Practice Interests

He chairs the Client Problem Competition at AACS in which students from around the country compete each year to provide novel solutions to problems posed by agencies in the hosting city. More on this can be found at, More information for Dr. Curt Smith can be found at

Professional Links

Awards and Honors

2018, Graduate Instructor of the Year 2017-2018, Utah State University
2017, Graduate Instructor of the Year 2016-2017, Utah State University


Journal Article(s)
Smith, C., Castaneda, E. (2019). Improving Homeless Point-In-Time Counts: Uncovering the Marginally Housed. Social Currents. Forthcoming

Smith, C., Anderson, L. (2018). Fitting Stories: Outreach Worker Strategies for Housing Homeless Clients. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 47 (5), 535-550.

Lucero, J., Roark, J., Smith, C. (2016). Social Service Workers’ Knowledge of and Attitudes Toward Fair Housing Laws. Journal of Social Service Research .

Castañeda, E., Klassen, J., Smith, C. (2014). Disparities in Hispanic and Non-Hispanic Homeless Populations in the El Paso, TX region.

Siordia, C., Smith, C., Castañeda-Tinoco, E. (2014). A Geographically-Aware Multilevel Analysis on the Association Between Atmospheric Temperature and the 'Emergency and Transitional Shelter Population.

Mata, H., Flores, M., Castañeda, E., Medina-Jerez, W., Lachica, J., Smith, C., Olvera, H. (2013). Health, Hope, and Human Development: Building Capacity in Public Housing Communities on the US-Mexico Border.

Smith, C., Castañeda, E., Heyman, J. (2012). The Homeless and Occupy El Paso: Creating Community among the 99%. Social Movement Studies, 356-366.

Smith, C. (2021). Aggressive Advocacy: Creative Workarounds of Underfunded Social Service Workers. Routledge.

Book Chapters
Smith, C, Anderson, L. (2019). Unearthing Aggressive Advocacy: Challenges and Strategies in Social Service Ethnography. In Boeri and Shukla (Eds.), Ethnography Uncensored. University of California Press

Conference Presentations

Smith, C. (2018). "Translating Complexity Into Action." Presented at the Association for Applied and Clinical Sociology's Annual meeting of the Association for Applied and Clinical Sociology, Norfolk, VA.


Department Service
Mentor (Faculty) for Majors/Minors Fair, 2019 - Present
Mentor (Faculty) for Bentley University's UXGA x GiveCard Hackathon, 2019 - Present
Committee Chair for Committee on Assurance of Learning, 2019 - Present

University Service
Committee Member for Valente Center, 2018 - 2019
Attendee for Social In/Justice 2019 Research Colloquium, 2019 - 2019
Mentor (Faculty) for Service Learning Department, 2018 - 2018

Professional Service
Board of Directors of a Company for Association for Applied and Clinical Sociology, 2017 - Present