WINGS | Tasia Smith - Obesity Epidemic

A campus gathering Jan. 18 will celebrate the life of Tasia Smith

Students, faculty members and staff of the University of Oregon’s College of Education, along with others from the academic community, will gather this week to celebrate the life of Tasia Smith, Evergreen Assistant Professor of counseling psychology and human services.

A memorial service will be held from noon to 2 p.m. Friday, Jan. 18, in the Redwood Room in the Erb Memorial Union. Smith died unexpectedly Dec. 5, 2018, in Eugene from natural causes. She was 32.

“This is a terrible tragedy, to lose someone like Tasia who was starting what surely was a very promising academic career,” said Provost and Senior Vice President Jayanth Banavar. “She was a wonderful person, a skilled researcher and cared deeply about helping others. This is a very big loss for her students, for the College of Education and for the entire UO community.”

Smith was born March 24, 1986, in Laurinburg, North Carolina. She graduated from Scotland High School with honors in 2004. She double majored and received her bachelor of science degrees in psychology and sociology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2008. In 2010, she received her Master of Science degree in human development and family studies from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

She pursued her doctorate in counseling psychology from the University of Florida, earning it in 2016. Her research focused on the prevention and reduction of obesity and obesity-related health disparities among underserved populations.

Smith examined the social factors involved in health and mental health conditions and their role in physical health outcomes. She also designed, implemented and evaluated community-based health promotion programs.

In a research project conducted with churches in northern Florida, Smith found that regular use of health care services was associated with healthier eating and higher perceived health status among 180 African-American women battling issues related to hypertension and weight. The results of that study were published in the journal Women & Health.

In 2016, she came to the UO as one of four Evergreen Assistant Professors in the College of Education’s donor-funded Health Promotion and Obesity Prevention Cluster Hire Initiative, which operates within the university’s Prevention Science Institute. The initiative was started to help address the nation's obesity epidemic, especially prevalent among young people, through collaborative efforts of researchers from different disciplines.

Smith taught classes on counseling diverse populations and family and human services. She also supervised students seeing children and families as part of the child-family practicum for counseling psychology and school psychology students.

Randy Kamphaus, dean of the College of Education, said Smith made a huge impact at the UO.

“Although we only had her on the faculty for three years, Dr. Smith had an outsized impact on her academic department, her research colleagues and on our college and university,” he said. “Although Tasia left a void that we cannot fill, her presence with us will continue to inspire the work of our faculty, staff and students well into the future.”

Smith is survived by her mother, the Rev. Jessie McLendon of Laurinburg, North Carolina; father, Nathaniel Smith III of Atlanta; five brothers; and two sisters.