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Rachel A Smith

Rachel A Smith

Associate Professor in Communication Arts and Sciences & Human Development and Family Studies

2009 Faculty Seminar Fellow

200 Sparks Building
University Park , Pennsylvania 16802
Office Phone: (814) 865-1736


  1. Ph.D. Communication, Michigan State University, 2003.
  2. M.S. Communication, University of Arizona, 1999.
  3. B.A. CLA, Psychology; B.S. COC, TV/Film, Boston University, 1994.


Rachel Smith is assistant professor of communication arts and sciences, a co-hire of the Huck Institute of Life Sciences, a faculty affiliate of the Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics, and a visiting scholar at the Methodology Center at Penn State. She investigates social influences in health communication, particularly how and why messages create, shape, and maintain health beliefs, attitudes, and behavior, what about these messages make them enticing to share with others in one’s social network, and how such social influences impact people’s susceptibility to disease. In situations in the U.S. and abroad, Rachel studies how message features, social network characteristics, and compliance dynamics help or hinder health interventions, with the hope of optimizing positive outcomes and avoiding unintended consequences, such as stigmatization. Her recent work includes collaborative research on malaria prevention and food shortages in Mozambique, policy resistance with infant vaccinations at international borders (Texas-Mexico border), and communication efforts designed to limit HIV transmission and increase testing and treatment in Africa and Pennsylvania. Her research has been funded by NIH, USAID, and different Foundations, and has been published in outlets such as Social Science & Medicine, AIDS Care, and Human Communication Research.