Professor of Psychology
Contact & Office Hours
Bass Hall 406
M.P.H., Harvard University
A.M., Ph.D., University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
A.B., University of California, Berkeley
Benita Jackson is interested in how environments—social, cultural, physical—are internalized and shape health. Her major research focus is on health behaviors and sub-clinical disease markers.
As an undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley, she majored in cognitive science and minored in women's studies. She was the inaugural graduate of the joint Ph.D. program in psychology (personality) and women's studies at the University of Michigan, the first program of its kind. Her postdoctoral training included completing a master's of public health in quantitative methods with an emphasis on social epidemiology, and training in medical research, both at Harvard University. She is an elected Fellow of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI).
Jackson directs the Society, Psychology, and Health Laboratory, where her team conducts research on psychological and physical correlates and consequences of social status. She has strong research, teaching and applied interests in how these processes are linked to health disparities and prevention. She and her collaborators employ a range of research methods, including basic experiments and intervention studies with college samples, observational studies of community samples and meta-analyses.
She is committed to preparing undergraduates and post-baccalaureates with a wide array of backgrounds for rigorous graduate study in fields including psychology, public health and medicine. To that end, Jackson serves on the steering committee of and is a campus adviser for the Five College Certificate Program in Culture, Health and Science. She also supports young adults in developing psychological resources, such as resilience and leadership capacity, through one-time lectures and semester-long programming in her role as faculty adviser to the Smith College Narratives Project.
Applying Psychological Research to Promote Sustainability and Behavior Change on Campus
During the fall 2020 semester, students in Professor Benita Jackson’s PSY 240 Colloquium: Health Promotion class drafted policy memos addressed to President McCartney that proposed sustainable initiatives to address environmental issues on campus.
Viewing Failure as Part of Learning
Faculty leaders say inclusive teaching is important at Smith, where the student population is made up of high achievers from a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences.