Kris Smith, Ph.D.

Dr. Kristin Smith (Kris) is passionate about working on the ground with communities and conducting research to inform policy. From her doctoral research to her nonprofit experience, Kris’ work addresses the root causes of challenges faced by rural communities. Kris is known at Headwaters Economics for her skills in partnership building, her drive to understand issues deeply, and her enthusiasm for sharing knowledge.

As part of Headwaters Economics’ FloodWise Community Assistance team, Kris works with local government staff and elected officials, state and federal agency personnel, engineers, and other technical experts to help communities reduce flood risk. Community partners look to Kris for help navigating technical hurdles, connecting people, and promoting solutions that balance community goals.

Kris has also made significant research contributions on the topic of energy development. Her work on the social impacts of energy development has been quoted in publications in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and Texas and published in the Journal of Rural and Community Development, Energy Research & Social Science, and other peer-reviewed journals.

Kris serves as a technical contributor to the Northern Great Plains Chapter of the National Climate Assessment and is a review panelist for the USDA AFRI Rural and Economic Development program and the NOAA Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments program. She regularly presents her work on topics related to rural opportunities and challenges, equity and funding, and the fiscal dimensions of climate adaptation and the energy transition.

Kris grew up in a small town in southeastern Missouri and is committed to conducting and translating research into practical strategies to help rural communities thrive. Her academic degrees in community development, applied economics, and geography have provided a foundation for her work on many aspects of rural development. From strengthening agriculture and food systems to leveraging revenue from energy development to creating resilience in the face of climate-driven hazards, the common thread is Kris’ steadfast commitment to helping communities build on their strengths for long-term success.

Latest posts

Recent contributions

A new map helps identify communities where investments in staffing and expertise are needed to support infrastructure and climate resilience projects.

A rural capacity map

Recent news

How the Safe Streets program forgot about many of the neediest places in America

via USA Today on 02/20/24

Competitive grants do have their place in rebuilding American infrastructure. Kristin Smith, who researches public finance with Montana-based nonprofit Headwaters Economics, said they can inspire innovative projects across the country.

“But when it comes to funding that is meant to save people’s lives, that’s designed to meet people’s basic needs, a competitive grant, in my opinion, isn’t the right tool,” Smith said. “It’s regressive. You have to have resources to access it.”