Dr. Kelly Helm Smith
Communications Coordinator & Assistant Director

About Kelly

Kelly Helm Smith was one of the original employees of the National Drought Mitigation Center when it was established in 1995, contributing experience in journalism, PR and environmental communication. She helped launch the center’s original award-winning website back when the web was new, worked with the Western Drought Coordination Council and climate scientists to develop drought monitoring updates for policymakers, and helped make the case for establishing the U.S. Drought Monitor (online at http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu), now a primary means for establishing eligibility for federal disaster relief and crop insurance payments. She took a leave of absence from the drought center in 2000 to earn a master’s degree in Community and Regional Planning and to work with African refugees on behalf of various faith-based and non-profit organizations in Lincoln, Neb. Smith returned to the drought center in 2006. In addition to communication, she has focused on drought impacts (https://droughtimpacts.unl.edu).


  • Ph.D. in 2019 in Natural Resource Sciences, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • M.C.R.P. in 2005 in community and regional planning from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • M.S.J. in 1985 from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University
  • B.A. in 1984 in history, minor in French, from Bryn Mawr College

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