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Kenneth Smythe-Leistico EdD
Joined Seton Hill
Reeseville, WI
Contact Info
(724) 830-1065

Ken Smythe-Leistico is Assistant Professor and Field Coordinator for the School of Education and Applied Social Sciences at Seton Hill University. Ken’s research merges evidence-based approaches with practical service delivery to create innovative practices that get results. These efforts engage parents, schools, and community providers to maximize student success. His recent research has looked at how text-messaging can be used to improve school attendance. Smythe-Leistico was the former Assistant Director of the University of Pittsburgh Office of Child Development (OCD). He researched, developed, and implemented programs that target children and families transitioning into kindergarten while reducing chronic absence. His blend of research to practice was demonstrated through the development of a trademarked brand for kindergarten and a website with practical tools and resources for transition ( which was recognized by National Head Start as a “Promising Practice”. Ken was featured as an Emerging Leader by the Harvard Family Involvement Network of Educators, honored by Pittsburgh Magazine as one of the regions “40 under 40”, and is the author of several articles, book chapters, and a children’s book. Ken possesses undergraduate degrees in Psychology and Sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, a Master of Social Work Degree from the University of Alabama and recently received his Doctorate in Education at the University of Pittsburgh.


  • EdD, University of Pittsburgh, 2018
  • MSW, University of Alabama, 2005
  • BA (Psychology and Sociology), University of Wisconsin at Whitewater, 1998


  • Smythe-Leistico, K. & Page, L. C. (Approved for Publication). Ready…set…text! Reducing absenteeism through parent-school two-way text messaging (a chapter in Gottfried and Hutt’s, Addressing Absenteeism), Harvard Education Press.
  • Smythe-Leistico, K. & Page, L. C. (2018). Connect-Text: Leveraging text-message communication to mitigate chronic absenteeism and improve parental engagement in the earliest years of schooling, Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk (JESPAR), 139-152. doi: 10.1080/10824669.2018.1434658
  • Smythe-Leistico, K. J., Young, C. P., Mulvey, L. A., McCall, R. B., Petruska, M., Barone-Martin, C., Coffee, B. A. (2012) Blending theory with practice: Implementing kindergarten transition using the Interactive Systems Framework. American Journal of Community Psychology, 50 (3-4), 357-369
  • University of Pittsburgh School of Education Race and Early Childhood Collaborative. (2016). Positive Racial Identity Development in Early Education: Understanding PRIDE in Pittsburgh. University of Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh, PA.
  • Smythe-Leistico, K. & Laski, E. (2014). Ready freddy: Kindergarten club. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Publishing.
  • Smythe-Leistico, K. & Fustich, K. (2010). Ready freddy goes to school. Pittsburgh, PA: Minuteman Press.


  • United Way Be There Attendance Champion (2015)
  • Nominated to National Safe and Drug Free Schools Advisory Council
  • Hill Crest Foundation, Inc. Graduate Scholarship Recipient
  • Social Work Society (Dean Lucinda Roff) Endowed Scholarship Recipient
  • Distinguished Member of National Society of Collegiate Scholars (2004)
  • Recipient of University of Alabama Social Work Departmental Stipend
  • ABC Program recognized in National Magazine- The Challenge
  • PRIDE Award- Outstanding School Drug Prevention Program (2002)


  • Faculty Advisor for Project HOPE


  • Selected Presentations from over 75 National Presentations
  • Smythe-Leistico (2018, September). Telling your story: The science of communication. Invited workshop for FRIENDS Northwest Regional Child Abuse and Prevention Conference, Rapid City, SD.
  • Change, H., & Smythe-Leistico, K. (2018, July). Technology plus relationships = Reducing chronic absences. Invited workshop at the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Conference, Philadelphia, PA.
  • Smythe-Leistico (2018, May). Telling your story: The science of communication. Invited workshop for FRIENDS Northeast Regional Child Abuse and Prevention Conference, Philadelphia, PA.
  • Smythe-Leistico, K. (2018, April). Leveraging technology to improve attendance. Keynote presentation for the Lehigh Valley Attendance Conference, Easton, PA.
  • Smythe-Leistico, K. (2018, April). Telling your story: The science of communication. Presentation for the Seton Hill Spring Seminar, Greensburg, PA.
  • Smythe-Leistico, K. (2018, February). Putting the kind in kindergarten. Keynote Presentation for Great Start Livingston & Livingston Promise Kindergarten Summit, Howell, MI.
  • Smythe-Leistico, K. and Droppa, D. (2018, January). Suicide prevention. Presentation for the Seton Hill Field Instructors Training, Greensburg, PA.
  • Smythe-Leistico, K. (2017, December). Best practices for a successful transition to kindergarten. National webinar presentation for Save the Children.
  • Smythe-Leistico, K. (2017, October). The power of text messaging in the classroom. National webinar presentation for Lorman.
  • Smythe-Leistico, K. (2017, August). Communicating from the heart. Presentation for the National Child Abuse Prevention Annual Summit, Washington D.C.
  • Smythe-Leistico, K. (2017, August). Keys to effective communication. Presentation for the National Child Abuse Prevention Annual Summit, Washington D.C.


  • Pennsylvania Licensed Social Worker


  • Pittsburgh Magazine/PUMP 40 under 40 (2013)
  • Harvard Emerging Leader FINE Profile (2012)
  • Dr. Edward Moseley Hispanic/Latino Advocate of the Year (2006)