David Scobey

David Scobey


David joined Director of Bringing Theory to Practice as Director in July 2018, following the retirement of Don Harward. For twenty years, David has worked to advance the democratic purposes of higher education. In his writing, teaching, and programmatic initiatives, he has sought to build bridges between academic and public work, especially through the integration of community engagement into liberal education and the full inclusion of nontraditional students into higher education. He is active in national efforts on behalf of these goals, serving on advisory boards for Project Pericles and Imagining America: Artists and Scholars In Public Life.

From 1989 to 2005, he was a member of the University of Michigan faculty, teaching American Studies, U.S. cultural history, and the history of urbanism and architecture. In 1998, he founded Arts of Citizenship, a UM program that fostered public work and community projects in the arts, humanities, and design. Between 2005 and 2010, he was the Donald W. and Ann M. Harward Professor of Community Partnerships at Bates College and the inaugural Director of the Harward Center for Community Partnerships. From 2010 to 2014, he served as the founding Executive Dean of the School for Public Engagement at The New School in New York City. In 2016-18, he was Senior Scholar for The Graduate! Network, a consortium of regional efforts dedicated to improving college access and success for adult learners.

David has a Ph.D. from the Program in American Studies at Yale University, a Diploma in Social Anthropology from the University of Oxford, and a B.A. in English Literature (summa cum laude) from Yale University. His historical scholarship focuses on culture, politics, urbanism, and space in 19th-century America. He is the author of Empire City: The Making and Meaning of the New York City Landscape (Temple University Press, 2002), as well as other studies of U.S. cultural and urban history. He also writes extensively on current issues and the recent history of American higher education. Much of his recent research centers on nontraditional undergraduates—the large majority of U.S. college students—and their importance to the future of higher education.

David is the recipient of a Rhodes Scholarship, a Senior Research Fellowship at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History, and other research fellowships and awards. He is a member of the New York Academy of History. He was awarded an Excellence in Education Award and the Harold R. Johnson Diversity Service Award by the University of Michigan, and he was a finalist for the Thomas Ehrlich Prize, a national faculty award given for community-based education.