DL and ME

with the Dalai Lama, UC San Diego

Matthew T. Herbst is an Associate Teaching Professor at the University of California San Diego, where he is Director of the Making of the Modern World, a general education world history program, Affiliated Faculty in the Department of History, and a faculty member in the Environmental Studies Program.  He is passionate about the critical role that public education plays in fortifying democratic values and the need for an inclusive educational environment, where all students can thrive.

A proponent of experiential learning, Prof. Herbst was an inaugural faculty member of the university’s Global Seminars in 2008 and has led ten undergraduate world history programs in Asia, Europe, and Oceania (Thailand, Cambodia, Turkey, England, France, Italy, New Zealand, and Australia), as well as service-learning programs in Turkey (2013, 2014), on the Navajo Reservation (2018), and on Catalina Island (2019).  Since 2012, he has also led twenty environmental humanities seminars in the deserts and mountains of Southern California.  In addition, in 2014 he was a founding faculty member of the college-based First Year Experience program, which is designed to facilitate successful student transition to the university, and teaches the first-quarter freshman and transfer courses each fall.


Hovering out to sea: Visiting USS Gabrielle Giffords

Dr. Herbst’s professional efforts stem from a commitment to public education, of which he is a product, from elementary school in New York to his B.A. in History and Classical Studies at Binghamton University (as a first-generation college student) and his Ph.D. in History at the University of Michigan. Dedicated to fostering links between pre-collegiate and higher education, he served as a public school board member, as a Content Review Expert for the CA Department of Education’s review of new world history curricula (2017), as a proposal reviewer for National Endowment for the Humanities Seminars and Institutes for teachers (2018), and offers world history teacher trainings. He also co-leads an educational enhancement program for refugee high school students.  Prof. Herbst is currently developing grant-funded online humanities courses and writing a text on Byzantium in World History.


with students, Rome

Prof. Herbst is a member of campus committees addressing disability (since 2010) and  outdoor education (since 2016) and serves on the Academic Senate’s Representative Assembly.  He serves as chair of university committees on Preparatory Education (2018-19) and Public Service (2018-2020), and formerly chaired the Burke lectureship on religion and society (2015-2019) and the campus’ Educational Policy Committee (2016-2017).  Prof. Herbst has received multiple awards for his professional activity, including an Outstanding Faculty Award (2009), UCSD Distinguished Teaching Award (2015), and a UCSD Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Award (2018).

On the personal side:    From Queens, New York and raised in New York’s Hudson Valley, Dr. Herbst and his siblings are his family’s first generation to go to college.  He is the grandson of an immigrant from South America, who married a sanitation workerIMG_8019
from New York City, who was himself the son of Irish immigrants.  Prof. Herbst is the child of a Vietnam-era veteran and a middle-school secretary, and is married to a first-generation American whose parents emigrated from the Philippines and served in the US Navy and at a Veterans Administration Hospital.   Before pursuing an academic career, Dr. Herbst explored a variety of fields, including the National Park Service, law enforcement and private investigation, social services, and religious ministry.    In days gone by, he was a high school wrestler, college boxer, and avid runner, and now enjoys wandering through trails and canyons of Southern California.


5 thoughts on “Bio

  1. tony sensoli

    I am glad “college boxer” made your bio. You were one of the best ever from the University of Michigan Boxing Club.

    • Dr. Tony! So good to hear from you. How are you and the family?
      Whatever I know of boxing — I learned from you. I hope that we can talk soon to catch up.

  2. Thank you for your interesting talk about Istanbul today at the San Diego Museum of Art. I have a few follow-up questions:

    – Can we assume that the traces of Mohammed found by Mehmet II just outside Constantinople are bogus, or is there any archeological/historical evidence to suggest that the prophet was actually there? It reminds me of the stories in the book of Mormon about fantasy peoples of the early Americas and Jesus’ visit to North America.

    – Is modern Turkish ultimately derived from the turkic languages of Central Asia, and not the other way around?

    – By the 19th century, the Ottoman Empire was notorious for corruption; one bought a position in government service and paid a percentage of the graft up the ladder (not unlike the world of The Sopranos). Was it always like this, or when did it start to slide?

    BTW, “The Ionian Mission” by Patrick O’Brian is a modern historical novel set during the Napoleonic wars that deals with a (fictional) attempt by the British to find and support a reliable ally in the Ionian Sea. Part of the intrigue revolves around whether a local coup will create a fait accompli before the Sultan (referred to as the Sublime Porte) can issue a firman naming the new governor.

    The town of Marino, Italy has a festival every year to celebrate their boys coming home from the Battle of Lepanto. The fact that wine and roast pork sandwiches are served celebrating the defeat of the Muslim navy is probably a coincidence.

    • You are welcome. I enjoy that venue very much. A few comments to your questions:
      1. The relics that Mehmet found at Eyüp, just outside the walls of Constantinople, were not of Muhammad but of one of his companions, Ayyub al-Ansari who, according to tradition, died in the 7th century Arab siege of Constantinople.
      2. Yes, Turkish has its origins in Central Asia. The Turks were originally central Asian nomads which explains why Turkic languages are spoken from China (the language of the Uighurs) all the way to Europe (Turkey). These languages are related but not the same, like those in the Romance Language family (Spanish, Italian, Romanian, etc.).
      3. The Ottoman empire of the classical period (to 1600), which was the topic of my talk, was highly efficient, particularly in contrast to various large western kingdoms in the same period. A variety of troubles develop afterwards, however, though some had roots even in the classical period. I expect to present on some of this in a follow up talk in the fall.

  3. Julie Herbst

    UCSD Diversity Award recipient! Congratulations!

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