Matthew T. Herbst is a professor at the University of California San Diego, where he is director of the Making of the Modern World program (2007- present), co-director of Classical Studies (since 2022), and faculty co-director of Study Abroad (since 2020).

In the desert.

A proponent of experiential learning, Dr. Herbst was an inaugural professor of UC San Diego’s Global Seminars in 2008 and has led 11 programs in Asia, Europe, Oceania, and North America, with his 12th upcoming in Italy in 2023.   He has offered other experiential programs in California, the American Southwest, and in Turkey, as well as 23 seminars in the deserts and mountains of Southern California.

With the Dalai Lama

A first-generation college student, Dr. Herbst completed his B.A. at Binghamton University and his M.A. and Ph.D. at the University of Michigan. To foster student success, Prof. Herbst collaborated to found the college-based First Year Experience & Transfer Year Experience courses, designed to facilitate beneficial transition to the university, and teaches these each year.

Navajo Reservation – Learning and Working Together

Beyond the university, he leads a writing program for students in secondary education, coordinates outdoor activities for a student-serving community-based organization, reviews NEH proposals for teacher seminars and institutes, and offers trainings for teachers in secondary education. Previously, he was a school board member, a director for NEH Summer Institutes for teachers, and a content expert for the CA Dept. of Education’s review of social studies curricula.   

Refugee student program

Among his academic interests are environmental humanities, experiential education, world history, wisdom traditions, early Christianity, Byzantium, and disability history. His current academic projects include an inquiry on sacred traditions of the desert and a narrative on inter-community relations in the Balkans.

Rome, with students.

Prof. Herbst has received an assortment of university awards, including Outstanding Faculty (2009), Academic Senate Distinguished Teaching (2015), Excellence in Diversity (2017), and a Changemaker Faculty Fellowship (2020-2022). Active in campus service, Dr. Herbst is a faculty leadership mentor and serves on committees addressing disability (since 2010), undergraduate education (since 2015), international education (since 2020), undergraduate writing (since 2021), and remote instruction (2022). His previous service includes Public Service (chair, 2018-2020), Preparatory Education (chair, 2018-19), Educational Policy (chair, 2016-17), the Burke Lectureship on Religion and Society (chair, 2015-19), and the planning of Eighth College (2020-2021).  

In the mountains of Southern California

On the personal side:    Dr. Herbst and his siblings are his family’s first generation to attend college.  He is the grandson of an immigrant from South America, who married a sanitation worker from Queens, NY, who was himself the son of Irish immigrants. Prof. Herbst is the child of a Vietnam War-era veteran from East Harlem and a Queens native, who wedded as teens.  He is married to a first-generation American whose parents emigrated from the Philippines and worked in (and retired from) the US Navy and VA Hospital system, respectively.   Before pursuing an academic career, Prof. Herbst explored a variety of fields, including National Park Service, law enforcement and private investigation, and social services.   These days, when not engaged in teaching-related activities, he can be found kayaking in San Diego waters, meandering through mountains and deserts of Southern California, or walking his dogs about town.

11 Comments Add yours

  1. tony sensoli says:

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

    1. ucsdherbst says:

      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. Louis Cohen says:

    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.

    1. ucsdherbst says:

      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 says:

    UCSD Diversity Award recipient! Congratulations!

  4. Congratulations! I am in awe of you and family. Proud to know you! UCSD is amazing.

    1. ucsdherbst says:

      Thank you, Marie! I’m excited about our future projects!

  5. Patricia Lothrop says:

    Your contributions to ABC-CLIO’s The Byzantine Empire are admirably clear, informative, and thoughtfully organized. You wrote the bulk of Volume One, and I wish you had edited the set: I am convinced that you wouldn’t have permitted the weak writing so evident in the “Military” section (inter alia) to detract from the value of the project.

    1. ucsdherbst says:

      Thank you, Patricia.

  6. Kathryn says:

    We are very much looking forwards to meeting you and your students here in Camphill Communities California,!

    1. ucsdherbst says:

      Thank you, Kathryn!

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