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 co-director of Study Abroad (since 2020). A proponent of experiential learning, Dr. Herbst was an inaugural professor of UC San Diego’s Global Seminars in 2008 and has led eleven programs in Asia, Europe, Oceania, and North America. He has offered other experiential programs in California, the American Southwest, and in Turkey, as well as 23 environmental humanities seminars in the deserts and mountains of California. He also collaborates with public agencies and community-based organizations for projects in San Diego and beyond. Among his academic interests are environmental and digital humanities, cultures of the desert, world wisdom traditions, early Christianity, Byzantium, and disability history.
Active in campus service, Prof. 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 UC San Diego’s eighth college (2020-2021). He has received an assortment of awards for teaching and professional activity, including Outstanding Faculty (2009), Academic Senate Distinguished Teaching (2015), an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Award (2017), and a Changemaker Faculty Fellowship (2020-2022).
Dr. Herbst attended public education, from elementary school in New York to his B.A. at Binghamton University (as a first-generation college student), and Ph.D. at the University of Michigan. To support student success, he collaborated to found the college-based First Year Experience & Transfer Year Experience courses, designed to facilitate successful transition to the university, and teaches these each year. Interested in fostering links between pre-collegiate and higher education, he tutors middle and high school students, serves as a proposal reviewer for NEH Seminars and Institutes for secondary education, and offers teacher trainings. 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.
On the personal side: Dr. Herbst and 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 teaching, he can be found kayaking in San Diego waters, meandering through mountains and deserts of Southern California, or walking about town with his dogs.