Matthew Herbst is a professor at the University of California San Diego, serving as director of the Making of the Modern World program, co-director of Classical Studies, and faculty co-director of Study Abroad.

In the Colorado Desert

Dr. Herbst specializes in the pedagogical leadership of academic programs and experiential learning opportunities at home and abroad. He was an inaugural professor of UCSD’s Global Seminars in 2008 and has led 12 summer programs in Asia, Europe, Oceania, and North America.   He offered 8 other academic programs in Turkey, California, and the U.S. Southwest, and 23 seminars in the deserts and mountains of California.

Refugee Youth Program, San Diego

Dr. Herbst was a first-generation college student. He completed his B.A. at Binghamton University, studying History, Classics, Greek and Latin, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in History at the University of Michigan. To foster student success at UC San Diego, Prof. Herbst collaborated to found the college-based First Year Experience & Transfer Year Experience courses, designed help new students by facilitating a beneficial transition to the university, and regularly teaches these courses.

Intercultural Learning on the Navajo Reservation

Prof. Herbst’s academic interests include experiential education, environmental humanities, ancient history, world wisdom traditions, early Christianity, Byzantium, disability, and pedagogy. Beyond the university, he leads a writing program for students in secondary education, coordinates outdoor activities for a 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.  

with Dalai Lama

As a professor, he has received an assortment of 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).

Seminar at Mt. San Jacinto

On the personal side:    Dr. Herbst 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 an Air Force 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 for (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 meandering through mountains and deserts of Southern California, kayaking in San Diego waters, or walking his dogs about town.

14 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!

    2. ucsdherbst says:

      Thank you, Kathryn. I’m so grateful to the Camphill Community.

  7. typicaltaylor says:

    Hi Professor,

    I took HIEU 104 (History of the Byzantine Empire) back with you in Winter 2009, and it remains one of the best courses I ever took during my time at UCSD. I worked my ass off to get an A-, and am still very proud of that to this day. I’m so glad to see you’re still sharing your love of history with students.


    1. ucsdherbst says:

      Thank you, Taylor. Hoping that you are doing well.

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