Taking it to The Streets: Executive Dean Scobey Advances Social Engagement

Since it was founded, The New School has offered many different visions of how higher education can connect with the real world., In all of its incarnations, as refuge for persecuted academics, as a social actor in New York City, as an oasis for intellectually adventurous adults, civic engagement has remained at the core of The New School’s philosophy.

This year, The New School will once again play a central role in considering the question: What is the role of the university in American public life? As part of a new initiative from the Department of Education, the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) has formed a committee to develop a national plan to advance students’ civic learning and democratic engagement. The AAC&U appointed David Scobey, executive dean of The New School for General Studies and Milano The New School for Management and Urban Policy, to this committee.

The New School has always been about learning in action,, Scobey says. My participation in the coordinating committee gives us a great opportunity to share our legacy with national policy makers.,

Scobey’s appointment comes as no surprise, given his decades of work towards democratizing higher education by removing the barriers that separate the academy from the larger society. Before coming to The New School this year, Scobey taught at Bates College, where he served as the founding director of the Donald W. and Ann M. Harward Center for Community Partnerships, which connects Bates students with the surrounding community through fellowships, work-study arrangements, volunteering opportunities, and on-site learning programs. Prior to that, Scobey taught architectural and urban history at the University of Michigan, where he also founded the Arts of Citizenship Program.

As executive dean, Scobey brings this experience to bear in his effort to strengthen and enrich The New School’s tradition of socially engaged education. Scobey is already working to expand programs like the practitioner-led courses in the New School Bachelor’s Program, where students work on projects together with leading professionals, and the division’s graduate programs, which offer students hands-on experience in environmental, urban education, and international development work.

The founding principles of The New School are as important to the city and the world as they were nearly 100 years ago, but the opportunities have only grown,, says Scobey. We’re serving new populations with new pedagogical tools, such as online learning, and we’re still out in front, leading the way.”