Faculty Spotlight: Professor David Campbell

It’s 5pm on a Wednesday and Professor David Campbell just spent 3 hours teaching his course on the Foundations of Civic Engagement.

Professor David Campbell
“I feel better once the teaching is done at the end of the week.”

Teaching, however, has hardly drained Campbell of his energy. As he sits in his office in Hinman’s Rockefeller Center, rocking his knee up and and down in a steady staccato, it's clear that Campbell never tires.

As the chair of the Department of Public Administration in the College of Community and Public Affairs, Campbell is a civic engagement titan, integral to the growth and continuity of Binghamton University’s presence in the life of Binghamton’s residents, and this isn’t the first place he’s been able to make a difference. Professor Campbell has worked with non-profits in New York City, Cleveland, Boston, whose focus was on the welfare of low income individuals.

Campbell also worked as an adjunct faculty member at Columbia University in their Master's in Public Administration program from 1999 to 2005, but was willing to make the move to the Central Tier if opportunities, both personal and professional, presented themselves.

“I liked Ithaca very much...” said Campbell, “...New York felt really bad after 9/11, and the few months after I really thought hard about moving.”  

Although it took a few years from thought to fruition, Campbell eventually joined Binghamton University in 2006. At the time, Binghamton was opening it’s Downtown Center and looking to employ experienced faculty; Campbell was looking for a career pivot.

@16WashingtonSt: Binghamton UDC
“Those of us in public service are always asking the question ‘What’s the best way you can make a difference’ and I wondered if the work I was doing in the non-profit sector took the best advantage of my strengths. And while I loved the non-profit work I also felt I didn’t have proper thinking time. I thought if I were in a university I could also do research that allowed me to spend time thinking about things. And I found that I loved teaching.”

Still, Campbell took some detours on his way to academia.

“I knew when I was in college what my core values were. I knew that I cared about making a difference. I knew that it was important for me to be able to say that at the end of my life, I had contributed to making the world a better place particularly for those who had less than I. But it was rarely clear to me what the best way to do that was.”

Upon graduating with a degree in Philosophy, he took a job with a middling New York congressman and stayed for 3 years. Then he got his masters from Yale...in divinity. But somehow for the Campbells, all roads lead back to teaching. Campbell’s father and four brothers are all teachers and while it may have taken longer than anticipated, he fell into the family practice as well.

A few of the courses he teaches for Undergraduates, ‘Foundations and Civic Engagement’ and ‘Philanthropy and Civil Societies’, contain an integral social media component, something unique to classes taught here at Binghamton. Tweets from his students can be found by searching #BUtweeters. In his Philanthropy and Civil Societies course, students also have the opportunity to give away real money to real local causes, with the amount of the donation dependent on the amount they raise. The amount is then matched by the Dean and by Campbell as well. Where does the money eventually go?

“Last year our class bought a goat.”

Of course, the goat to which Campbell refers was a microfinance loan, capable of providing nourishment and income to an entire family. Organizations such as Heifer International make loan granting of this nature easy and rewarding.

The vision of having a campus community fully aware of their civic engagement duties is far from accomplished, but through his work in both the non-profit and academic spheres, Professor Campbell is certainly committed to seeing the vision through.

-Phil Sepulchre, CCE Social Media and Marketing Intern

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