Urban Policy, Politics of Education, Social Justice Activism, Youth Leadership Development, Activist Scholarship



My major area of interest, broadly defined, is urban politics. Born and raised in Brooklyn (which is still the 4th largest city!), I had an early education about urban areas that was shaped by some very practical activities – turning empty lots into playgrounds, keeping the hand ball court for hours, dodging traffic, and learning the subway lines. Over the years, this practical education morphed into a concern with issues of housing and community development, neighborhood politics and community organizations, political leadership and urban public policy and, most recently, preserving education as a public good. While researching and writing on these topics, my fixation with the practical persisted.

In 1997, I started the University Community Collaborative (formerly, the UCCP) in an effort to leverage some of the research and pedagogical expertise of the university for larger community ends. With a focus on youth leadership development, social justice, and community building, the collaborative conducts direct programming, capacity building at the organizational and individual levels, and applied research activities in collaboration with community based and other nonprofit organizations. Working with some very talented, creative, and committed community leaders and young people prompted me to think more deeply and systematically about the university’s role in the community, about civic engagement as a tool for political empowerment, and about pedagogical approaches to preparing young people to live in a democratic society. My approach is interdisciplinary, relying on works from the various social sciences, and it is heavily informed by the “view from the street.” I encourage you to check out our website to see what is possible when these perspectives come together. Be forewarned, our work is positively contagious!

Curriculum Vitae

Selected Publications


  • The Fight for America’s Schools: Grassroots Organizing in Education (ed). Harvard Education Press (2017)
  • Challenging the Growth Machine: Neighborhood Politics in Chicago and Pittsburgh. University Press of Kansas. (1996).

Articles/Book Chapters

  • “Preparing College Students to Facilitate Action Civics among K-12 Students.”   in José Antonio Pineda-Alfonso, Nicolás De-Alba-Fernández, and Elisa Navarro-Medina (eds) Handbook of Research on Education for Participative Citizenship and Global Prosperity. IGI Global  (with Jason Fitzgerald and Alison Cohen)  (Forthcoming, 2019)
  • “Shifting Stereotypes and Storylines:  The Political Potential of Youth Media.” (2016) Contemporary Youth Activism: Advancing Social Justice in the United States, (Praeger) eds. Jerusha Conner and Sonia Rosen. (with Natalia Smimov).
  • “POPPYN: Presenting Our Perspective on Philly Youth News.” (2015) In The Civic Media Reader. Eds. Eric Gordon and Paul Milhailidis. Cambridge: MIT Press. With Natalia Smirnov and Nuala Cabral.
  • “Violence through the eyes of youth: A photovoice exploration.” (2013) Journal of Community Psychology. V 41, #1:84-101. with Jill Chonody, Jill Amitrani-Welsh, and Travis Martin.
  • “Pathways to College and to Social Justice Leadership: The University Community Collaborative of Philadelphia.” (Fall 2012). Diversity and Democracy. (a publication of the American Association of Colleges and Universities) V15, #3:20-21
  • “Educating For Democracy: Reflections from a Work in Progress.” (August 2012) Journal of Political Science Education. Volume 8, #3:231-250.
  • “Action Civics: A Declaration for Rejuvenating our Democratic Traditions.” Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. (February 2012). pp10-11
  • “Community Collaborations: Promoting Community Organizing.” In Gittell and Newman (eds) Activist Scholar: Selected Works of Marilyn Gittell (2011) with Charles Price and Marilyn Gittell.
  • “Regime Theory.” 2007 Encyclopedia of Urban Studies. Sage Publications
  • “Leveraging Social Capital: The University as Educator and Broker” (2006) in Richardson Dilworth, ed. The Place That Loves You Back: Community and Social Capital in Philadelphia. Temple University Press.

Courses Taught


  • Issues to Action: Policy Change in a Complex World
  • Race, Education and the Criminal Justice System
  • Making of American Society
  • Politics in Film and Literature
  • Urban Politics and Problems


  • Urban Public Policy
  • Educating for Democracy
  • Community Based Research

Media Mentions

Barbara Ferman and Michael Sances featured on Community Voice PHL Talk Show
via Community Voice PHL on January 31, 2023

Barbara Ferman and Michael Sances featured on Community Voice PHL Talk Show

Barbara Ferman, Director of the University Community Collaborative and Political Science Professor and Associate Professor, Michael Sances discuss...