Community Engagement and Activism; Social Justice; Education; Urban Politics and Policy



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)
  • Governing the Ungovernable City: Mayoral Leadership in Boston and San Francisco. Temple University Press. (1985)
  • The Political Hand: Policy Implementation and Youth Employment Programs. Pergamon Press. (1985; with Martin Levin)

Articles (Select)

  • “The Right to the City and to the University:  Forging Solidarity Beyond the Town/Gown Divide.” The Assembly: A Journal of Public Scholarship on Education (Spring 2021) With Miriam Greenberg, Thao Le, Steve McKay
  • “The role of social justice frameworks in an era of neoliberalism: Lessons from youth activism.” Journal of Urban Affairs (Spring 2021)
  • “Preserving Education as a Public Good: Lessons from the Grassroots.” Urban Affairs Review (2019)
  • “Where Now: Current Observations, Future Directions for Public Education.” Urban Affairs Review (2019)
  • “Community-Engaged Research Through the Lens of School Closures: Opportunities, Challenges, Contributions, and Lingering Questions.”  Education Policy Analysis Archives   27(55) (with, C. Agard, Z. Ansari, J. Conner, L. Pappas, and J. Shiller). (May 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 Smirnov)
  • “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
  • “Educating For Democracy: Reflections from a Work in Progress.” (August 2012) Journal of Political Science Education. Volume 8, #3:231-250
  • “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


  • Capstone: Working for the Greater Good: Nonprofits and Funders
  • Capstone: Issues to Action: Policy Change in a Complex World
  • Philadelphia: Problems, Participation, Solutions
  • 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...