Ira Harkavy

Ira Harkavy

Founding Director and Associate Vice President, Netter Center for Community Partnerships, University of Pennsylvania; Senior Fellow, Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics

U.S. urban, social


Ira Harkavy is Associate Vice President and founding Director of the Barbara and Edward Netter Center for Community Partnerships, University of Pennsylvania.  As Director of the Netter Center since 1992, Harkavy has helped to develop academically based community service courses and participatory action research projects that involve creating university-community partnerships and university-assisted community schools in Penn's local community of West Philadelphia.  Harkavy teaches in history, urban studies, and Africana studies, as well as in the Graduate School of Education. 

Dr. Harkavy has written and lectured widely on the history and current practice of urban university-community-school partnerships and the democratic and civic missions of higher education. He has authored and edited ten books: Academic Freedom, Institutional Autonomy, and the Future of Democracy (2020, co-edited with Sjur Bergan and Tony Gallagher); The Local Mission of Higher Education: Principles and Practice (2019, co-edited with Sjur Bergan and Ronaldo Munck); Higher Education for Diversity, Social Inclusion and Community: A Democratic Imperative (2018, co-edited with Sjur Bergan); Knowledge for Social Change: Bacon, Dewey and the Revolutionary Transformation of Research Universities in the Twenty-First Century (2017, co-authored with Lee Benson, John Puckett, Matthew Hartley, Rita A. Hodges, Francis E. Johnston, and Joann Weeks); Higher Education for Democratic Innovation, (2016, co-edited with Sjur Bergan and Tony Gallagher); Reimagining Democratic Societies: A New Era of Personal and Social Responsibility (2013, co-edited with Sjur Bergan and Hilligje van’t Land); The Obesity Culture: Strategies for Change, Public Health and University-Community Partnerships (2009, co-authored with Francis Johnston); Dewey’s Dream: Universities and Democracies in an Age of Education Reform (2007, co-authored with Lee Benson and John Puckett); Higher Education and Democratic Culture: Citizenship, Human Rights and Civic Responsibility (2007, co-edited with Josef Huber); and Connecting Past and Present: Models of Service Learning in History (2000, co-edited with Bill Donovan). He is also Executive Editor of the Netter Center's journal, Universities and Community Schools.

Harkavy is the Chair of the International Consortium on Higher Education, Civic Responsibility, and Democracy; Chair of the Anchor Institutions Task Force; and founder and member of the Philadelphia Higher Education Network for Neighborhood Development (PHENND) Steering Committee. 

Among other honors, Harkavy is the recipient of the University of Pennsylvania’s Alumni Award of Merit, Campus Compact’s Thomas Ehrlich Faculty Award for Service Learning, New American Colleges and Universities’ Ernest L. Boyer Award, a Fulbright Senior Specialist Grant, and two honorary degrees. Under his directorship, the Netter Center for Community Partnerships received the inaugural William T. Grant Foundation Youth Development Prize awarded by The National Academies and a Best Practices/Outstanding Achievement Award from HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research. In addition, with Harkavy’s and the Netter Center’s significant involvement, Penn has twice received the Presidential Award in Higher Education Community Service (2008 and 2012), and tied for the number one ranking as “Best Neighbor” University (2009) by the national Survey of Best College and University Civic Partnerships.

Harkavy received his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. in History from the University of Pennsylvania.