David W. Springer, Ph.D.

Director of the RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service

Email: dwspringer@austin.utexas.edu
Department: LBJ School of Public Affairs and School of Social Work

Curriculum Vitae (PDF)

Social change and leadership are inextricably linked. Educating future leaders about justice and equity is vital to creating lasting policy and systems for the betterment of society. Such an education requires a mixture of intellectual reflection, opportunities to work within communities, and ongoing dialogue. As Director of the RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service and University Distinguished Teaching Professor at The University of Texas at Austin, Dr. David Springer actively pursues each of these imperatives. His commitment to building knowledge about just systems and educating students and practitioners about the ways in which they can contribute to the public good have expanded beyond the borders of Austin to global communities.

In his own research, Dr. Springer focuses on the improvement of systems to more effectively deliver services to youth and families, especially at the intersection of juvenile and criminal justice research in the United States and Latin America. In so doing, he brings expertise with the perspective of someone engaged with the nonprofit sector and the community to change systems through research, teaching, policy, and mentorship. Furthermore, the research conducted at the RGK Center matches expertise to practice as it provides sophisticated tools to students and professionals navigating the complex problems that affect our social systems. The multidisciplinary research team approaches local and global problems using multiple lenses and thus finds many solutions to some of the world’s most pressing issues. Indeed, Dr. Springer’s leadership and work are translating into real outcomes for society. Spanning across direct practice, policy practice, community building, nonprofit management, system reform, research, and leadership, Dr. Springer and the RGK Center have a vision for the future that empowers all members of society.

Springer has conducted research funded by various sources, including the Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, National Institute of Mental Health, National Institute on Drug Abuse, SAMHSA, and the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health. He has co-authored or co-edited ten books, with his most recent book entitled Juvenile Justice Sourcebook, 2nd edition (published by Oxford University Press). Most of his research and scholarship has coalesced around effective community-based services for youth and families, and he has been recognized as one of the 100 most influential social work journal authors by the British Journal of Social Work.

Springer currently serves as the Principal Investigator of Restore Rundberg, a 3-year, $1 million grant from the Department of Justice to improve the quality of life, health, safety, education, and well-being of individuals living and working in the Rundberg neighborhood in Austin. Part of the Obama administration's Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative, innovative and sustainable community engagement is at the core of this effort.

Springer has been the professor of many graduate courses over nearly two decades of teaching at UT Austin, including Leadership as a Catalyst for Community Change. At the undergraduate level, he developed and teaches a Freshman Seminar entitled The Art of Being Human: Constructing a Life with Meaning, where students explore how individuals create a meaningful and happy existence. He has received a number of university-wide teaching awards for recognition of excellence in teaching and advising, including the Outstanding Graduate Teaching Award, the Outstanding Graduate Adviser Award, the DAD’s Centennial Teaching Fellowship, and selection into the Academy of Distinguished Teachers. 

In 2007, he served as Chair of a Blue Ribbon Task Force consisting of national and regional leaders, which was charged with making recommendations for reforming the juvenile justice system in Texas. (See: Blue Ribbon Task Force Report - Transforming Juvenile Justice in Texas) In recognition of his work with the Blue Ribbon Task Force, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), Texas Chapter/Austin Branch selected Dr. Springer as the Social Worker of the Year. Today, he continues to work with community leaders to improve the juvenile justice system.

He currently serves on the National Advisory Board of Girls and Gangs for the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, the Advisory Council for Great Wall of China and Children of All Nations Adoption, and the National Advisory Council for the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health. He previously served as the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Graduate Advisor (from 2001 to 2011) in the UT Austin School of Social Work and as the Director of the Inter-American Institute for Youth Justice. Springer was also Dean of the School of Social Work at Portland State University before returning to UT.

In his free time, Springer enjoys surfing and stand-up paddle boarding. He is also an avid trail runner and has participated in ultramarathons, including the Leadville 100, where he and other runners race for 100-mile distances on trails and across mountains.


B.A. in Psychology, Florida State University

M.S.W., Florida State University

Ph.D. in Social Work, Florida State University

Professional Interests:

  • Leadership in Human Service Systems, Nonprofits, and Communities
  • Social Work in Juvenile and Criminal Justice Systems
  • Juvenile Delinquency and Juvenile Justice
  • Community-Based Interventions with At-Risk Youth
  • Community-Based Research and Intervention Research
  • Applied Psychometric Theory and Scale Development

In the News

Austin American-Statesman - 04/29/2016 Revitalizing Rundberg

Dr. David W. Springer was interviewed for a Sunday news front-page, in-depth special on Restore Rundberg. Read and watch.

KUT News - 02/05/2016 Restoring a Neighborhood, a Street at a Time

This in-depth story on the Restore Rundberg project focuses on Sam Rayburn Drive, one of three hot spots that has seen a considerable drop in crime since the project began in 2012.  Read and listen.

Austin American Statesman - 12/03/2015 Study shows slight decrease of crime in Rundberg area

Nearly three years after police landed a $1 million federal grant to target crime in the Rundberg area, a recent University of Texas study shows a slight decrease of property and violent crime. Read AAS coverage.

KUT News - 12/03/2015 After 3-Year Restoration Program, Rundberg Looks to the Future

In this radio interview, Dr. David Springer describes community policing—a key facet of the Restore Rundberg initiative—as one way to address the underlying causes of crime.

Fox 7 News Austin - 07/29/2015 APD wants to hire 400 officers in an effort to change policing strategy

Emboldened by recent findings from the Restore Rundberg UT research team demonstrating the effectiveness of community policing efforts, the Austin Police Department is asking city council to fund the hiring of 400 additional police officers. The increase in staff would allow for a renewed strategy that focuses on developing relationships with area business owners and residents to gather feedback and address safety concerns as they arise. Watch news clip >