Biography of President Jeffrey Herbst Skip Navigation

Biography of Jeffrey Herbst

Jeffrey Herbst, an accomplished scholar of international politics and innovative leader in higher education, began his term as 16th president on July 1, 2010.
President Jeffrey Herbst
Herbst helped the university raise $480 million through the Passion for the Climb campaign, and he extended that goal in a transformational effort to build the university’s financial aid resources by raising $54 million for needy students in the last two years of the capital campaign. He has highlighted the excellence of the faculty and — unlike many peer institutions — increased the number of tenure-track positions in departments across campus.

Herbst has also promoted the further internationalization of the campus and helped lead Colgate’s effort to provide financial aid to needy students studying overseas.

Before coming to Colgate, Herbst had served as provost and executive vice president for academic affairs and professor of political science at Miami University since 2005. He previously held posts at Princeton University, including service as acting associate dean of the Woodrow Wilson School and chair of the university’s Department of Politics.

Herbst maintains an active research agenda, which focuses on the politics of sub-Saharan Africa, including peacekeeping, how the United States can promote democratic liberalization in Africa and what the international community can do to further economic growth in poor regions of the world. His scholarship has taken him throughout Africa, with significant time spent in Zimbabwe, Ghana, and South Africa.

Herbst’s book, States and Power in Africa, received the Gregory M. Luebbert Prize for the best book in comparative politics from the Comparative Politics section of the American Political Science Association in August 2001. It was also a finalist for the Melville J. Herskovits Award for the best book in African studies awarded by the African Studies Association.

He has served as a consultant to a variety of international organizations and federal agencies, including the World Bank, the United Nations, and the U.S. State Department. He has received two Fulbright scholarships (for work in Zimbabwe and South Africa) and a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation.

Born in Jamaica, Queens, NY, Herbst graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University in 1983 and went on to earn MA, MPhil and PhD degrees in political science from Yale University. He and his wife Sharon Polansky, a marketing executive, have three children.