David W. Springer, Ph.D., LCSW

David W. Springer, Ph.D., LCSW

University Distinguished Teaching Professor and Director of the RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service in the LBJ School of Public Affairs

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.

Click to watch a video about Restore Rundberg

Click to watch a video about Restore Rundberg

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 (see Blue Ribbon Task Force Report – Transforming Juvenile Justice in Texas) consisting of national and regional leaders, which was charged with making recommendations for reforming the juvenile justice system 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.

Curriculum Vitae (PDF)

Professional Interests

Juvenile Delinquency and Juvenile Justice Reform; Leadership in Human Service Systems; Community-Based Interventions with At-Risk Youth; Community-Based Research and Intervention Research; Applied Psychometric Theory and Scale Development.


  • Ph.D., Florida State University
  • M.S.W., Florida State University
  • B.A., Florida State University

Teaching History



Social Work Building


Mailing Address

The University of Texas
School of Social Work
1925 San Jacinto Blvd D3500
Austin, TX 78712-0358