Verdis LeVar Robinson (he/him or they) comes to NIFI with a specialization in community college civic learning and democratic engagement. He is a former Associate of the Kettering Foundation with deliberative practices of community colleges and faith-based institutions as part of his portfolio. Robinson has extensively trained, facilitated, and moderated NIFI forums on local, state, and national platforms.
As an advocate of civic education, Robinson has led efforts to advance democracy in community colleges through Campus Compact and The Democracy Commitment. Previously to this national leadership, he was a tenured Assistant Professor of History and African American Studies at Monroe Community College (MCC) in Rochester, NY, where he taught web-enhanced, writing-intensive, service learning history courses for ten years.
Robinson is a fellow of the Aspen Institute’s Faculty Seminar on Citizenship and the American and Global Polity, and the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Faculty Seminar on Rethinking Black Freedom Studies: The Jim Crow North and West. From 2015 to 2017, he was a Public Scholar with Humanities New York where he delivered interactive presentations on Frederick Douglass and his global search for democracy and equality, and also on the Rochester Race Uprisings of 1964. His publication efforts include co-editing Community Colleges for Democracy: Aligning Civic Learning with Institutional Priorities (2020); co-authoring of Bacon’s Rebellion, 1676-1677: Race, Class, and Frontier Conflict in Colonial Virginia (2021), a Reacting to the Past historical role-immersion pedagogical game in development) and Beyond These Gates: Mountains of Hope in Rochester’s African American History (2018) as well as contributing to Higher Education’s Role in Enacting a Thriving Democracy: Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement Theory of Change (2018). Additionally, he is the author of A Charge to Keep; I Have: The Biography of Bishop Charles Campbell (2001). Robinson has recently completed a manuscript for a new RTTP game that employs NIFI-style deliberation entitled Detroit 1859: The Frederick Douglass-John Brown Meeting debuting in college classrooms Fall 2023.
Robinson has served on the editorial board of Rochester’s History journal and currently serves on the advisory boards for Bringing Theory to Practice, the Reacting Consortium, National Issues Forum Institute, and Citizen’s Campaign. Verdis holds degrees in Voice Performance, History, African American Studies from Boston University, SUNY College at Brockport, SUNY University at Buffalo, and was the Lenora Montgomery Scholar of Excellence at the Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago. He also engages communities as the Director of the Montpelier Community Gospel Choir in Vermont and is also a minister in fellowship with the Unitarian Universalism Association serving the First Unitarian Church of Rochester as the Assistant Minister for Growth.