Shep Zeldin

Shepherd Zeldin

Professor Emeritus
Civil Society and Community Studies Department

Rothermel Bascom Professor of Human Ecology, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Professor, Civil Society and Community Studies, School of Human Ecology (SoHE)
Outreach Specialist, Youth and Community Development, Wisconsin Cooperative Extension

As a professor, I use the tools of the trade – teaching, research, practice – to help promote youth development, student achievement, and community empowerment.

  • I conduct research on adolescent and community psychology. I focus on youth and adults (youth workers, teachers, public officials) working together, as partners, to build a civil society. My research is cross national, including Malaysia, Canada, Portugal and Northern Ireland.
  • I teach (formal and experiential) in the classroom and community. My teaching and outreach focuses on organizational learning, student engagement and belonging, community based research, civil society, and volunteer development. I am currently co-leading SoHE’s creation of a professional master’s degree in Human Development and Community Change.
  • I strengthen the connections between higher education and community. I established the SoHE graduate program in Civil Society and Community Research (2010) to prepare students to use community-based research in efforts to promote the common good. I was the founding director (2009) of the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Non Profits (now the CommNS) that supports community organizations through applied research and youth worker training. My most recent effort is the Community Consulting Firm (2015), staffed by graduate and undergraduate students, to provide assistance to community organizations.

Prior to becoming a professor, I worked for 15 years as a youth advocate, a legislative policy analyst, and a director of a community-building organization. With my colleagues, I helped establish “positive youth development” as an influential theory of adolescent psychology and as an asset-based approach to youth work. I have also worked to create community-wide networks for youth worker training, and to establish “youth-adult partnership” as a best practice in community work.

My PhD is in developmental psychology (Cornell University). My undergraduate degree is in applied social psychology and political science (Columbia University).

All of my work is done through intergenerational and cross-disciplinary collaboration. Some of the specifics are listed below (under the “tabs”) and my web site on youth-adult partnerships.

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I collaborate with students and field professionals to study how youth become agents of their own development and of their communities. Our research is conducted throughout the United States, as well as in Canada, Malaysia, Northern Ireland and Portugal.

Our publications explore the influence of youth voice and youth-adult partnership on adolescent development, equity, and community. We are particularly interested in how communities create the conditions for youth and adults to work collaboratively for a common cause. We also study the practice of youth and community work, with the aim being to identify best practices and to build developmental theory from the study of practice.

The following publications can be accessed, for free, at: Other publications and reports can be accessed through

Youth-Adult Partnerships and Adolescent Development

  • Zeldin, S., Gauley, J., Krauss, S., Kornbluh, M., and Collura, J. (in press). Youth-adult partnership and youth civic development: A Cross-National Inquiry for Scholars and Field Professionals. Youth and Society.
  • Zeldin, S., Krauss, S., Kim, T., Collura,J., & Abdullah, H. (in press). Pathways to Youth Empowerment and Community Connectedness: A Study of Youth-Adult partnership in Malaysian after-school programs. Journal of Youth and Adolescence.
  • Krauss, S., Zeldin, S., Dahalan, D, A. (2015). Traditional youth associations as agents of social change: A Case study of intergenerational partnership in a Malaysian fishing village. Journal of Applied Youth Studies, 1 (1), 58-81.
  • Zeldin, S., Collura, J., Krauss, S., Luchessi, M., & Sulaiman, A. (2014). Conceptualizing and measuring youth-adult partnership in community programs: A cross national study. American Journal of Community Psychology, 337-347.
  • Zeldin, S., Christens, B., Powers, J. (2013). The theory and practice of youth-adult partnership: Bridging generations for youth and community development. American Journal of Community Psychology. (51), 385-397.
  • Zeldin, S. ( 2004). Youth as agents of adult and community development Applied Developmental Science, 8(2), 75-90.
  • Camino, L. & Zeldin, S. (2002). From periphery to the center: Pathways for youth civic engagement in the day-to-day life of communities. Applied Developmental Sciences, 6, 213-220.

Community and Organizational Change for Youth Development

  • Petrokubi, J. & Zeldin, S. (2015). Promoting thriving youth and communities through youth-adult partnership: A case study of the Multanomah/Portland Youth Commission. Portland, Oregon.
  • Zeldin, S., Wilson, D. & Collura, J. (2011). Creating restorative and intergenerational cultures for youth: Insights from Northern Ireland and the United States. Guest editors of special issue of Youth and Society, Vol 43 (2).
  • Zeldin, S., Petrokubi, J. & Camino, L. (2008). Youth-adult partnerships in public action: Principles, organizational culture, and outcomes. Takoma Park, MD: Forum for Youth Investment.
  • Zeldin, S., McNeil, C., Petrokubi, J. (2008). Youth-adult partnerships in decision-making: Disseminating and implementing an innovative idea into established organizations and communities. American Journal of Community Psychology, 41, 262-277.
  • Camino, L. & Zeldin, S. (2006). Bridging research and community practice in the field of youth development through outreach. In G. Clary & J. Rhodes (Eds.), Mobilizing adults for youth development: Lessons from the behavioral sciences. NJ: Erlbaum Press.
  • Zeldin, S., Camino, L., & Mook, C. (2005). The adoption of innovation in youth organizations. Journal of Community Psychology, 33(1), 121-135.

The Practice of Youth and Community Work

  • McNeil, C., Krauss, S., & Zeldin (in press). Voluntary association, youth voice, and collective action: Youth work in places where there are no [professional] youth workers. In Kirshner, B. (ed). The changing landscape of youth work: Theory and practice in an evolving field. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Krauss, S.,Dalahan, D., & Zeldin, S. (2015). The Gaya Island Youth Association: Intergenerational partnership and social justice in a Malaysian Fishing Villiage. In Heathfield, M (ed). Youth and Inequality in Education. New York: Routledge Press.
  • Zeldin, S. (2011). Professional development for community and youth workers. Forward, in D. Fusco (Ed.), Advancing youth work: Trends, issues. CA: Sage.
  • Collura, J., Christens, B., & Zeldin, S. (2011). Broadening the frame of violence prevention through the promotion of youth community engagement. In Paludi, M. The psychology of teen violence and victimization: Prevention strategies for families and schools. New York: Routledge Press.
  • Zeldin, S., Larson, R. & Camino, L. (2005). Youth-adult relationships in community programs: Diverse perspectives on good practice. Guest editors of special issue of Journal of Community Psychology, Vol 33(1).
  • Zeldin, S. (2004). Preventing youth violence through the promotion of community engagement and membership. Journal of Community Psychology, 32(5), 623-641.
  • Camino, L., & Zeldin, S. (2002). Making the transition to community youth development: Emerging roles and competencies for youth-serving organizations and youth workers. In Burke T., Curnan S., Erickson D., et al. (Eds.), Community Youth Development Anthology, Sudbury, MA: Brandeis University.


  • Building Civil Society
  • Organizational and Community Learning
  • Youth Development in Program and Policy Contexts
  • Community-Based Research, Evaluation, and Consulting

Community Courses

  • Positive Youth Development
  • Building Community and Engagement
  • Youth-Adult Partnerships in Organizations and Schools
  • Adoption of Innovative Practice
  • Community-Based Research

Learning Resources

Learning resources.

I am currently directing two long-term partnerships. The partnerships involve graduate and undergraduate students providing service to community organizations, Wisconsin Extension, and public schools. As part of the partnership, the students gain valuable academic skills, research experience, and an understanding of consulting.

University of Wisconsin Community Consultants (WCC): Collaborating across the university, the WCC was formed to provide applied research and consulting services to Wisconsin Extension and Madison nonprofits. We recruit and train a cadre of students, and then match their qualifications with the needs of clients. Current projects include increasing access for first generation young people, assessing the public value of organizations, volunteer development for youth and community development, maximizing youth voice in organizations, capacity building for fund raising, and website development.

Democracy and Engagement at Clark Street High School. University students regularly collect and analyze survey and focus group data on Clark Street’s ongoing initiative to create structures and processes to elevate student engagement and learning. We provide training on youth-adult partnerships in schools, conduct participatory action research with students, and work with school board and other governance bodies to ensure that democratic deliberation and student/teacher engagement throughout the school. From this pilot work, we are creating a theoretical and practice-based model to share with other schools.