Doug Perkins grew up outside Washington, DC, in Prince George’s County, MD, and after graduating from Swarthmore College in 1980, he worked as a psychiatric counselor-trainee at Devereux Foundation’s Career House in Devon, PA. For his 1985 Master’s thesis in Community Psychology at NYU, he conducted an evaluation of an Interpersonal Problem-Solving primary prevention program in Westchester County elementary schools. His doctoral project, which won the 1991 Society for Community Research & Action Best Dissertation Award, was a multi-method study of citizen participation in block associations in Brooklyn and Queens, New York City. While completing his Ph.D., he taught undergraduate community psychology at NYU (1984), was Associate Research Director at Citizens Committee for New York City (1985-86) and taught Criminal Justice at Temple University (1986-89) while he directed an NIMH-funded study of crime, fear, and mental health in 50 Baltimore city neighborhoods. His first tenure-track job was in Environment & Behavior and Family & Consumer Studies at the University of Utah (1989-2000). He then moved to Vanderbilt University to become the founding Director of the Ph.D. Program in Community Research & Action and Director of Graduate Studies (2000-2004, 2014-2019) and of Undergraduate Honors (2016-present) for the Department of Human and Organizational Development at Peabody College, where he remains. He is a Fellow of the Society for Community Research & Action and has been SCRA liaison to the Community Development Society, the Environmental Design Research Association, and the Urban Affairs Association.
Perkins founded and directed the interdisciplinary Center for Community Studies (CCS) at Vanderbilt from 2004-2008, coordinated its International Communities Work Group, and was a member of the Healthy Communities, Organizational Change, Urban Neighborhoods, and Religion, Spirituality, and Community Work Groups. The CCS was inspired in part by the late JR Newbrough’s former center of the same name (and developed similar partnerships with public and nonprofit agencies throughout Nashville), and by James G. Kelly’s proposal for a “Woods Hole” of Community Action-Research Centers. The Center was launched at the 2004 Interdisciplinary Community Research Working Conference held at Peabody College, and published as a special issue of the American Journal of Community Psychology on Community-based Interdisciplinary Research. Perkins stepped down as CCS Director in 2008 in order to develop field schools and other international collaborations and the Center closed in 2011.
After his first sabbatical in Australia in 1998 and keynoting international conferences in Tazmania that year and in Padova, Italy, in 2003 and San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 2006, much of Perkins’ research and teaching has become internationally focused with visiting professorships in Padova, Italy (2006, 2009, 2013 & 2016), Magdeburg, Germany (2004), and Nanjing, Yangzhou & Shanghai, China (2013) and again at East China Normal University in Shanghai in 2017. He directed Peabody College’s Fieldschool in Intercultural Education and Research in Guangxi, China, in 2007 and in Cape Town, South Africa in 2012. In October 2018, Perkins gave a series of invited addresses at Universidad Central de Chile and the 7th International Conference on Community Psychology in Santiago, Chile.