Patten professor making a difference for families

Dr. David Kuby is fascinated by the intersection of family, ethnicity and faith. For the Patten University psychology professor, his passion is “finding ways to help families be healed, be healthy and prosper.” By instilling this passion into his students who then carry it into their own practices, he is able to see a ripple effect throughout Patten’s Oakland community.

Kuby’s interest in family and ethnicity traces back to his own childhood. Born into a large Czechoslovakian family that worked in the steel mills, Kuby lost his mother when he was two. Four years later he was sent to live with an aunt and uncle in Pennsylvania. Separated from his family, the young Kuby found a new home with friends and mentors who were part of a Catholic parochial school community. He thrived, and felt truly at home.

Suddenly, at the age of 15, he moved back to live with his father in Cleveland. Attending a public school for the first time, he felt isolated, experiencing a void both socially and spiritually. With his Eastern European roots he was also subjected to discrimination for the first time, and he was forced to experience firsthand what it was like to be excluded from the “in group”. However, he also found that being in the “out group” connected him with other rejected ethnic groups and found faith traditions to be a common bridge.

After high school, Kuby went to Antioch College, where he began taking courses in anthropology and psychology to fill the voids he felt in high school. He was encouraged to connect his life experiences to his academic learning. He began to make sense of his disrupted family life and his ethnic identity, and to apply that to his learning.


Taking Life Into the Classroom

Kuby applies this philosophy in his teaching at Patten. Many of his students come in with a lot of life experience; he encourages them to write about it in a variety of ways. “The study of psychology raises issues and brings insights requiring reflection,” Kuby explains.

For Kuby, teaching is about helping students find their passions and making their learning relevant, “to encourage life-long learning and not just cramming for the exam.”


From the Classroom to the Community


Kuby’s work with families and ethnicity doesn’t stop in the classroom. Since 1991, Kuby and his wife have run a private practice serving families in the Oakland area. He also performs supervision and training at Trinity Counseling Center in East Oakland. “It’s important to have not just the theory,” Kuby explains, “but also the actual practice.”
Kuby also encourages his Patten students to give back to the community in which they live. This can mean working in soup kitchens, tutoring kids, or helping the homeless. His connection with Trinity Counseling Center opens the door for Patten psychology graduates to serve the community as part of their training as mental health professionals. He is able to observe them as they apply what they have learned in theory to the actual challenges of inner city clients. Here again, a faith tradition is a bridge over ethnic differences and a link to shared values.

Patten’s location is a fertile ground for the multi-ethnic and diverse family research that Kuby enjoys. “It’s a good location I have because I’m constantly interfacing with diverse cultures and families in the classes that I teach.”


Dr. Kuby teaches mainly in the psychology department at Patten University but he also teaches courses in anthropology and sociology. He holds an M.A. in Clinical Psychology from John F. Kennedy University, a Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology from UCLA, and a MDiv in World Religions from the University of Chicago.

Kuby spent a year-long Fulbright Fellowship in Africa doing research on religion, followed by a two-year teaching appointment as Chair of the Sociology Department at the University of Swaziland, South Africa. As a doctoral student and research assistant he assisted Dr. Hilda Kuper with numerous articles on Swaziland. His thesis, “Elitism and Holiness” is published on microfilm.