David Keefe is the Director of Military and Veteran Community Engagement at the Center for Veteran Transition and Integration at Columbia University where he develops capacity and community building initiatives for the veteran and military-connected community on campus and regionally. Prior to this role, Dave was the Senior Assistant Dean of Student Veteran Initiatives at Columbia’s School of General Studies, where for nearly eight years he centralized resources and developed programs around academic, health, community, and career support for transitioning student veterans.
Dave is also an award-winning artist, educator, and researcher. Through creative and ethnographic methodologies, he has worked closely with veteran, immigrant, refugee, and healthcare communities, specifically those affected by violence, displacement, and marginalization. He was recently awarded the Open Society Foundation’s 2019 Securing Open Societies Fellowship for exploring commonalities between veteran and immigrant communities that have been shaped by varied experiences of migration. Through participatory art workshops making handmade paper from clothes that were once worn while migrating across borders and battlegrounds, this work brought people together to learn from each other and share their unique and resonant experiences of relocation as a result of political oppression, class aspiration, struggle for citizenship, flight from violence, and stresses from complex trauma.
Dave is the co-founder and current senior advisor (former executive director and board president) of Frontline Arts, a national nonprofit that connects communities by supporting socially engaged art practices rooted in printmaking and papermaking. He is also the co-founder of Frontline Arts’ flagship program, Frontline Paper (formerly known as Combat Paper NJ), which connects veterans and witnesses through workshops that teach the craft of making paper from military uniforms. Through this work and his own studio practice, Dave has over 15 years of experience in the arts as a teacher, developer, curator, organizer, facilitator, and consultant on over 350 art projects, exhibitions, and events nationwide.
Additionally, Dave has worked as an adjunct professor of art at Montclair State University where he taught painting, papermaking, and printmaking, including courses for student veterans on connective practice via making paper and prints from uniforms.
Dave holds an MS in narrative medicine from Columbia University, an MFA in studio art from Montclair State University, a BFA from the University of Delaware, and is currently a PhD student in applied anthropology at Columbia University Teachers College where he is exploring the ambiguity of the veteran narrative with disengaged and disconnected populations of veterans and former-military members.
From 2001-2009, Sergeant Keefe served in the United States Marine Corps infantry as a light armored reconnaissance scout, and from 2006-2007 he completed a tour of duty on the Euphrates River in Iraq as a riverine scout.