Carolina Public Humanities (CPH) announced the creation of the Zietlow Civic Engagement Project in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Funded with a generous gift from Miriam ’83 and Tom Zietlow, MBA ’01, the Project will work to help North Carolinians better understand the importance of democratic institutions, voting and participation in civic life.
“Tom and I are both chemists and since we retired, we’ve participated in many CPH events and have learned all kinds of things not associated with our professions,” explained Miriam Zietlow. “I grew up in Surry County in North Carolina, a western rural county bordering on Virginia. Most of my high school classmates didn’t attend college. And yet, they too, and all North Carolinians, should be able to benefit from the wonderful scholarship of UNC-Chapel Hill. As we thought about how we could help make this happen, and reflected on how partisan even the most innocuous things have become in our society, we realized that the best way to reach fellow North Carolinians would be through the people THEY know — people in and from their own counties, particularly students — who talk in familiar ways, using their current communication tools, namely social media platforms.”
The goal of the Zietlow Civic Engagement Project is to foster well-informed participation in civic life. Through the creation and implementation of new programming that draws upon the humanities, and a communications plan that relies heavily on social media, the project aims to show young people and North Carolina citizens who are not involved with educational institutions the importance of democratic traditions, voting in elections and engaging with civic life. The project’s team will facilitate the creation of new content explaining the importance of democratic traditions and outline a comprehensive dissemination plan for publicizing public programming opportunities and reaching North Carolinians where they are in their communities. The Zietlow project will encourage young people to use their voices to engage with civic institutions in their communities, encourage others to do so and strengthen our democracy.
“From the School of Government to the School of Law, from renowned historians like CPH’s director, Lloyd Kramer, to the scholars of social media in the School of Journalism and Media, UNC strengthens the civic life of this state,” said UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz. “A University like Carolina could not exist except in a free democratic society like ours. The Zietlows’ gift recognizes that core connection between education and democracy, and it strengthens the all-important connection between Carolina and the people of this state. I’m grateful to Miriam and Tom for their commitment to our democratic ideals, and proud that CPH can translate their generosity into real impact for the civic life of our state.”
“Carolina Public Humanities brings the UNC campus to the four corners of the state,” noted Jim White, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “It gets our faculty out into the public to share their remarkable research and engage in dialogue. It forges partnerships with community colleges, libraries and K-12 schoolteachers across the state. When we talk about Carolina being a public university, CPH is a great example of what we mean — we exist to serve the people of North Carolina and beyond.”
“Miriam and I feel very fortunate that we have been able to experience the great work Carolina Public Humanities does and have come to know the CPH team over the past few years,” said Tom Zietlow. “We are grateful that CPH has agreed to take on this challenging project and look forward to seeing it come to life.”
By Andy Berner