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The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill invites applications and nominations for the appointment of the inaugural Director and Dean of the new School of Civic Life and Leadership.


Established by an act of the North Carolina General Assembly in 1789, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is the first public university in the nation. Students enrolled starting in 1795, making UNC-Chapel Hill the only public university in the nation to award degrees in the 18th century. Graduate programs were offered starting in 1876, followed by the creation of professional schools throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Today, UNC-Chapel Hill enrolls over 18,000 undergraduates and over 11,000 professional and graduate students. The University offers 77 bachelor’s degree programs, 111 master’s degree programs, 65 doctoral degree programs and seven professional degree programs. The new School of Civic Life and Leadership will be housed in the College of Arts and Sciences, which is the largest unit on campus and forms the academic, social and intellectual core of the undergraduate experience at Carolina.

UNC-Chapel Hill, a member of the Association of American Universities, is one of the world’s premier research universities, with a highly collaborative culture among faculty of all disciplines and over $1.2B in annual research expenditures supporting endeavors with local, national and global significance. UNC-Chapel Hill is known for collegial interactions and a stellar ability to assemble diverse, multi-disciplinary teams to address problems of great import to North Carolina, the U.S. and the world. The College of Arts and Sciences at UNC-Chapel Hill is home to strong academic departments and signature programs in the Fine Arts and Humanities, Social Sciences and Global Programs, and Natural Sciences and Mathematics. The College is also home to the Institute for Arts and Humanities and Carolina Public Humanities, which seek to engage communities via the humanities to spark curiosity, facilitate dialogue and generate ideas to build stronger democratic societies and a more humane world. As a proudly public university, our scholarship, teaching, and artistic enterprises are intertwined with our mission of service to the citizens of North Carolina who established and support our endeavors.

The Research Triangle, defined by UNC-Chapel Hill , Duke and NC State University at its corners, provides a variety of public-private scholarship and research opportunities. The Research Triangle Park (RTP) is home to the Triangle Universities Center for Advanced Studies (TUCASI) which includes the National Humanities Center (NHC), the only independent institute dedicated exclusively to advanced study in all areas of the humanities. The concentration of research universities, arts, culture and history provides a rich and diverse landscape for scholarship while the physical location of all UNC-Chapel Hill academic schools and departments on a single, beautiful campus, and the livability and opportunities for personal and family growth in the Chapel Hill/Durham/Raleigh area, make UNC-Chapel Hill a magnet for recruitment.


In 2019, UNC-Chapel Hill formed the Program for Public Discourse (PPD), recognizing that the complex nature of the pressing issues of our day require reasoned debate rooted in a strong foundation of basic knowledge and a spirit of open intellectual inquiry. The mission of PPD lies at the heart of higher education and is reiterated in Carolina’s strategic framework, Carolina Next: Innovations for the Public Good, and in the strategic plan of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Endorsed by the Board of Trustees on January 30, 2020, Carolina Next includes Strategic Initiative 5, “Promote Democracy.” Objective 5.2 is to “work constructively across differences in society, starting by promoting respect and listening.” Here several strategic opportunities are listed to support the goal of “build[ing] the capacity to engage constructively across differences with evidence, intellectual humility, and respect” – including to “develop the Communication Beyond Carolina capacity requirements in the IDEAs in Action General education Curriculum” and “conceptualize and develop the UNC Program for Public Discourse, emphasizing respectful dialogue in classes and public events.”  Objective 5.3 calls for exploration of the relationship between “humanity’s highest purposes” and democratic life.

In 2023, to fulfill the “democratic competencies” goals of Carolina Next (5.2-3) and in light of the increased pressures and challenges facing our democracy, the Board of Trustees identified the need for degree-oriented programs in the area of Civic Life and Leadership and resolved that the campus accelerate development of a School of Civic Life and Leadership (SCiLL). Subsequently an ad hoc faculty committee refined plans for an interdisciplinary, degree-granting unit within the College of Arts and Sciences. In September 2023, SCiLL was established by the Provost and an act of the North Carolina General Assembly. In October 2023, the inaugural faculty, representing Communication, English and Comparative Literature, History, Music, Philosophy, Physics and Astronomy, Political Science, and Psychology and Neuroscience Departments within the College, was appointed, and an interim Director and Dean named.

SCiLL will operate as an academic unit within the College of Arts and Sciences and house the existing Program for Public Discourse. The head of SCiLL will carry the title “Director and Dean” and will report to the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. SCiLL will be an interdisciplinary unit with its own tenured faculty, offering courses as well as programs of study. Faculty in SCiLL will be appointed into tenured, tenure-accruing and term positions as appropriate within the unit and may also hold joint or courtesy appointments with other units at the University.

The Opportunity

Carolina is well-positioned to become the national leader among public universities in building capacities for civic life and leadership and confronting the challenges that face our democracy by nurturing citizen-scholars.

The vision for SCiLL is that it will provide a home specifically for the study and practice of public discourse, civic engagement and leadership.  SCiLL aspires to leverage Carolina’s disciplinary strengths and establish robust connections with units across the College of Arts and Sciences.

Rooted in the American political experience and democracy, SCiLL will fulfill this vision though a fourfold approach:

Public-facing: Model and showcase effective public discourse in a manner that fosters meaningful conversations on campus and beyond.  This will involve incorporating the Program for Public Discourse (PPD) into SCiLL, as well as building on PPD’s experience and strengths.

Campus-facing: Offer opportunities for members of the campus community to develop and enhance their civic engagement skills. These skills may include oral presentation, conflict resolution, and navigating challenging conversations.

Student-facing: Develop a curriculum for SCiLL that is fully integrated into the College’s IDEAs in Action general education curriculum. SCiLL’s curriculum will offer students interdisciplinary training in civics, the humanities and scientific literacy, promoting a culture of reasoned and respectful disagreement, and openness to changing one’s mind.

Faculty and Visiting Scholar focus: Develop faculty scholarship and host a prominent Visiting Fellows program, supporting semester-long conversations on contentious topics. This program will be open to scholars from various backgrounds, both within and outside academia.

Building out from the communications and democracy requirements in the IDEAs in Action general curriculum, SCiLL will provide the needed space to develop a culture of reflection and intellectual curiosity. It will aspire to offer any student intending to pursue a course of study in its curriculum a strong intellectual community. By working and learning alongside their classmates, students will build the shared experience and mutual respect necessary to have constructive disagreements in the classroom. SCiLL will provide a framework in which visiting scholars and speakers on campus are readily available to students at public events, in classrooms and over shared meals, thereby inspiring the “culture of listening, respect, and civil discussion for advancing democratic values and effectiveness in our campus community, North Carolina, and the world.”1

SCiLL will hire and promote faculty to develop and teach interdisciplinary general educational courses. Faculty will aim to provide the productive culture of free and civil discourse, open inquiry, and scientific literacy necessary for members of a democratic society to explore “humanity’s highest purposes and potential.” The curriculum will invite students to develop democratic competencies and key virtues such as intellectual humility, curiosity, and generosity, as they engage perennial questions of morality, aesthetics, religion, politics, economics, health, law, and science.

The Position

Reporting to the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, the Director and Dean will provide overall leadership for the school.

The Director and Dean is responsible for:

  • collaborating with colleagues to shape the academic mission, vision, curriculum and programs of the school, consistent with the mission of the College and the University’s goal to be a leading global public research university;
  • increasing the strength and vitality of the school’s educational and scholarly mission by promoting the recruitment and retention of top faculty;
  • creating a culture that fosters a spirit of cooperation between faculty, staff and students;
  • collaborating on development and fundraising initiatives with the College and campus to support teaching, research, and artistic activities;
  • collaborating in the recruitment, retention and success of high-caliber students and providing them with superior academic and professional experience;
  • leading the school in collaboration with the office of the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, including development of the school’s budget, curriculum development, and programming;
  • providing leadership to the faculty of the school, including conducting annual reviews, promoting faculty development and opportunities for success, and convening and presiding over regular faculty meetings in a culture of transparency and healthy communication;
  • overseeing and collaborating with leadership and faculty in the Program for Public Discourse; and
  • actively engaging with the public.


The School of Civic Life and Leadership seeks an academic leader with experience rooted in the arts and sciences. Candidates must have a PhD in a related academic field and a demonstrated record of research and scholarship in a discipline, but also show evidence of interdisciplinary interest and experience.

This position is open to scholars in any discipline. We seek a candidate who has demonstrated:

  • an intellectual commitment to robust argument and clear communication to a broad audience in their own discipline and beyond;
  • a vision for how to guide students through a well-integrated liberal arts curriculum that not only prepares them for a career but also for a life sustained by curiosity, lively debate, shared reflection on profound questions, service to others and our democracy, and relationships across deep difference; and
  • an appreciation for the role of the natural sciences and the scientific method of inquiry in civic life.

Preference will be given to those candidates with:

  • a national reputation for scholarship and a demonstrable record of fostering excellence in research, teaching and service;
  • broad interdisciplinary scope in accomplished work or teaching;
  • a demonstrated record of collaboration and cooperation across diverse units and negotiating competing objectives in a university environment;
  • demonstrated administrative experience, a high standard of professional integrity, and strong team-building skills; and
  • the ability to effectively articulate the school’s vision and mission to the students, faculty, alumni and the public.

Applications and Nominations  

Applicants will need to access the formal job posting to apply for the position: Priority consideration will be given to materials received by November 15, 2023. Applications should include a 1) current CV and 2) a letter of interest that addresses the responsibilities and qualifications described above.

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