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Text-only version of the timeline found on History of the College of Arts & Sciences page.


  • The University opens
    • The College of Arts & Sciences traces its origins to when the University began teaching classes in 1795, admitting 40 students who were taught by two faculty members. Formal departments didn’t exist as they do today, although subjects such as English, French, Latin and Mathematics were taught.
  • Mathematics
    • In the first year of the University, there were only two faculty members: David Ker, the “presiding professor,” and Charles Wilson Harris, who was hired as the first tutor of mathematics.
  • Classics
    • William Richardson Davie’s plan for the University sought a more balanced curriculum for the sciences and classics. Students learning under the professor of languages were required to deliver translations of Latin and Greek classics, and by 1804, Joseph Caldwell introduced a classical curriculum where all students were required to learn Latin and Greek.
    • In 1819, the University’s catalog consisted of a single page. Caldwell’s emphasis on the classics is seen in his ‘plan of education.’
  • English and Comparative Literature
    • I. Richards was hired as the first “Teacher of French and English,” marking the origins of a dedicated field of study. In 1875, a School of English Language and Literature was included in the new College of Literature. The Department of English was so named by the University’s Board of Trustees in 1901. It began to take on its modern form during the chairmanship of Edwin A. Greenlaw (1914-1925).
      In 2006, the Department of English absorbed the Curriculum in Comparative Literature, forming the Department of English and Comparative Literature.


  • Chemistry
    • UNC’s Chemistry Department dates its origins to the hiring of its first professor, Denison Olmsted, who taught chemistry and mineralogy.


  • Reorganization of the University. During Reconstruction, the University closed from 1871 to 1875. It reopened organized into six colleges. Each college is divided into schools:
    • College of Agriculture: School of Scientific Agriculture; School of Practical Agriculture; School of Horticulture
    • College of Engineering and the Mechanic Arts: School of Mechanical Engineering; School of Civil Engineering; School of Mining; School of Military Science and Tactics
    • College of Natural Science: School of Chemistry; School of Zoology and Botany; School of Geology and Mineralogy
    • College of Literature: School of English Language and Literature; School of Ancient Languages; School of Modern Languages
    • College of Mathematics: School of Pure Mathematics; School of Natural Philosophy; School of Commercial Science
    • College of Philosophy: School of Metaphysics and Logic; School of Moral Science; School of History, Political Economy, International and Constitutional Law.
  • History
    • After stepping down as president of the University in 1891, Kemp Plummer Battle becomes the first permanent professor of history.
  • Physics and Astronomy
    • Though physics had been taught as part of the “Natural Philosophy” curriculum since 1795, this year marks the date when “physics” is used uniformly. Astronomy was likewise taught early on (and in conjunction with physics) and was briefly its own department in the 1950s. In 1973, the department’s name was formally renamed Physics and Astronomy.
  • Philosophy
    • Philosophy had been taught at the University since its opening in 1795. The modern Department of Philosophy dates to the College of Philosophy in 1875, which included the School of Metaphysics and Logic and the School of Moral Science. The school was soon transformed into the Department of Mental and Moral Science, which became the Department of Philosophy around 1895.


  • Biology
    • The first Biology Department was established in 1891 when H.V.P. Wilson was hired. Later, the department was split into Zoology and Botany. In 1968, a Curriculum in Biology was established. Today’s Biology Department was formed in 1981 when the departments of Botany and Zoology merged.


  • Economics
    • In 1901, Charles Lee Raper joined the faculty and a Department of Economics and Finance was formed.


  • Romance Studies
    • The departments of Romance Studies and Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures have been closely linked at UNC. Though Romance languages (specifically French) were among the first subjects taught at the University, the hiring of a professor of Modern Languages in 1857 introduced more languages to the curriculum, including German. In 1885, the Department of Modern Languages included both, but they were split into separate departments in 1909.
    • In 2015, the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures was renamed the Department of Romance Studies.


  • Music
    • The Department of Music was established in 1919 with the appointment of Paul John Weaver as Professor of Music, with initial course offerings that included Appreciation of Music, History of Music, Sight Singing and Ear Training, and Harmony.


  • Sociology
    • In 1920, Howard W. Odum was hired and led the new Department of Sociology and School of Public Welfare (later called the School of Social Work). In 1924, he also founded the Institute for Research in Social Science, which is now named the Howard W. Odum Institute for Research in Social Science in his honor.
  • Psychology and Neuroscience
    • John Frederick Dashiell founded the Department of Psychology and served as its first chair. It was renamed the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience in 2015.


  • Geography
    • Originally part of the Department of Geology and Geography, which was established in 1933, it can trace its origins much further back, with the appointment of a professor of Natural Philosophy, Astronomy and Geography in 1796. Geology and geography separated in 1963.


  • College of Arts & Sciences established
    • The modern-day College of Arts & Sciences grew out of a merger of the College of Liberal Arts (1909-1935) and the School of Applied Science (1908-1935) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill during a reorganization of the system’s schools. The School of Education was also folded into the new College at this time. The General College was also established, and it remained a separate entity until 1961, when it was folded into the College of Arts & Sciences.
  • Political Science
    • The modern-day department was established as an independent entity in 1935.


  • Dramatic Art
    • Though theater at Carolina dates back to 1918 with the establishment of the Carolina Playmakers, a separate academic department for drama was not established until 1936. Prior to that, the history of theater and comparative drama were taught through the English Department. In 1925, Smith Hall became the home of Carolina Playmakers and came to be called Playmakers Theatre.
  • Art and Art History
    • The Department of Art was created in 1936. Originally its curriculum was limited to art history; later, courses in studio art were added. It was renamed Art and Art History in 2017.


  • Research Labs of Archaeology
    • First named the Laboratory of Anthropology and Archaeology, it was the first academic center to study North Carolina antiquities. Its name changed to Research Laboratories of Anthropology in 1948 and to Research Laboratories of Archaeology in 1997.


  • Institute for the Study of the Americas
    • Originally named the Inter-American Institute, it was renamed the Institute of Latin American Studies in 1947 and was one of the first education centers in the country dedicated exclusively to the study of Latin America. It took on its present name in 2007.
    • The study of Latin America dates to 1915 with William W. Pierson’s course “Spanish-American History” in what was then the Department of History and Government.
  • Naval Science and Navy ROTC
    • The Department of Naval Science originated with the start of the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps at UNC. It was originally named the department of Naval Science and Tactics until it was shortened in 1945.


  • Statistics and Operations Research
    • Established in 1946 as the Department of Mathematical Statistics, it has seen many name changes: Statistics in 1952; Curriculum in Operations Research and Systems Analysis in 1970; Department of Operations Research, 1987. By 2005, it took its current name.
  • City and Regional Planning
    • Founded in 1946, the Department of City and Regional Planning is one of the largest, oldest, and best-known graduate programs for planning education and research in North America.


  • Religious Studies
    • Originally founded as the Department of Religion, it was one of the first to be created in a state university. Courses in the history and literature of religion date to the 1920s, when a School of Religion was proposed. The name was changed to Department of Religious Studies in 1984.
  • Aerospace Studies and Air Force ROTC
    • The Air Force ROTC program has been on campus since 1947, and the Department of Air Military Science and Tactics was established to house the program. The department’s name was changed to Air Science and Tactics in 1949 and to Air Science in 1954. It has held its current name since 1964.


  • Exercise and Sport Science
    • The Department of Physical Education and Athletics was created in 1935. Initially the department included both academic instruction in physical education and the previously existing intercollegiate athletics program. However, in 1952, the Department of Health and Physical Education was established as a separate department within the College of Arts & Sciences. As the curriculum developed further, the name was changed to the Department of Physical Education, Exercise and Sport Science in 1989. It took its present name in 1999.


  • Honors Carolina
    • In Fall 2011, the Honors Office was renamed Honors Carolina.
    • After its renovation in 1999, Graham Memorial was rededicated and became home to the James M. Johnston Center for Undergraduate Excellence. The honors program and other academic programs, such as the Office for Undergraduate Research, are housed within the center.


  • Center for Urban and Regional Studies
    • The Center for Urban and Regional Studies is one of the oldest university-based research centers of its kind.


  • Computer Science
    • First established as the Department of Information Science, its name changed to Department of Computer and Information Science in 1968. It has held its current name since 1971.


  • Anthropology
    • Prior to becoming its own department, Anthropology began in 1930 in the Sociology Department.


  • Linguistics
    • The Linguistics Department was first founded in 1967, but disbanded from 1979-1989. It was reestablished as a department in 1991.
  • American Studies
    • The Curriculum in American Studies began in the 1967-68 academic year, when a bachelor’s degree in the field was offered. It was one of the first interdisciplinary programs at UNC. By 2008, it became a department.
    • One of its concentrations, Folklore, dates to 1940, where Carolina was the first institution in the nation to offer a graduate degree in that discipline. The Southern Studies program began in 1980 and the Native American and Indigenous Studies program began in 1998.


  • African, African American and Diaspora Studies
    • Curricula in African Studies and Afro-American Studies was established in 1969. In 2013, the African and Afro-American Studies department was renamed to African, African American and Diaspora Studies.


  • Environment, Ecology and Energy Program
    • An undergraduate curriculum in Ecology was established in 1971. B.S. and B.A. degrees in Environmental Sciences were established in 1998. The Curriculum in Environment and Ecology, merging the two disciplines, was created in 2008. It was renamed the Environment, Ecology and Energy Program (E3P) in 2018 to emphasize the interdisciplinary aspect and expand the academic offerings.


  • Peace, War and Defense
    • In December 1969, after a wave of protests against the Vietnam War and rising skepticism about ROTC programs on college campuses, the Taylor Committee (led by professor George V. Taylor) recommended forming a separate curriculum on war and defense, retaining the ROTC programs. After adoption in 1970, instruction in the Curriculum in Peace, War and Defense began in 1972.
  • Global Studies
    • A curriculum in international studies (the precursor to today’s global studies) was noted in the University catalog as early as 1939, but may not have been a formal curriculum by today’s standards. However, students could receive a degree in International and Area Studies prior to this year, with a graduate noted as early as 1956. By 2010, the curriculum was renamed Global Studies.


  • Southern Oral History Program
    • Since its founding, the Southern Oral History Program has collected 6,000 interviews with people from all walks of life – from mill workers to civil rights leaders to future presidents of the United States.


  • Women’s and Gender Studies
    • A program in Women’s Studies began in 1976 and became a curriculum in the 1992-1993 academic year. It became the Women’s Studies Department in 2009. A minor in Sexuality Studies, whose program is currently in the Women’s and Gender Studies Department, was established in 2004. The department was renamed in 2012.
  • PlayMakers Repertory Company
    • PlayMakers Repertory Company becomes UNC’s professional theater-in-residence.


  • Carolina Public Humanities
    • First named the Program in the Humanities for the Study of Human Values, the name was later changed to the Program in Humanities and Human Values in 1984. It took its current name in 2017. Originally part of the Division of Extension and Continuing Education, it became part of the College of Arts & Sciences in 1988.
  • Asian and Middle Eastern Studies
    • A Curriculum in East Asian Studies was first established in 1979, and the curriculum was renamed Asian Studies in 1993. It became a full department in 2004.


  • Institute for the Arts and Humanities
    • The IAH’s beginnings start with the Program for the Arts and Humanities, created by Ruel W. Tyson, Jr., professor of Religious Studies, and Gillian T. Cell, dean of the College. In 1989, the name was changed to its current name, with Tyson as the first director.


  • Center for Slavic, Eurasian and East European Studies
    • The center draws upon a broad base of support with over 40 affiliate faculty members who teach courses and engage in research focused on Russia, East Europe and Eurasia.


  • Center for the Study of the American South
    • In fall 2013, the center celebrated its 20th year. Its home is the historic Love House & Hutchins Forum, which was renovated in 2007.
  • Communication
    • The Department of Radio, Television and Motion Pictures (RTVMP) and the Department of Speech Communication merged in 1993 to form the Department of Communication Studies. Broadcast journalism and some video production courses were moved to the School of Journalism and Mass Communication (now the School of Media and Journalism), though the new Department of Communication Studies retained a media production program. It was renamed the Department of Communication in 2015.
  • Center for European Studies
    • The Center for European Studies is one of only five in the nation to be designated as both a National Resource Center by the U.S. Department of Education and a Jean Monnet Center of Excellence by the European Union.


  • Military Science and Army ROTC
    • Army ROTC at Carolina dates to 1993, although the program wasn’t an official extension center until 1995. When it was upgraded to host status in 1997, the University established the modern Military Science Department, which houses Army ROTC today.


  • Office for Undergraduate Research
    • The Office for Undergraduate Research supports undergraduate research opportunities for all disciplines and members of the Carolina community. The annual Celebration of Undergraduate Research symposium gives students the chance to showcase their work.
  • Academic Advising
    • Until the late 1990s, college advising was accomplished through part-time faculty advisers, with separate advising for the General College (for first-year students and sophomores) and the College of Arts & Sciences (for juniors and seniors).


  • Public Policy
    • A Curriculum in Public Policy Analysis was first created in 1979. As the curriculum grew, it was moved to the Department of City and Regional Planning in 1985, where it remained until achieving departmental status in 2001.


  • Carolina Asia Center
    • The Carolina Asia Center is the first Title VI-funded pan-Asia National Resource Center in the southeast United States.


  • Biomedical Engineering
    • The Department of Biomedical Engineering began as a joint graduate program between UNC’s School of Medicine and N.C. State. In 2013, it expanded into UNC’s College of Arts & Sciences to further develop the undergraduate degree program in Chapel Hill.
  • Carolina Center for Jewish Studies
    • The Carolina Center for Jewish Studies was established in 2003, and an undergraduate degree in Jewish Studies (offered through the Department of Religious Studies) began in 2012.
  • Center for Middle East and Islamic Studies
    • In 2002, a planning group was formed and sought to expand curricular and research opportunities regarding the Middle East. The Center was originally founded in 2003 as the Carolina Center for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Civilizations. It adopted its current name in 2019.


  • Parr Center for Ethics
    • The Parr Center for Ethics was established in 2004-2005, thanks to a generous gift from the Gary W. Parr Family Foundation. Plans for the center grew naturally from the Ethics Fellows Program in the College’s Institute for the Arts and Humanities.
  • Latina/o Studies Program
    • The Latina/o Studies Program, housed in the Department of English and Comparative Literature, was founded in fall 2004 by Professor María DeGuzmán. It was the first program of its kind in the Southeast.


  • African Studies Center
    • While African studies has been a part of the University’s academic landscape since at least the 1960s, particularly in the areas of political science and biomedical research, the establishment of the center in 2005 marked a dedicated effort to expand UNC’s commitment to African studies.


  • German and Slavic Languages and Literatures
    • The hiring of a professor of modern languages in 1857 introduced more languages to the curriculum, including German. In 1885, the Department of Modern Languages included Romance and Germanic languages, but they were split into separate departments in 1909.
      Russian was first taught in the Germanic Languages Department until it was moved to the Department of Linguistics, Slavic, and Oriental Languages in 1964. A new department of Slavic Languages was established in 1969, until its name change to Slavic Languages and Literatures in 1995).
      In 2011, the department of Germanic Languages and Literatures was merged with the study of Slavic languages to become the Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures Department of today.


  • Applied Physical Sciences
    • In 2013, the Department of Applied Physical Sciences became the College’s first new science department in 40 years. The history of the discipline is much older, as a School of Applied Science existed at the University from 1908 until its absorption into the newly formed College of Arts & Sciences in 1935.


  • Earth, Marine and Environmental Sciences
    • In July 2021, the former departments of geological sciences and marine sciences were merged with the UNC Institute of Marine Sciences to form a single academic unit.
    • Geology has been taught at Carolina since at least 1818, when Denison Olmsted became the first to occupy the position of chair of chemistry, mineralogy, and geology. In 1893, the department of geology was established, until it was merged with geography in 1933; the two departments later separated in 1963.
    • UNC’s Curriculum in Marine Sciences admitted nine graduate students in its first class in fall 1969, and later became its own department in 1997.



Last updated July 7, 2021