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School of Civic Life and Leadership introduces new minor for fall 2024


Photos courtesy of Ira Wilder and Adobe Stock.

The School of Civic Life and Leadership will introduce a new minor for students during next week’s course registration period.

The SCiLL, part of the College of Arts and Sciences, created a new civic life and leadership minor designed to include an interdisciplinary focus on public discourse. The SCiLL announced the minor on March 1, and students can take courses that are part of the minor in the fall.

Sarah Treul Roberts, interim dean of the SCiLL, said the inaugural faculty worked to design a curriculum that provides students with a foundational background of the American democratic experience to apply in their own career fields. She said she thinks the new minor is critical to the school's success.

According to a statement from Jim White, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, the minor will complement many of the majors that are offered at UNC and will enhance students' skills in communication, rhetoric and scientific literacy.

The minor requires students to take three foundational SCiLL courses and two electives. The core courses include School of Civil Life & Leadership 100: Foundations of Civic Life and Leadership and 101: Practice of Civic Life and Leadership, as well as  a capstone course that will be offered in fall  2024. Treul Roberts said the courses will allow students to learn how to communicate across differences, which she said has increasingly become a problem on campus and across the country.

Students also are required to take two of the 35 course electives offered across three disciplinary categories, including science evidence and engagement, intellectual history and humanities, and civic and political institutions. 

Matthew Kotzen, chair of the philosophy department and SCiLL inaugural faculty member, said the goal of the minor is to produce engaged and active members of American society who can analyze social disagreements.

“There’s an organizing theme around the SCiLL minor of trying to equip Carolina students with the knowledge and skills they’ll need to be successful participants of public and civic life while at Carolina and after they leave,” Kotzen said.

Sarah Crow, a junior majoring in business, is part of the Agora Fellows program offered under the Program for Public Discourse, which aims to provide undergraduate students with a space to experiment with conversation and communication. Crow said her involvement in the program has allowed her to learn which forms of communication are successful in conflicts.

Practicing public discourse allows students to detach their identity from their ideology, Crow added.

“I am really excited about the School of Civic Life and Leadership as it gives students an opportunity to try on different ideas and engage in debate and discourse,” she said.

Kotzen said the process of creating the minor succeeded because specialists from across different disciplines shared their expertise and made the curriculum accessible for all students. The school will continue to develop its capstone course for its debut this fall.

There are also hopes to establish a SCiLL major, Kotzen said, but not in the immediate future. With the appointment of SCiLL Director and Dean Jed Atkins this month, Kotzen said the faculty wants to give Atkins the ability to share his vision for the school.

"I can imagine students pairing this minor with a major in the natural sciences or the humanities or the social sciences," Treul Roberts said. "It will fit very nicely regardless of the chosen focus area and-or career that the student eventually chooses."

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