School of Civic Life and Leadership debuts new minor

SCiLL courses offer interdisciplinary training in civics, the humanities and scientific literacy.

Student with white baseball cap talking in front of seated group of students.
(Rob Holliday/UNC-Chapel Hill)

The College of Arts and Sciences’ School of Civic Life and Leadership, launched last fall with the appointment of nine inaugural faculty, has created a new minor in civic life and leadership with courses designed to provide students with interdisciplinary training in civics, the humanities and scientific literacy.

“The minor will train students in civil discourse so that they can be engaged citizens prepared to safeguard our democracy. It is intentionally designed to be interdisciplinary and appeal broadly to a wide range of undergraduates regardless of specified major or career objectives,” said Sarah Treul Roberts, interim director and dean of SCiLL.

The minor will be offered beginning in fall 2024, with course registration for the fall semester scheduled to begin later this month.

The civic life and leadership minor will consist of three core courses and two electives. The core courses are:

  • SCLL 100: Foundations of Civic Life and Leadership, in which students will use classic texts in politics, philosophy and literature to examine the role of the state in society and the tensions that exist between individual freedom and the power of the state to keep order.
  • SCLL 101: Practice of Civic Life and Leadership, which will focus on the ideas and practices necessary to analyze arguments and to disagree in a productive and compassionate way. The course will cover four topics over the semester for students to practice researching multiple sides of an issue.
  • A culminating capstone course, which will be offered beginning in fall 2025. It will involve a service-learning or original project that will allow students to put the interdisciplinary skills they have developed into practice.

The two required elective courses can be chosen from more than 30 offerings grouped into three categories: scientific evidence and engagement, intellectual history and humanities, and civics and political institutions. The two electives must come from different categories.

“One of the strengths of this minor is that it draws from a multitude of disciplines across campus, exposing students to a range of courses that will help them to understand the historical roots and future repercussions of contemporary debates,” said Matthew Kotzen, a faculty member in SCiLL and chair of the philosophy department.

In all, nine academic departments spanning the arts, humanities, social sciences and natural sciences will offer courses that meet the elective requirements.

One new elective created especially for the minor is SCLL 200: Science and Society. This course explores the role of the sciences in the polity in general, and in American democracy specifically.

“We are predicting strong student interest in the civic life and leadership minor. It speaks to the polarization of our times,” said Jim White, Craver Family Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “A strong democracy depends on engaged citizens who are committed to open inquiry and working with others to embrace challenging topics. Our minor will equip them with these skills.”

Jed Atkins was recently named as the director and dean of SCiLL.

More information about the school and the minor can be found on the SCiLL website.