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Finalists Announced for School of Civic Life Dean

The School of Civic Life and Leadership has named four finalists to serve as of UNC’s newest school: Jed W. Atkins, Daniel DiSalvo, Thomas Merrill and Sarah Treul Roberts.

Atkins is the E. Blake Byrne Associate Professor in Duke University’s classical studies, political science and philosophy department. He is faculty director of the Civil Discourse Project at Duke’s Kenan Institute for Ethics and director of the school’s Transformative Ideas Program. Atkins’ research focuses on Greek, Roman and early Christian moral and political thought. He has written two books, most recently Roman Political Thought.

DiSalvo is a political science professor in the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership at the City College of New York-CUNY. He is also chair of the department of political science and is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. His research focuses on American political parties, elections, labor unions, state government and public policy. He has written two books and has published various articles in politically-based and popular publications including The New York Times.

Merrill is an associate professor at American University’s department of government and is associate director of the Political Theory Institute. He also serves as co-editor of the journal American Political Thought. He is the author of Hume and the Politics of Enlightenment, which won the Delba Winthrop Prize for Best Recent Work in Political Philosophy in 2014.

Roberts is the current interim director and dean of the School of Civic Life and Leadership. She’s also the faculty director for UNC’s Program for Public Discourse and a Bowman and Gordon Gray Professor in the political science department. Roberts’ research focuses on the role of previous political experience and anti-establishment rhetoric on the success of congressional candidates. Roberts has won various teaching awards, including the department of political science’s Robson Award for Excellence in Graduate Instruction.

Provost Chris Clemens’ decision on the director and dean of the school is expected soon and will be made after he receives input from College of Arts and Sciences Dean James White, to whom the position will report; the search committee and those who heard presentations and met with the candidates, according to UNC Media Relations.

The UNC Board of Trustees must approve the hire, as is the case with all tenured faculty hires at Carolina.

Mark Katz, the John P. Barker Distinguished Professor of music and the founding director of the Next Level Cultural Diplomacy Program, served as chair of the search committee. Joining him on the search committee were Kurt Gray and Molly Worthen, faculty members in the School of Civic Life and Leadership; Donna Gilleskie ’89, an economics professor; Nora Hanagan, a political science professor; Carissa Hessick, a law professor; and an undergraduate student. Elizabeth Engelhardt, senior associate dean of fine arts and humanities, was an ex officio member.

Candidates presented their visions for the school and how their research and professional activities would support their visions. Each candidate presented during four sessions in January and submitted scholarly publications for review and met with the search panel, which included faculty, staff and students, according to The Daily Tar Heel.

Merrill viewed the school functioning as an academic project rather than a political one. Atkins recommended the school operate as a residential learning community. DiSalvo highlighted ways UNC has counteracted some higher education trends. Roberts outlined the school’s minor degree created by the inaugural faculty of the school and how it will attract multiple viewpoints among students.

— Cameron Hayes Fardy ’23

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