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Two key leadership appointments have been made in the College of Arts & Sciences’ Program for Public Discourse, a program launched in 2019 to bring together UNC-Chapel Hill faculty and students to build a stronger community by offering every student the opportunity to become a more informed, engaged and skilled citizen.

Sarah Treul, a Bowman and Gordon Gray Distinguished Term Professor of Political Science at Carolina, will become faculty director of the program, and Kevin Marinelli, who teaches rhetoric at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will serve as executive director.

The appointments were made by Terry Rhodes, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. Treul was selected for the leadership position from among faculty already participating in the program, whose members span seven departments in the College, Kenan-Flagler Business School and the Law School. Marinelli was identified in a formal search by an interdisciplinary search committee with members from several academic departments. Both positions are effective July 1.

Sarah Treul

“Dr. Treul and Dr. Marinelli will bring strengths to this program from their respective backgrounds in political science and rhetoric,” said Rhodes. “The search for knowledge is most robust when deliberation occurs and diverse ideas are discussed intelligently and constructively by the students and faculty. We look forward to increased programming on topics of civic engagement and to the development of courses that support our new IDEAs in Action curriculum, which will launch next year.”

As faculty director of the Program for Public Discourse, Treul will define the strategic priorities and objectives of the program, working in coordination with the College of Arts & Sciences Dean’s Office, relevant department chairs and program faculty. She will appoint all joint faculty, advisory board members, fellows and visiting scholars and will also approve all teaching assignments associated with the program. She will also supervise the executive director position and approve all budgets and programming.

Treul has been on the Carolina faculty since 2009. Her research interests are American political institutions, specifically congressional primary elections and decision-making in the U.S. Senate. The faculty director position is a three-year appointment.

“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to lead this program,” said Treul. “My experience in the classroom shows me that Carolina students are hungry for tools that will make them effective and persuasive communicators, and they have shown themselves to be eager to explore and consider all sides of multifaceted issues.”

As executive director, Marinelli will be responsible for managing programming in the Program for Public Discourse. This includes mentoring the Polis Fellows, undergraduates who produce a periodical, Polis, that debates contemporary topics of wide interest; recruiting speakers for campus events; and working with the Center for Faculty Excellence and other campus entities to support civic engagement and the wider use of structured advocacy, rhetoric and debate in the classroom.

Marinelli is a rhetorical scholar who previously served as director of the Speaking Center at Davidson College for three years before joining MIT in 2019. He has also taught at Young Harris College, the University of Georgia and San Jose State University. He holds a holds a Ph.D. in speech-communication from the University of Georgia and an M.A. in the same subject from San Jose State. He holds bachelor’s degrees in both communication studies and political science from the College of Charleston.

Kevin Marinelli

“I have devoted my career to empowering students to explore challenging topics through rigorous and informed deliberation,” said Marinelli. “I am excited by the opportunity to work with Sarah to develop and build out this new program at UNC.”

The executive director position is a non-tenure-track position. Marinelli will also hold a teaching assistant professor title and teach courses in the department of communication.

The Program for Public Discourse seeks to build a culture of robust debate and civic engagement at Carolina while upholding the core principles of academic freedom of expression and academic inquiry. The program supports the development or enhancement of courses and campus life experiences that employ techniques, practices and processes for discussion, deliberation and debate. The program sponsored several key events in the 2019-20 academic year, including Thinking for Yourself: When Values Diverge from Politics; Impeachment: Then and Now, and Meritocracy in Higher Education.

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