What is the mission of the School of Government?

The School’s mission is to improve the lives of North Carolinians by engaging in practical scholarship that helps public officials and citizens understand and improve state and local government.[1]

The School of Government is unique both within Carolina and nationally because its mission of statewide public engagement is carried out through the work of tenure-track and other faculty members. A commitment to North Carolina government enables the School’s faculty members to understand deeply the special challenges facing state and local officials, and encourages them to work closely with officials over time in addressing those challenges. In addition to possessing expertise in their academic disciplines, the School’s faculty members must have the ability to make complicated subjects understandable without sacrificing subtlety and complexity.

The School’s mission flows from the University of North Carolina’s rich history of engagement with the people of North Carolina. Pursuit of the School’s mission directly advances the greater mission of the University, which explicitly includes the extension of “knowledge-based services and other resources . . . to the citizens of North Carolina and their institutions to enhance the quality of life for all people in the state. . . . .”[2]

Carolina’s genuine commitment to serving its own state has distinguished it from other major public research universities. This did not happen by accident. In 1915, President Edward Kidder Graham declared that University service is “the radiating power of a new passion” that goes beyond “thinly stretching out its resources” to the state.”[3] According to Graham, “[t]he State of North Carolina is the constituency of the University of North Carolina; therefore, its needs and aspirations are that University’s chief concern.”[4] This passion for service influenced the work of Frank Porter Graham, Albert Coates, Bill Friday, John Sanders, and many others throughout Carolina’s history, and the University’s mission continues to emphasize public engagement with North Carolina. Former chancellor James Moeser reaffirmed that “[s]ervice and engagement must be an integral part of a university’s life, not something we practice if we have extra time or if the mood strikes us or if our schedule permits or if it happens to be convenient. We must consider it an obligation and a responsibility, something that we owe society.”[5] The University’s current academic plan builds on this tradition, stating “[t]o lead public higher education in America, engagement must remain one of Carolina’s highest priorities.”[6] Carolina is a research university with a mission that has always included and rewarded public service.

  1. The School uses the term “public officials” in its broad sense to include elected and appointed North Carolina government officials. Faculty members also help citizens whose activities relate closely to government. For example, nonprofit organizations partner with governments in a variety of ways, including the delivery of important government services. School faculty members work with nonprofits and other individuals and organizations when doing so advances the work of state and local government. Faculty members also help the media understand North Carolina government and the actions of government
  2. Institutional Self-Study Report. (1995). All Useful Learning—Initiating a Third Century of Distinction 167. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 
  3. Graham, E.K. (1919). Education and Citizenship and Other Papers 15. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons. 
  4. Odum, H.W. Editor (1925). Southern Pioneers in Social Interpretation 209. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press.
  5. Address by Chancellor James Moeser, 10th Anniversary of the Friday Center (March 27, 2001). Chancellor Moeser also declared that “[w]e must very clearly send the message far and wide to all parts of our campus and all corners of our state that we take public service just as seriously and value it just as highly as we do teaching and research. That it is equally important and equally necessary for us to fulfill our obligation to North Carolina citizens. So as we look at tenure and post-tenure review, we must consider how public service and engagement fit into the formula. We must send a message loudly and clearly from the highest levels of the University that service is valued, just as teaching and research are." 
  6. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (2003) Academic Plan 27.