Arts & Humanities

A brief history of Carolina’s philosophy outreach

UNC-Chapel Hill’s philosophy department has a longstanding tradition of outreach and community engagement, dating back at least to 1979 when Maynard Adams founded Carolina Public Humanities (then called the Program in the Humanities and Human Values), which aimed to promote a culture of engagement within the humanities and to share the intellectual resources of the University with the community.

Over the years, doctoral students and faculty members in philosophy were active in the program’s efforts to bring philosophical and humanistic reflection into schools and communities. In the early 2000s, Adam’s tradition of engaged philosophy received a welcome infusion of support that led to the creation of the present-day Outreach Program in Philosophy. Professor Geoff Sayre-McCord, a former department chair and longtime leader within the department’s outreach efforts, identifies the year UNC-Chapel Hill’s Susan Wolf won the prestigious Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s Distinguished Achievement Award (2002) as a pivotal moment in the genesis of the outreach program.

“Thanks to the generous backing of Susan Wolf, the philosophy department used the award funds to establish an outreach coordinator position for doctoral students who demonstrated excellence in both scholarship and engagement,” Sayre-McCord said.

In 2012 the philosophy department and the Parr Center for Ethics together established the directorship as a permanent position, a reflection of their commitment to stable and lasting community partnerships.