About Us

What We Do

The Program on Public Life works to enable the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to serve the people of the state and region by informing the public agenda and nurturing leadership.

Established in 1997 and now residing in the Center for the Study of the American South, the Program serves as a vehicle for the university to exercise its scholarly strength, civic tradition and historic mission of public service in North Carolina and the South.

Our goals are to provide “research brokerage” so that the work of scholars at UNC-Chapel Hill and other institutions contributes to the work of elected officials, journalists and civic leaders; to serve North Carolina and the South by supporting and fostering enlightened leadership; and to offer a gathering place for leaders – in political and civic life and in the news media – to engage in substantive debate along with periods of study and reflection.

Our current projects include an annual Leadership Seminar for Southern Legislators, a once-a-semester Journalists Roundtable, a Carolina Seminar on School Improvement, evening discussion sessions for North Carolina legislators, and working roundtables on such topics as coastal development and business innovation and entrepreneurship.


  • SouthNow: the Program’s flagship journal, combining research and analysis of major trends in the region
  • NC DataNet: journal devoted exclusively to government and political data in North Carolina
  • Carolina Context: report focusing on research findings by UNC faculty and graduate students on demographic, economic, education and environmental issues.
  • SouthNow Blog: online journal covering the news media, public policy and politics
  • SouthNow Email Update: program news and highlights

Principal Projects

  • Southern Journalists Roundtable
    A once-a-semester gathering of journalists who report and analyze issues in Southern states, as well as Washington, D.C.  The journalists meet with faculty and graduate students, as well as invited presenters.
  • Leadership Seminar for Southern Legislators
    An annual four-day seminar held on the Chapel Hill campus, conducted in collaboration with the UNC Program on the Humanities and Human Values.  More than 100 legislators from 10 states have participated in the six seminars offered since 1999.
  • Seminars on School Reform and High School Athletics
    Reporting on State and Local Governments, a forum in conjunction with the Committee of Concerned Journalists
  • ‘After the Factories’
    Carolina Seminars on economic development