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University Gazette

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

New minor in education allows students to explore educational issues and problems

Carolina is launching a new minor in education, one that is designed to give undergraduates opportunities to explore educational issues, problems and dilemmas and to expose them to careers in education.

The School of Education and the College of Arts and Sciences developed the minor to meet a deep interest among Carolina students in educational issues such as current reforms and policies, implications of new learning research, educational equity, and achievement and resource gaps in schools, said Bill McDiarmid, dean of the School of Education.

“We know that Carolina students care deeply about education, their communities and social injustice,” McDiarmid said. “Students have asked for opportunities to examine closely issues that bear on the educational inequities that plague our schools. This new minor will provide opportunities for them to do so.”

The minor was developed under a charge from Chancellor Holden Thorp and McDiarmid that called for an innovative approach to offering students a new course of study that examines education topics and provides experiences working in classrooms.

The new minor was designed to answer the expressed interest among many students for an exploration of educational policy issues, said George Noblit, Joseph R. Neikirk Distinguished Professor of Sociology of Education and director of the minor.

“The minor’s course of study will give undergraduates opportunities to investigate the policy climate affecting education, giving students the capacity to think critically about these issues and to participate in public debates about them,” Noblit said.

Issues such as school reform models, charter schools, school voucher programs, educational equity and achievement gaps are among the topics that will be explored, he said. Courses in the minor will also examine what research has discovered about the nature of learning, and implications of that research for teachers, schools and parents.

The minor will consist of five courses, three offered by the School of Education as well as a course outside the school and a senior-year capstone course. The College of Arts and Sciences offers more than 15 courses from a variety of disciplines that can count toward the minor.

The new minor will also provide students who are considering teaching opportunities (including Teach For America) to observe and work in educational settings. Teach For America was the largest single employer of students graduating from Carolina in 2011.

Private gifts to the School of Education are covering the costs associated with implementing the minor.

An advisory committee made up of education faculty and three students developed the proposal for the minor.

Committee member Nina Brashears, a senior majoring in public policy, said that while she was able to complete a concentration in education policy within her major, she would have liked to take more courses to explore educational issues.

“Talking with other students made me realize that there was a population on campus that would benefit from and embrace a minor in education,” she said.

“Many students pursue educational-related issues as extracurricular activities, and the minor allows those students to take that passion and energy into an academic setting.”

For information, including an online application (deadline is March 15), see