The Seminars serve the “of the public, for the public” service mission of the University to the people of North Carolina and beyond through an expanding collaborative effort on timely topics of interest to policy and scholarly exchange. According to Professor Ruel Tyson, “The Carolina Seminars provides an opportunity to build bridges between scholars and researchers on campus and their kind elsewhere. It will help create a sense of community among those whose work usually separates them from one another.”
While the main focus is collaborative study, considerable outreach is ventured by some conveners. For example, following 9/11, participants in the Islam seminar gave some 200 presentations publicly on Islam. Carolina Seminars has proved an effective way of providing faculty and others opportunities to collaborate and cross-disciplinary lines. In fact, Carolina Seminars have been crucial to the University’s public engagement mission in the state, nation, and wider world. We advance many strategic University initiatives including globalizing and building community together while also cultivating spaces of inquiry that reach more than five thousand people annually. Looking ahead, we seek opportunities to build on the University’s legacy while reimagining how it supports the intellectual, fiscal, and community endeavors of multiple publics.
Looking ahead, we seek new opportunities and we welcome ideas for deploying this program in relation to the larger aims and needs of Carolina.
The Carolina Seminars are supported by the Massey-Weatherspoon Fund, which was established in 1984 by three generations of the Massey and Weatherspoon families. Alumnus C. Knox Massey, established the awards to recognize university employees for “unusual, meritorious or superior contribution” to the university. In 1984 Massey joined his son, C. Knox Massey, Jr., and daughter, Kay Massey Weatherspoon, in establishing the Massey Weatherspoon Fund. These funds thus made possible the creation, in 1991, of Carolina Seminars, a program dedicated to bringing scholars together for collaboration.
Chancellor Paul Hardin announced the creation of the Carolina Seminars in September of 1991 and Ruel Tyson was named Founding Director. James Peacock became Director in 1997 and served in that position for sixteen years followed by Andrew J. Perrin as Director in 2014. In February 2020, Tanya Shields was named the fourth Director of the Carolina Seminars.