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Leadership & Staff


Sarah Treul

Faculty Director (On Leave)
Program for Public Discourse
Bowman and Gordon Gray Professor
Department of Political Science
Professor Treul is the faculty director of the Program for Public Discourse and a Bowman and Gordon Gray Term Professor of political science at UNC. She specializes in American political institutions, with an emphasis on the U.S. Congress. She earned her B.A. in Political Science and Psychology from Wellesley College and her M.A and Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota.
Sarah’s current work examines the role of previous political experience and anti-establishment rhetoric on the success of congressional candidates and vote choice in the electorate. Other ongoing projects analyze the role of experience and ideology on legislative effectiveness in Congress, how extreme ideological primary challenges influence congressional behavior and the effect of public opinion on congressional outcomes.
Sarah is the recipient of UNC’s Tanner Award for Teaching Excellence, the Chapman Family Teaching Award, Honors Carolina’s Manekin Award for Teaching Excellence, and the department of political science’s Robson Award for Excellence in Graduate Instruction.

Kevin Marinelli

Executive Director
Program for Public Discourse
Teaching Associate Professor
Department of Communication
Kevin Marinelli (Ph.D., University of Georgia) serves as Executive Director of the Program for Public Discourse and teaches in the Department of Communication. He teaches courses in rhetorical studies, and his scholarship centers on public argument. He has published essays in Rhetoric Society Quarterly and Argumentation and Advocacy, including his most recent essay on the emergence of Black Lives Matter. Kevin also leads the Agora Fellows, a group of undergraduate students committed to the study and practice of public discourse in contemporary democracy. Currently, Kevin is investigating practices of rhetorical citizenship.

Carissa Byrne-Hessick

Advisory Committee
Program for Public Discourse
Anne Shea Ransdell and William Garland “Buck” Ransdell, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Law
UNC School of Law
Carissa Byrne Hessick is the Anne Shea Ransdell and William Garland “Buck” Ransdell, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of North Carolina School of Law, where she also serves as the Director of the Prosecutors and Politics Project. Her teaching and research interests include criminal law, the structure of the criminal justice system, criminal sentencing and child pornography crimes. Hessick is the author of multiple law review articles, essays and op eds on plea bargaining, prosecutors, Sixth Amendment sentencing rights and criminal statutes. Her work has appeared in the California Law Review, the Cornell Law Review, the L.A. Times, the UCLA Law Review and the Virginia Law Review, among others. She founded the Prosecutors and Politics Project in 2018 and also currently serves as the Reporter for the ABA Criminal Justice Section’s Sentencing Standards Task Force.
Hessick received her B.A. from Columbia University. While obtaining her undergraduate degree, she won the 1999 American Parliamentary Debate Association National Championship. Hessick is a graduate of Yale Law School, where she was an editor of the Yale Law Journal and winner of the Potter Stewart Prize for the Morris Tyler Moot Court of Appeals. After graduating from law school, Hessick clerked for Judge Barbara S. Jones on the Southern District of New York and for Judge A. Raymond Randolph on the D.C. Circuit. She also worked as a litigation associate at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz in New York City. Before joining the faculty at Carolina Law, Hessick taught on the faculties at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and the University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney College of Law. She also spent two years as a Climenko Fellow at Harvard Law School.

Chris Clemens

Advisory Committee
Program for Public Discourse
Senior Associate Dean for Research and Innovation
College of Arts & Sciences
Chris Clemens is Senior Associate Dean for Research and Innovation in the College of Arts & Sciences and served as interim Faculty Director for the Program for Public Discourse in its inaugural year. As senior associate dean, Clemens drives strategic planning and guides the College’s academic divisions and research programs, fostering new models of innovation, new initiatives and new collaborations.
Previously, Clemens served as senior associate dean for natural sciences, where his accomplishments included drafting a plan and funding proposal for the pilot of the Institute for Convergent Science; working with chair Jaye Cable to launch the new Environment, Ecology and Energy program, E3P; collaborating with chairs to build the research enterprise and developing the curriculum in the College’s newest departments — applied physical sciences and biomedical engineering; assisting in the search for a new director of the Institute for the Environment; and leading the College’s distinguished professor selection committee.
A stellar astrophysicist with a B.S. in astrophysics from the University of Oklahoma and a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Texas at Austin, Clemens came to UNC in 1998 after completing a NASA Hubble Postdoctoral Fellowship at Iowa State University and a Sherman Fairchild Prize Postdoctoral Fellowship at Caltech. Before becoming senior associate dean for natural sciences, Clemens served as chair of the department of physics and astronomy at UNC for four years.

Donna Gilleskie

Advisory Committee
Program for Public Discourse
Department of Economics
Donna Gilleskie is a professor in the Economics Department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She earned B.A.s in Economics and Mathematics from UNC in 1989, an M.A. in 1992, and her Ph.D., 1994, in economics from the University of Minnesota.
Donna’s research focuses on the health, health insurance decisions, and medical and non-medical care utilization of individuals and how these behaviors impact employment and education decisions and subsequent health over time.
Donna was awarded the international Health Economics Association’s Kenneth Arrow Award for the best published paper on health economics in 1998, Econometrica, 1998. She received the Faculty-to-Graduate Student Mentoring Award from the Carolina Women’s Leadership Council in 2014 and a University-wide Distinguished Teaching Award for Post-Baccalaureate Instruction in 2019. She served as President of the Southern Economic Association in 2019 and is currently serving as chair of the Economics Department.

Nora Hanagan

Events Coordinator
Program for Public Discourse
Teaching Assistant Professor
Department of Political Science
Nora Hanagan is a teaching assistant professor of political science. She teaches courses on American political thought, contemporary democratic theory, and environmental political thought. Prior to joining UNC, she served as Managing Director of the Duke Program in American Values and Institutions and taught at both Duke and the University of Wisconsin.
In her research, Professor Hanagan investigates the ethical obligations that accompany democratic citizenship while considering how citizens might fulfill these obligations in societies that are imperfectly democratic. Much of her work puts historical American thinkers—such as Jane Addams and Martin Luther King Jr.—in dialogue with contemporary democratic theorists.

Christian Lundberg

Advisory Committee
Program for Public Discourse
Associate Professor
Department of Communication
Christian Lundberg is an associate professor in communication and Co-Director of the University Program in Cultural Studies. His teaching and research interests include theories of the public and public discourse, public speaking, rhetorical theory, debate and deliberation, critical theory, and Cultural Studies. Dr. Lundberg also teaches the First Year Seminar “Think, Speak, Argue,” which focuses on debate and public speaking skills as pedagogical tools and as critical components of democratic life.
Professor Lundberg’s current research focuses on theories of the public as a social and discursive form, and on the animating principles for public discourses and identities. In addition, he has written a number of pieces that unpack forms of discourse constituting specific publics, with special attention to the intersection between public and religious discourse in Islam and Evangelical Christianity.
At the level of specific practices of public discourse and pedagogy, his work focuses on rhetorical theory, and on debate and public speaking as critical democratic forms.

Mark McNeilly

Advisory Committee
Program for Public Discourse
Professor of the Practice of Marketing
Kenan-Flagler Business School
Mark McNeilly is a professor of the practice of marketing at the Kenan-Flagler Business School. He teaches in the areas of marketing and organizational behavior in both the MBA and online MBA@UNC programs. McNeilly served as a global marketing executive and has several years of experience with both IBM and Lenovo in the IT industry. His business background includes branding, strategy, marketing, market intelligence, management, manufacturing and personnel.
McNeilly has authored three books with Oxford University Press, one of which is George Washington and the Art of Business: Leadership Principles of America’s First Commander-in-Chief. He has presented his views on strategy and marketing to corporations; businesspeople in the United States, Europe and Asia; as well as the U.S. Air Force Command and Staff College. He has discussed his ideas on strategy on the BBC, C-SPAN, CNBC’s “Power Lunch” and other TV and radio programs. McNeilly appeared on a History Channel Special on Sun Tzu’s “Art of War.” He has been an expert blogger for Fast Company magazine.
McNeilly received his MBA with honors from the University of Minnesota and his BS in finance from the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse.

Molly Worthen

Interim Director
Program for Public Discourse
Associate Professor
Department of History
Molly Worthen is an associate professor of history at UNC and a freelance journalist. She received her B.A. and Ph.D. from Yale University. Her research focuses on North American religious and intellectual history. Her first book, The Man On Whom Nothing Was Lost, is a behind-the-scenes study of American diplomacy and higher education told through the lens of biography. Her current book project focuses on the history of charisma in America.Her most recent book, Apostles of Reason, examines American evangelical intellectual life since 1945, especially the internal conflicts among different evangelical subcultures.
Worthen teaches courses on North American religious and intellectual culture and global Christianity, and she won the 2017 Tanner Award for Teaching Excellence. She is a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times and has written about religion and politics for The New Yorker, Slate, The American Prospect, Foreign Policy, and other publications.

Hunter Matthews

Special Program Assistant
Program for Public Discourse
Hunter Matthews is a Special Programs Assistant for the UNC Program for Public Discourse. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington with a Bachelor’s degree in History and International Studies, with minors in International Affairs and Asian Studies. While at UNC Wilmington, he interned in Washington, D.C, and with the State Department in Vienna, Austria.

Nicholas Gerstner

Graduate Agora Fellow
Program for Public Discourse
Doctoral Student and Teaching Fellow
Department of Communication
Nicholas Gerstner is a doctoral student and instructor in the Department of Communication here at UNC. As a scholar of media and cultural studies, he explores questions of identity, difference, and division in American (US) culture and politics. His current project examines the construction of “polarization” and how it is used to make sense of a complex and often threatening world. At national conferences, he has presented work on the technological and statistical mediation of the COVID-19 pandemic, struggles over vaccination as a crisis of valuation, and the historical problematization of complexity. He teaches courses on cultural studies, public speaking, and media and popular culture.

Josh Youakim

Graduate Agora Fellow
Program for Public Discourse
Doctoral Student
Department of Communication
Joshua Youakim is a doctoral student in the Department of Communication at UNC. His research interests typically sit at an intersection of rhetoric and cultural studies, with a particular focus on the ways in which communities (broadly speaking) exist in relationship with particular forms of space and place and how that relationship is constructed, challenged, and negotiated through material and discursive means.
His teaching focuses largely on rhetoric and public speaking courses. He has presented and published work on the role of curriculum and experiential learning initiatives in influencing the relationship between institutions of higher learning and the local communities in which they are situated.