Major in Civics Honors

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Major in Civics Honors*

B.A. with a Major in Civics Honors in the School of Civic Leadership

Each of us wants to live for a purpose. But how do you decide what purpose is worthy of your ambition? Each of us wants to pursue goodness and justice. But how do we know what is good or just? Each of us longs for freedom. But how do you safeguard freedom for yourself and for others? 

These questions matter. What’s at stake is the direction of our lives and our society. If you’re asking these questions, you’re in good company. History’s greatest thinkers and doers have asked these questions, too.

Join the School of Civic Leadership to explore what it means and what it takes to thrive. This fall, we’ll welcome an inaugural cohort of students to study with faculty members dedicated to the pursuit of truth and wisdom. The School of Civic Leadership is home to a community of students and scholars on a mission to find out what it means and what it takes to be free and to live well.

*While approval is pending for the proposed major in Civics Honors, students may apply to the School of Civic Leadership as undeclared majors. We anticipate that the Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in Civics Honors will have final approval prior to the 2025-2026 academic year.

UT Austin’s School of Civic Leadership prepares students for the challenge of sustaining the American political project. That project of self-government depends for its success on citizens who understand the principles and practices that enable free people to act with shared purpose for the good of their communities. The SCL prepares students for lives of significance and for successful careers in education, government, business, the arts, medicine, culture, law, diplomacy, the military, and other fields.

On August 1, 2024, the SCL will begin accepting applications for its inaugural cohort of pioneering students. Admission will be competitive.

UT Austin’s School of Civic Leadership prepares students for the challenge of sustaining the American political project. That project of self-government depends for its success on citizens who understand the principles and practices that enable free people to act with shared purpose for the good of their communities. The SCL prepares students for lives of significance and for successful careers in education, government, business, the arts, medicine, culture, law, diplomacy, the military, and other fields.

On August 1, 2024, the SCL will begin accepting applications for its inaugural cohort of pioneering students. Admission will be competitive.

Civics is the study of the rights and obligations of citizenship. As an academic discipline, civics blends a classical liberal education with the study of American history, law, economics, and political philosophy. By providing a strong foundation in the ideas
and forces that continue to shape the American project, the study of civics prepares students to live well and to sustain American self-government.

When Elizabeth Willing Powel asked Benjamin Franklin at the close of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 what kind of government we would have, he famously replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.” The B.A. with a major in Civics Honors will prepare each cohort of students for that noble work. Political and civic life is about making decisions together with other people. Every political community must make choices not just about policy, but also about bigger questions, such as what it means to live well. As Americans, we have not only the freedom to govern ourselves, but also the responsibility of governing thoughtfully. We live in a free and divided society. As Benjamin Storey and Jenna Silber Storey argue, civics fosters knowledge and intellectual habits that enable students to deliberate with others on questions of common life as they relate to liberty, economics, technology, education, law, diplomacy and war, arts and culture, and the common good.

The American project is fragile. The effort to secure life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness depends on citizens who can think and act for the common good. The SCL equips students to steward our shared institutions and to meet innovation with practical wisdom. Students develop the ability to engage enduring texts of the ancient world, modernity, and the American story. These texts—and the promise and challenge they convey—become resources for students as they prepare to take responsibility for their lives and their communities.

The Bachelor of Arts with a major in Civics Honors introduces students to the intellectual inheritance of Western Civilization and to the American constitutional tradition. From the first intellectual foundations through a capstone thesis and internship, students gain experience that informs a life of service.

Students take a sequence of Intellectual Foundations of Civics courses that address Perennial Problems in Civic Thought, Origins of American Institutions, Democracy and Capitalism, and Excellence of Character: The Virtues. 

Students develop competency across three major areas of coursework: Constitutionalism, Western Civilization, and Civic Leadership. 

Constitutionalism courses introduce students to the history of rights, freedoms, and the rule of law. Central questions include: What are rights? Who bears them? What is law? What makes government legitimate? What do I owe to others? How have thinkers in the American tradition answered these questions? What’s the point of America’s complex set of governing institutions? 

Western Civilization courses introduce students to the quest for wisdom about how to live well and how to achieve liberty and order in community. Important questions include: What does it mean to be human? What does it mean to be an individual or a member of a community? What’s a good life? What, if anything, is sacred? What is friendship? What deserves my love? 

Civic Leadership courses give students practice resolving questions through ethical reflection, economic analysis, and thoughtful statecraft. Important questions include: How should I live and lead? How do I resolve ethical questions? What factors produce economic dynamism, and how are they measured? Which economic and political system best promotes human flourishing? How do nations relate to one another? What are the possible courses of action when those relationships break down? 

In dedicated Skills courses and throughout the program, students mature their capacity for understanding, rhetoric, inquiry, and textual analysis. 

All students complete a thesis, an internship, foreign language sequence, and electives. The thesis spans two semesters and it is the capstone of the Civics Honors experience.

When you earn a B.A. with a major in Civics Honors at UT Austin, you develop a sense of responsibility for our common life. You know that your actions matter, and you have tested resources that enable you to address the practical problems of modern life. You also gain valuable experience through your internship. As an honors graduate, you’ll leave UT Austin with an education for liberty. You’ll have the skills for a professional career in the private sector, the non-profit sector, or public service. You’ll graduate with the ability to think, to read, to write, to speak, to deliberate, and to analyze and interpret data. Those skills are in demand. Your honors degree signals to future employers that you are among the best of the best at on one of the top universities in the world. According to the Harvard Business Review Analytic Services’ white paper “The Business Case for Civics Education,” thriving corporations depend on the skills, knowledge, and deliberative disposition that students gain through the study of civics. Sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, the white paper notes that “the benefits of a quality civics education, which gives young people the knowledge, skills, and disposition to be successful citizens, have never been more valued by employers.” Every Civics Honors student completes an internship. Studies show that internships significantly boost success after graduation.

When you graduate with a B.A. with a major in Civics Honors, you’ll graduate with:

  • Agency: the knowledge that your actions matter
  • Intellectual confidence: the courage to think for yourself
  • Purpose: the desire to fulfill your potential
  • Rhetorical skill: the tools of competent communication and deliberation
  • Understanding: the wisdom that marks the best of Western civilization and American civic life
  • Character: the virtues necessary for principled leadership
  • Independence: the ability to gather and analyze information to draw your own conclusions

You can expect faculty members who:

  • Respect students and wish to see them thrive in life and in service
  • Hold students to high standards of thinking and communicating
  • Provide the support students need to excel
  • Delight in teaching and research
  • Offer purposeful work and honest evaluation

Starting August 1, 2024, the SCL will accept applications for its inaugural cohort. While approval is pending for the proposed major in Civics Honors, students may apply to the School of Civic Leadership as undeclared majors. We anticipate that the Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in Civics Honors will have final approval prior to the 2025-2026 academic year. Students who apply in fall 2024 to SCL as undeclared majors and receive acceptance will be able to transfer into the SCL’s B.A. with a major in Civics Honors once it has received final approval.

Ready to thrive in life and in service? Fall 2025 admissions open August 1, 2024