Carolina Graduate Certificate in Innovation for the Public Good

Carolina Graduate Certificate in Innovation for the Public Good

The Carolina Graduate Certificate in Innovation for the Public Good (CIPG) gives masters and doctoral students an educational pathway to explore modern changemaking and practice the skills they need to help create meaningful change in the world. The certificate is sponsored by three academic units: the College of Arts and Sciences, Gillings School of Global Public Health, and the School of Education.

CIPG provides students from any department with the mindset, tools and methods they need to work effectively across disciplines to solve complex problems. By earning the certificate, students become skilled in methods that they can apply to their doctoral or thesis research. CIGP also equips them with career-ready skills that they can use when working on multi-disciplinary teams in businesses, non-profits and government agencies that increasingly demand the ability to apply cross-sector, community-engaged practices.  

Interested in the certificate program?

Graduate-level training

The certificate provides graduate-level training that teaches students how to:

• Focus innovation designs around the voices, experiences, wishes and aspirations of those affected by the innovation.  
• Develop an understanding of their own experiences, intentions, strengths, limitations, motivations and biases as changemakers.
• Identify, define and analyze problems.
• Recognize opportunities, challenges and the assets of communities.
• Generate optimal solutions by applying social innovation in practice.
• Understand how the context of problems and imagined solutions affects the way innovations are designed and implemented.
• Recognize and assess the strengths and limitations of various social innovation approaches – and identify which are most appropriate in specific contexts.
• Engage stakeholders in the co-design, implementation, evaluation and adaptive learning associated with an innovation.
• Build and maintain collaborations and partnerships in support of shared mission over time.

Sponsoring academic units

Program Overview

CIPG courses emphasize evidence-based and creative problem-solving approaches, along with team-oriented, customer/community discovery methods, that students can use to develop solutions that address pressing human concerns. The learning journey is designed to help students move their ideas into action through the intentional development of mindset, knowledge and skills that transcend any single discipline.

The certificate program requires students to take nine credits:

•Core Course: 3 credits in Design Thinking for the Public Good

•Elective Course: 3 credits in Innovation Methods, Tools and Best Practices

•Elective Course: 3 credits in Social Innovation in Practice

The program offers a set of cross-disciplinary courses from:

• College of Arts and Sciences
• Gillings School of Global Public Health
• School of Education
• Hussman School of Journalism and Media
• Kenan-Flagler Business School
• School of Government
• School of Information and Library Science
• School of Social Work

Graduate students from any of the UNC-Chapel Hill’s graduate programs, including the professional schools and College of Arts and Sciences, are encouraged to apply.

Prerequisites for Admission
Baccalaureate degree from an accredited undergraduate institution.
• Currently enrolled as masters or doctoral student at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Application Process
Graduate students seeking admissions must complete an application that includes signatures of their degree advisor and academic coordinator. The application form for the certificate program are available, and students my apply at any time. The application form will ask applicants for:

• Name, contact information, graduate program and department, degree sought, expected graduation date, and advisor’s name.
• A short statement of interest and how the program will support their learning goals.
• A list of courses that they expect to take on a year-by-year basis to meet the CIPG requirements.

If you have interest in the CIPG program or would like to learn more, we encourage you to:

Apply now.
• Send an email with a specific question to

The certificate program requires students to take 9 credits based on the following criteria:

3 Credits: Foundational Core Course
• HBEH 748: Design Thinking for the Public Good (Spring). Priority will be given to students enrolled in the certificate.

The courses below have been approved by our Advisory Board to fulfill the Innovation Methods, Tools and Best Practices and Social Innovation in Practice requirements as indicated. We used historical data prior to Fall 2020 to collect information about which semesters these courses have recently been taught. However, this does NOT guarantee that these courses will be offered in the coming academic year. If you would like us to consider a substitution request, please send the course number/name, instructor and syllabus to All requests will be reviewed and approved/declined by the Advisory Board.

3 Credits: Innovation Methods, Tools and Best Practices. Choose a course from the following list of highly recommended options:
• EDUC 818: Intervention Research and Social Entrepreneurship (Spring). Up to 6 seats will be available.
• HPM 890.002/966: Systems Thinking & Collective Impact (Confirmed for Fall 2021). This course will not be offered in the ‘20-‘21 academic year.
• PLCY 690/790: Methods and Tools for Social Entrepreneurship (Spring). Priority will be given to   students enrolled in the certificate.

If needed, students may substitute the following courses for this requirement:

• EDUC 767: Educational Innovation & Technology, Integrative Seminar I (Fall)
• MBA 833A: Systems Thinking for Sustainablen Enterprise (Spring). Taught in seminar (weekend) format.
• MBA 833D: Sustainability Reporting & Certification  (Fall). Taught in seminar (weekend) format.
• MEJO 463: News Lab (Fall, Spring)
• MEJO 530: Green Design Lab (Fall, Spring)
• N960 Proseminar: Digital Methods in Health Care and Quality Improvement (a series of three 1-credit courses, Spring)
• PLCY 435: Designing for Impact: Social Enterprise Lab (Fall). Note: PLCY 435 will not be offered during the 2020-21 academic year. 

3 Credits: Social Innovation in Practice. Choose from the following list of courses:
• EDUC 790: Special Topics Design of Emerging Technologies for Education (Fall)
• GLBL: 401: Paradigms of Development and Social Change (Spring)
• GLBL: 450H: Social Change in Times of Crisis: Re-imagining How We Know, Think and Do Change (Spring)
• GLBL: 487H Social Movements Rethinking Globalization: From the Zapatistas to Occupy Wall Street to # Black Lives Matter (Fall);  Note: GLBL 487H will not be offered during the 2020-21 academic year.
• INLS 584: Information Ethics (Spring)
• MBA 803C: Corporate Communication: Social Advocacy & Activism (Fall, Spring)
• MBA 824: Management of Workplace Diversity (Fall, Spring)
• MEJO 671: Social Marketing Campaigns (Fall, Spring)
• PLCY 485: Poverty, Health, and Human Development in Low Income Countries (Fall)
• PLCY 530: Educational Problems and Policy Solutions (Fall, Spring)
• PLCY 565: Global Health Policy (Fall, Spring)
• PLCY 575: Innovation, Science and Public Policy (Spring)
• PUBA 756: Nonprofit Management (Fall)
• PUBA 757/SOWO 885: Financial Management for Nonprofits (Spring)
• PUBA 758: Navigating Nonprofit-Local Government Relationships in Organizations (Spring)
• PUBA 763: Grant Writing (1.5 credits) (Fall, Spring)
• PUBH 718: Designing Public Health Systems (Fall)
• SOWO 792 Program Development and Proposal Development (1.5 credits) (Spring)
• SOWO 793: Asset Development Policy and Practice (Spring)
• SOWO 881: Development Theory and Practice (Fall)
• SPHG 428H: Public Health Entrepreneurship (Spring)

All courses are 3 credits except where noted.

Who can apply to the certificate program?
Any master’s or doctoral student currently enrolled at UNC-Chapel Hill can apply.   

How long does it take to complete the certificate program?
We expect students to complete the certificate over a two-year period, although it is possible to complete it in a shorter timeframe. 

Is there a required course sequence?
There is no required course sequence for completion, although we encourage students to consider taking the core course (HBEH 748: Design Thinking for the Public Good) early in the certificate.

During which semesters are the courses offered?
The core course (HBEH 748: Design Thinking for the Public Good) is offered during the spring semester. Other elective courses are offered during the fall and spring semesters.

Can a student apply the same course credits toward CIPG and their degree credentials?
A maximum of three credit hours can count toward a student’s certificate and degree credentials.

Is CIPG offered as a joint program with another university?
No, at this time the program is only offered at UNC-Chapel Hill. 

Is there a distance learning option?
Currently, the certificate program is only offered on campus at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Who are the academic sponsors of the certificate?
The three sponsoring academic units are the Department of Public Policy in the College of Arts and Sciences, the Gillings School of Global Public Health, and the School of Education.

What are the key deadlines for Fall 2020?

● August 1, 2020: Applications open for the inaugural Fall 2020 cohort

● September 1, 2020: Application deadline for Fall 2020 cohort

● October 1, 2020: Deadline for decisions to be sent out to applicants

● October 14, 2020 from 12-1 pm ET: Virtual orientation for Fall 2020 cohort

We will re-open the application to join the certificate program in Spring 2021.

How many students are you looking to accept in the Fall 2020 cohort?
In the first semester of this new certificate we plan to enroll 20 to 30 UNC-Chapel Hill graduate students. We hope to grow our cohort sizes in future semesters. We plan to start smaller so that we can focus on creating the certificate experience we and our students envision.

How will you decide which students to accept?
We will use a holistic review process, and each application will be reviewed by at least two reviewers. Reviewers will include certificate leadership and advisory board members. We will assess students based on academic diversity, the feasibility of certificate completion in their proposed course of study, and the quality of their personal statements.

If I’m not accepted into the Fall 2020 cohort, can I reapply in a future semester?
Yes, if you are not accepted into the inaugural Fall 2020 cohort you can reapply in future semesters starting Spring 2021. 

I’m interested in taking some of these courses listed under certificate requirements before I apply for the certificate. Is that recommended? 
Yes, we recommend that you enroll in certificate courses that you are interested in now. Many of them have limited enrollment for certificate students, so there is no guarantee that you will be able to get into courses in a future semester (aside from HBEH 748). For HBEH 748 in spring 2021, priority will be given to enrolled certificate students. There is a waiting list for non-certificate students. If you would like to be added to that waiting list, please fill out this form.

For the CIPG application, can I submit electronic signatures rather than original signatures?
Yes. We recommend sending the PDF document to your academic coordinator and degree advisor and having them sign electronically.

Is there a distance learning option?
Yes and no. Degree-seeking students in online graduate degree programs at UNC may apply to the certificate. However, we cannot guarantee that courses besides HBEH 748 will be available in a remote format. In the near-term, it is more feasible that courses will be available in a virtual format, but we’ll need to see whether remote classes will continue to be widely available beyond this academic year. 

• General:
• Program Director: Liz Chen, 919.966.9207

Board of Advisors


Liz Chen

Assistant Professor, Department of Health Behavior, Gillings School of Global Public Health; Design Thinking Lead, Innovate Carolina (CIPG Inaugural Director)

melissa carrier

Melissa Carrier

Professor of the Practice, Department of Public Policy; Director of the Office of Social Innovation, Innovate Carolina CIPG Advisory Board Chair


Tammy Cox

Executive Associate Dean, School of Information and Library Science


Gaurav Dave

Associate Professor of Medicine and the Associate Director of the Center for Health Equity Research, School of Medicine


Jason Doherty

Clinical Assistant Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship, Kenan-Flagler Business School


Heather Duhart

Managing Director MPA Program, School of Government


Daniel Gitterman

Professor and Chair, Department of Public Policy


Tanya Jisa

Clinical Assistant Professor and Community Education Coordinator, UNC School of Social Work


Erica Johnson

Teaching Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies, Global Studies

steve knotek

Steve Knotek

Associate Professor and Program Coordinator, School Psychology, School of Education


Kurt Ribisl

Chair and Jo Anne Earp Distinguished Professor in the Department of Health Behavior at the Gillings School of Global Public Health


Lisa Villamil

Assistant Professor, Hussman School of Journalism and Media


Marjorie White

Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the Startup NC Law Clinic, School of Law


Meg Zomorodi

Professor, School of Nursing