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Hart Leadership Program

Gunther Peck headshot"Leadership is not a thing, a particular character trait visible across all geographies and throughout time. Rather, leadership is something we practice in relationship with others and in the particular historical context that gives our actions urgency and moral purpose.  Leadership becomes visible not only when an individual changemaker experiences success -- when a citizen wins an election, for example -- but when a person learns how to mobilize people who disagree with one another toward common aspirational goals.” – HLP Director Gunther Peck

The Hart Leadership Program is a distinctive Sanford School of Public Policy program offered to all Duke University undergraduates, including public policy students. With guidance from innovative faculty, it challenges students to practice the art of leadership in public life.

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    Leadership During a Pandemic

    Political Engagement Project fellows Erin Lee, Catherine Martinez, and Julianna Rennie (PEP ’20, PPS’21) didn’t let the COVID-19 pandemic stop their work on immigration and representation. Before the pandemic, the women were working on a documentary in conjunction with Define American—an organization that fights injustice and anti-immigrant hate. When Duke announced that students would not be returning to campus due to the pandemic, the three students decided to shift the focus of their project to a pressing topic: ethical representation of Asian immigrants and Asian Americans in the wake of COVID-19.

    Read about their project >>

Founded in 1986 with a generous gift from Milledge A. Hart III and his family, HLP was the first endowed leadership program for undergraduates in the United States. Since then, thousands of Duke undergraduate students have participated in HLP courses or experiential programs.

HLP uses a four-pronged approach:

  • Courses give students analytical frameworks for grappling with the problems facing our global community.
  • Immersion experiences outside the classroom help students see how policy works in the real world.
  • Writing and discussion challenge students to reflect critically on their experiences and make sense of them.
  • One-on-one mentoring helps students develop the skills, confidence and motivation to translate their learning into action.

The Hart Leadership Program offers 5-8 courses each semester, serving an average of 200 Duke undergraduate students a year. Around 50 students participate in HLP’s experiential-learning programs every year, which include:

  • Service Opportunities in Leadership: An intensive 12-month leadership program for Duke undergraduates that combines academic study, research service-learning, mentoring and leadership training.
  • The Hart Fellows Program offers recent university graduates a 10-month fellowship with innovative organizations domestically and abroad. A competitive application process takes place each spring. Since its inception in 1995, more than 100 fellows have worked in 40 countries.
  • The Political Engagement Project is a leadership initiative for public policy majors interested in politics and includes coursework, support for summer internships, and mentoring.