Nurkin to Direct Hart Leadership Program as of July 1

 April 11, 2022

Hart Associate Professor of the Practice Andrew Nurkin will become the new director of the Hart Leadership Program (HLP) on July 1, Dean Judith Kelley announced today. Nurkin succeeds Gunther Peck, who has served as the leader of the program since 2018.

man smiling outdoors
Andrew Nurkin

Sanford Dean Judith Kelley recognized Nurkin as incoming director and Peck for his leadership of HLP.

“The Hart Leadership Program is a hallmark part of Sanford directly related to our mission to prepare students for lives of leadership, civic engagement and public service. Andrew has the knowledge and skills in experiential learning and leadership development that make him a wonderful leader of the program. Gunther’s leadership has been pivotal to expand HLP significantly, from courses, to community partners, to faculty positions. I am thankful for the leadership of Andrew and Gunther,” she said.

This past fall, HLP recruited new faculty members Nurkin and Associate Professor of the Practice Alexandra Zagbayou. 

“Both colleagues are deeply dedicated to the core values of the Hart Leadership Program, combining life changing community-based engagement and research with the inner work of leadership development,” Peck said. “I know that the Hart Leadership Program will continue to thrive with the inspiring leadership practices of both Andrew and Alexandra, and I am sure that Andrew will do a fantastic job as the new director of the Hart Leadership Program.”

Nurkin’s academic and experiential training includes time spent at Duke in Hart Leadership Program classes working with founding director Bruce Payne. Before joining Duke in his faculty role, he directed public programs in the humanities, arts, and civic engagement for the Free Library of Philadelphia, one of the largest public library systems in the country. He has also served as executive director of a national nonprofit that builds civic leadership skills across generations and led civic engagement programs at Princeton University.

A well-regarded poet, effective community organizer, and tireless program builder at Princeton and in Philadelphia, Nurkin is a national leader in reimagining civic, political, and arts engagement for a thriving future. Nurkin holds an MFA in poetry from Vermont College of Fine Arts, a Master of Divinity from Yale Divinity School, and an undergraduate degree in English from Duke University.

Man, outside
Gunther Peck

“Through innovative teaching and thoughtful community engagement, the Hart Leadership Program has inspired generations of Sanford students to pursue worthy public purposes. I am grateful to Gunther, who has built on this legacy with urgent new programs on democracy and political engagement, and I look forward to continuing to support our students as they learn about and practice ethical leadership for public life," Nurkin said.

Under Peck’s leadership, HLP has had significant curricular expansion and innovation, as well as development of new community partnerships. During his leadership, the number of students who taking HLP classes has doubled, as well as students conducting community-based research and project-based learning. The numbers reflect a sustained effort to expand courses such as “Women as Leaders,” as well as new undergraduate fellowships such as the Political Engagement Project (PEP) with its new core class, the Democracy Lab.  

As part of the creation of PEP and steady expansion of the Service Opportunity Leadership Program (SOL), HLP has also developed recent collaborations with community partners including Democracy NC, El Centro Hispano, El Pueblo, Forward Justice, and North Carolina Asian American Together (NCAAT), North Carolina for Clean Elections, You Can Vote, and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. 

Peck said another point of pride has been HLP’s expansion of social justice and racial equity in the curriculum – which has improved the program overall.

“Since becoming director of Hart, I have worked hard to incorporate social justice and racial equity into our curriculum and whom we teach and support. We have benefitted from an extraordinary group of students of color who have chosen to make Hart their intellectual and experiential home. We now comprise a more diverse student cohort, including many first-generation students as well as students with multiple citizenship homes,” Peck said.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed learning by doing at the Hart Leadership Program. Our faculty, students, community partners, and staff have each exemplified core parts of what public leadership looks like in practice,” he said.

After July 1, Gunther will continue teaching at Sanford and will be helping Duke to build curricular and community collaborations between the University and Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte through a grant from The Duke Endowment.



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