The Political Engagement Project Fellows (PEP Fellows) is a joint program through both the Hart Leadership Program and Polis. Established in 2019, the PEP Fellows is made possible by the Carrin M. Patman Endowment, honoring her legacy of political engagement.
The PEP Fellows program is designed to give students an experiential public policy education, allowing these skills to be applied to the real world. PEP Fellows take on student-led research projects related to their political or civic areas of interest. Through the generosity of the Carrin M. Patman Endowment, PEP Fellows are provided resources and means of assistance to ensure their projects are fruitful. Carrin M. Patman came from a political family in Texas, dedicating her own life to politics. Serving on the Democratic National Committee, managing her husband’s Senate campaign, and serving on the Democratic Party’s Texas Executive Committee, Patman fought for progressive public policy. She led reforms that broadened participation of women and minorities in politics and advocated for fairness within the political process.
In May, 12 PEP Fellows graduated from Duke – the first graduating cohort, demonstrating the impact of the gift. Anna Klingensmith, (Public Policy Studies and Asian and Middle Eastern Studies double major with a concentration in Arabic ’21), and Nadia Innab, Public Policy Studies with minors in Statistical Science and Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies ’21), were amongst the first class of PEP Fellows. Klingensmith and Innab wrote a section of the N.C. “Fix Our Democracy” Bill, sponsored by state Sen. Jeff Jackson and state Rep. Ashton Wheeler Clemmons. Their drafted section focused on guaranteeing voting sites on college campuses throughout North Carolina with an enrollment of at least 4,500 students. Klingensmith’s and Innab’s bill section is one part of a larger nonpartisan democracy reform spearheaded by Melissa Price Kromm, Director of North Carolina for Clean Elections, that seeks to make voting easier, more accessible, and more equitable for all citizens in North Carolina.
Both Klingensmith and Innab had firsthand knowledge of how difficult it can be for college students to register and cast their votes, they said.
“We had a huge impact in the election as students,” Innab said.
The bill was presented to the General Assembly of North Carolina. The resources provided by the PEP Fellows program allowed for Klingensmith and Innab’s work to be presented to members of the General Assembly.
The access to work with different community partners in Durham and North Carolina is a unique opportunity both Klingensmith and Innab emphasized when discussing the PEP Fellows program.
Klingensmith also valued how the PEP Fellows program provides a space for Duke students to engage with other students with different interests and experiences.
“The opportunity to be privy to so many different perspectives from my peers at Duke was so valuable. It [the PEP Fellows program] is an excellent opportunity to explore things you care about, and things you didn’t know you cared about,” she said.
Both Klingensmith and Innab highlighted the impact the PEP Fellows program had on not only their project, but their experiences at Duke.
“Being in the program really helped me have the ability to listen to other people in a way I would not have in other opportunities. I think it brought together such a select group of people who had such unique and important perspectives that I would not have gotten in any other space at Duke. And I am eternally grateful for that opportunity,” said Klingensmith.
“There was such a broad range of policy options that we could pursue. For someone who wasn't sure what sort of policy I wanted to go into, it was a really good way to get immediate access to a bunch of different topics and ideas,” said Innab.
2021 PPS Majors - PEP Fellows supported by the Patman Endowment
Jeremy Carballo Pineda
More information: PEP Fellows Program
Unequal participation in political leadership and the chronic underrepresentation of traditionally marginalized groups like women, racial and ethnic minorities, and working-class individuals in the halls of power are two of the most pressing challenges facing our democracy. Thanks to the Patman family's generous support, the PEP Fellows program is taking bold steps to invest in the development of the next generation of diverse political leaders.
Deondra Rose, director of Polis
Anna and Nadia’s timely research into the need for college students to have access to polling sites is a great example of how research and advocacy can nurture one another. As PEP Fellows, they also learned how to work with a fantastic community partner, Melissa Price Kromm, whose knowledge of democracy reform and the varied stakeholders across the state expanded the impact of their research. This is what leadership looks like: research with real- world implications in dialogue with community partners.
Gunther Peck, director of the Hart Leadership Program