Instructor(s):Gerald Wilson

Monday/Wednesday 12:00 - 12:50 pm | Social Sciences 136

Students may email Prof. Wilson at gerald.wilson@duke.edu to schedule an appointment.

What does it mean to be an “American?” A  French political scientist said, “To be a Frenchman is a fact; to be an American is an ideal.” What commonly shared ideals, ideas, “myths” define us as “Americans?”  This course examines the role of some commonly shared myths as “rags to riches,” the “agrarian way of life,” the “frontier,” the “foreign devils” and the “City on a Hill” in defining the American character and determining our hopes, fears, dreams and actions through our history.

Attention is given to the surface consistency of these myths as accepted by each immigrant group versus the shifting content of the myths as they change to reflect the hopes and values of each of these groups.


Instructor(s):Gerald Wilson

Tuesday/Thursday 3:30 - 4:45 pm | Social Sciences 109

Students may email Prof. Wilson at gerald.wilson@duke.edu to schedule an appointment.

The seminar will focus on political, social, business, and artistic leaders in American history and problems, which have called for leadership. In addition to selected short readings, students will examine closely the following: James MacGregor Burns’ “Leadership”; Walter Clark’s “Ox Bow Incident”; Niccolo Machiavelli’s “The Prince”; May and R. Neustadt’s “Thinking in Time”; Robert Penn Warren’s “All the King’s Men”; Gary Wills’ “Certain Trumpets”; and David Gergen’s “Eyewitness to Power.” Permission Required


Instructor(s):Suzanne Katzenstein

Tuesday/Thursday 10:15 - 11:30 am | Sanford 150

Office Hours by appointment

Because they are women or despite their being women? What explains how women achieve leadership positions in politics, in the boardroom, in local movements of resistance? What does it mean that in four short years, the number of women running for the House of Representatives surged from 167 to 237, and yet the two last candidates standing in the 2020 Democratic primary elections are both older white men? In this course, we will study the dynamics of women leadership with a focus on the U.S. What do we mean by leadership and how do narratives of leadership gain traction? What do they allow us to see and what do they obscure, how might they limit our understandings of the processes and possibility for change? What are the particular barriers that women face as they work towards and reach leadership positions? How are these barriers, and the strategies that women use to confront them, shaped by historical and institutional contexts? How do societal forces shape our own opportunities and choices to lead? This class will engage diverse topics both academically and personally, connecting the two approaches as we reflect on our own experiences of leading, and following, in our studies, our extracurricular commitments, our work, and in our lives. To discuss these issues, we will use autobiographies, documentaries, academic articles, and visits by guest speakers.


Instructor(s):Andrew Nurkin

Tuesday/Thursday 12:00 - 1:15 | Sanford 07

Office hours by appointment, Monday through Thursdays

This course will facilitate the exercise of innovative and resourceful leadership to address important social and civic needs in Durham. We will engage issues of participation, citizenship, equity, justice and wellbeing in the context of the Durham community. In short, we will explore how democratic participation shapes local leadership through grassroots work. Small teams of students will collaborate with community-based organizations in Durham whose work centers on development of capital — natural, social, economic, political, or human. We will consider leadership as a shared endeavor in facilitating social change. With an understanding of various models of change and active ethical engagement with local organizations, students will identify a need and garner the necessary resources to develop a ‘context specific’ solution to address this need. Through active participation and mindful reflection, students will have the opportunity to shape and refine their personal models of civic engagement, social change, and leadership.

Project Foci:

  • Building natural capital – sustainability, preservation of natural resources, land use.
  • Building social capital – housing, community renewal, community building.
  • Building economic capital – employment opportunities, job training, business development, job creation.
  • Building political capital – community organizing, political mobilization, voter registration.
  • Building human capital – access to education, arts, health and wellbeing.


Instructor(s):Dirk Philipsen

Tuesday/Thursday 1:45 - 3:00 | Rubenstein 151

Office hours: Mondays, 9:30 to 11:00 and Wednesdays, 3:00 to 4:00

What is sustainability? What would it look like to live “sustainably?” Why should we care? What does sustainability entail, and what is “sustainable development”? What components does it include? How do we determine whether our production and consumption

habits are sustainable or not? What standards do we apply? What are the dangers? And what are the opportunities?

All are complicated questions, yet essential. Logic requires acknowledgement that our existence will be jeopardized by production, consumption, and political patterns that are unsustainable. Quite simply, nothing much matters once we no longer have a plot of ground to stand on, or no longer can rely on cultural/political patterns that allow us to prosper. As most comtemporary definitions suggest, sustainability is — both conceptually and in reality — an inherently cross-disciplinary project. It requires intellectual breadth, the ability to explore a range of applications, and the willingness to let go of deeply ingrained assumptions.

In this course, we will read about and discuss the history of the concept, and try to figure out how it relates to our lives. We will explore the role denial, faith, and reason play in debates about sustainability as we grapple with an idea — sustainable development — that has been called the “ethical imperative” of our time. Last, but not least, we will attempt to assess what might be needed to get on a path that might allow us to live sustainably, providing long-term options of survival for future generations.


Instructor(s):Faulkner Fox

Tuesday 3:30 - 6:00 | Allen Building 317

The goal of this creative writing course is for aspiring playwrights to think deeply about what—exactly—they are trying to do, and avoid, in their writing.  What causes a play to be heavy-handed and propagandistic, as opposed to impassioned?  How can students who believe deeply in a particular issue write artful drama about that issue?  In what ways is theater similar—and dissimilar—to social protest in the streets?  Students will be encouraged to experiment, question, and revise, at every turn.

This course will closely examine a diversity of plays that have had a marked impact on their cultures—an impact beyond an excellent and meaningful theater-going experience.  Recent examples we will study include Pass Over by Antoinette Nwandu and The Talk by local playwright Sonny Kelly. We will also watch and study more traditional plays like The Crucible and Angels in America.

Over the course of the semester, students will read—and watch—excellent political plays as well as write their own.  They will write and develop their own full-length script, in addition to doing weekly creative responses to produced plays.  Class discussion will be divided between focus on student work-in-progress, produced plays, and playwriting craft. Most weeks, we will run scenes (have students read aloud from other students’ scripts-in-progress).  Outside of class, students will work in small groups, meet with alumni readers, consultants at the Writing Studio, and individually with me.  Grading will be as follows: 50% development, drafting, and revision of the student’s own play, 25% written comments on plays, and 25% participation in other aspects of the class such as one-on-one discussion with me and with peers, small group run-throughs of scenes-in-progress.



Instructor(s):Nick Carnes

Tuesday/Thursday 10:15 - 11:30 | Rubenstein Hall 251

Zoom office hours are 10am to 11am on Mondays and 4pm to 5pm on Tuesdays

In this course, students learn about the politics of climate change policy in the United States. The course briefly reviews how climate change works and the domestic and international policies that have attempted to address it. The course then discusses the many obstacles to effective climate change policy in the US. In the final unit, each student will develop, and pilot test a concrete plan of action for improving climate politics in the US.


Instructor(s):Gunther Peck

Thursday 3:30 - 6:00 | Sanford 102

Office hours Tuesdays, 1:30 to 3:00 and by appointment

This research seminar examines the origins, historical development, and consequences of white racial identity, from the 17th century to the present. There are at least two questions that make “historicizing whiteness” an ethically important and challenging endeavor. First, what is it? And second, how might knowledge of its history help us understand how to change it?

From its inception, whiteness has resisted displaying its peculiar history, exemplifying William Faulkner’s adage about history more generally, that “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”  Historicizing Whiteness, by contrast, seeks to empower researchers, writers, and activists alike to see the past on its own terms, to better see and diagnose how, when, and where resistance to white supremacy has worked in both the past and potentially the future.


Instructor(s):Andrew Nurkin

Tuesday/Thursday 3:30 - 4:45 | Sanford 07

This is the capstone course for students in Service Opportunities in Leadership, a yearlong signature program in the Hart Leadership Program. This seminar explores the challenges, drawbacks, and rewards of principled political leadership in a democracy, with a special emphasis on how and why people run for elected political office. Students will have the opportunity to reflect critically on the work they completed during their summer fellowships and to integrate their on-the-ground experiences with their coursework on leadership, political engagement, and public policy.

The course will be organized around a significant research project: By the end of the term, students will complete a comprehensive portfolio that outlines personal plans for creating principled and effective political change in the next stages of their careers. That portfolio might include a plan to run for elected office, to address a problem with an advocacy organization or interest group, or to organize social movements or grassroots political engagement. Students will build their portfolios iteratively throughout the semester, present preliminary iterations to the class, and receive constructive feedback from their instructor and classmates.

By the end of the term, students will have a real plan of action for how to be principled leaders during the next stages of their careers and lives. This course is only open to students who previously completed PPS 263. PERMISSION REQUIRED


Instructor(s):Jay Pearson

Tuesday/Thursday 12:00 - 1:15 | Sanford 05

TA Office Hours: To be determined by individual teaching assistants.

Theoretical and practical problems in decision making in relation to conflicts of value and of interest.  The manifestation of norms deriving from professional ethics, ideology, law, and other sources in policy issues as welfare, environmental management, social (in)justice, social (in)equality and social (in)equity.  The historical role and contemporary manifestations of socially biased public policy decision making in establishing, maintaining and perpetuating structural inequality, systemic racism, gender bias and class stratification as in central guiding principles of US national construction and identity.  Prerequisites: Public Policy Studies 155