From Bruce’s Early History: “In addition to the leadership classes that I had wanted and the connections to organizations in Durham that seemed to represent good possibilities for leadership experience, that first seminar came up with an idea that was central to the first three years of the program. [The students] concluded that serious classes in leadership weren’t going to be well taught without help, and they thought the best available help would be students like themselves—a student staff that would take on a wide range of responsibilities for this new class…

By Fall 1986 John Ott, a Duke Public Policy graduate and a Stanford Law graduate had joined the program as Associate Director. John had worked in Houston with Ernie Cortez and the Industrial Areas Foundation, and brought to the program a profound commitment to democratic discussion and decision making. He and I agreed that the student staff was the best thing we were doing in leadership education, and by Spring 1987 it had become a regular seminar on its own, taught jointly by John Ott and me, but with John as the principal faculty member in charge.

I continued to teach a full complement of students in PPS 116 as well as teaching the new leadership course and sharing in the teaching of the staff course. John and I were working night and day. I generally held office hours as late as 2 AM, but could fit in about six hours of time for sleeping. As near as I could tell, John managed only about half that much sleep most nights.

The results of this intensive effort in the first year were astonishing. Almost every student had half an hour or more with John or me of advising time each week, and every student also had advising time with one or more members of the student staff. Course work was demanding, community projects were time-consuming; and students were excitedly preparing for their summer plans (eighty of our first hundred or so students participated in the summer program in 1987).

Our plan in those days was to try to revivify the Duke curriculum, and we were hoping to bring other faculty members into the fold. This plan, largely adopted by Marietta College in 1987 (and still in operation), never had much of a chance at Duke. But it was part of the reason that we had no plan for a certificate or a major, just a series of courses and experiences that would help students discover their own leadership capacities and strengths and that would motivate them to do major things in the world.

To begin this process we decided to designate PPS 116 as a Leadership Program course (I was still at that time teaching most of the sections of that course). Because it was a popular course and a required one for policy majors, we generally had at least sixty-five students. For all the work, this seemed something of a golden opportunity to expand our teaching capacities.”