SOL has been one of HLP’s signature programs for more than 20 years but has not been static. It has served as a testing ground for curricular innovations and has run with a modified structure in certain circumstances.

Political Engagement Pilot Project

The Political Engagement Pilot Project was a one-year experiment launched in January 2016. Based squarely on the three-stage SOL model of a preparation course in the spring, a collaborative project with a community partner in the summer, and a capstone course about policy and leadership in the fall, PEPP was an intensive leadership development program focused on politics. HLP’s experience with PEPP informed the creation of the new Political Engagement Project in 2019.

HLP created Political Engagement Pilot Project experiment after a group of students, faculty, and administrators at Duke began discussing political engagement opportunities for undergraduate students a couple of years ago. It became clear that many students were interested in civic engagement, but not necessarily in political participation. The discussion group felt that given the immense policy challenges facing our society today, it was imperative that we learn together how to engage in productive political activity, revitalize our political culture, and rebuild the health of our democratic institutions.

The Sanford School of Public Policy had created POLIS: the Center for Political Leadership, Innovation, and Service. By dedicating a center to the political leadership development of students, Sanford’s goal is to inspire a new generation to make our politics better. The Hart Leadership Program offered to help POLIS by designing and sponsoring PEPP for one year.

PEPP students started their yearlong commitment in the spring of 2016 by taking a preparation course called Political Participation and Leadership, co-taught by Alma Blount and Steve Schewel, who serves as Durham’s Mayor. When students returned in the fall after completing their summer politics projects, they took a capstone course in Sanford School of Public Policy such as Adaptive Leadership, or Leadership, Policy, and Change, or they completed a capstone project of their own design, with guidance from the Hart Leadership Program.

Fifteen PEPP students conducted politics projects in eight cities across the U.S in 2016. They worked in places as varied as a Congressional office, a firm that conducts data analysis for political campaigns, a think tank that conducts independent analyses of candidates’ platforms, and an advocacy organization focused on ending domestic violence. You can read more about their projects under Students and Projects.


SOL Summer Grants

Due to the retirement of the Hart Leadership Program Director, Alma Blount, the traditional yearlong SOL program was not offered in 2018. Instead, the Hart Leadership Program offered SOL Summer Grants. The grants were awarded to undergraduates to design and conduct community-based research projects collaboratively with partner organizations for 8-12 weeks during the summer.In a competitive application process, eight SOL Summer Grants were awarded. Grantees agreed to full participation in a training and preparation process that took place at Sanford School of Public Policy in March and April 2018. You can read about the students who were awarded a SOL Summer Grant here.

Grants were awarded to second or third year Duke undergraduate who has previously had an intensive, full-time, summer service experience through DukeEngage or another similar community-based volunteer opportunity offered by Duke University.Students were required to find their own community partner organization, proposed faculty mentor, and take care of all the proposed logistics connected to their summer project, including finding suitable options for housing, thinking through travel arrangements, and proposing a reasonable budget for daily expenses.

Students who were awarded a SOL Summer Grant, and accepted, agreed to participate fully—no exceptions—in spring training modules about research methods, reflective writing, and safety and security issues. Students agreed to work full-time on their SOL community-based research project for 8-12 weeks during the summer. Finally, all SOL Summer Grantees, committed to participate in Visible Thinking, the annual forum for undergraduate research that is sponsored by the Duke Office for Undergraduate Research.

Visit Students & Projects to read about the summer projects that our SOL Summer Grantees completed in 2018.