Patman Political Engagement Project

The Patman program is open to students in their junior year, regardless of major, who are interested in political leadership, broadly defined.

What is the Patman Political Engagement Project?

The Patman Political Engagement Project (PEP) is a collaboration between the Hart Leadership Program and POLIS: Center for Politics. PEP is designed to inspire, cultivate, and prepare future leaders in democracy and provide them pathways to meaningful participation, contributing to more diverse and inclusive political representation at all levels in the United States. It is open to all Duke undergraduates in their junior year who are interested in political leadership, broadly defined. However, the program has a special interest in supporting students from communities who have historically been disenfranchised from or underrepresented in formal political power. POLIS and HLP will work collaboratively to nurture the Patman Fellows’ political and leadership abilities through engagement with guest speakers and participation in training and mentoring activities centered on running for political office or building careers in public policy.

The Patman Fellowship is supported by a generous gift from the Carrin M. Patman Fund. Patman was a long-time activist for political reform and inclusive political practices in Texas. She successfully lobbied for a law requiring political parties to publicly disseminate their participation rules prior to making decisions. On the national level, she led the fight against winner-take-all presidential primaries at the 1976 Democratic National Convention. Patman was an advocate for political engagement, and multiple members of her immediate family served in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Texas legislature.

The Patman Experience

Spring Pedagogical Preparation

Before Patman Fellows have access to their summer stipend, they must satisfactorily complete the Patman gateway course in the spring of their junior year, which directly engages questions of political leadership and structural barriers to political participation. This course is limited to Patman Fellows. The 2024 gateway course was PUBPOL 490 – Political Communications in a Social World, taught by Prof. Lenny Stern.

Students also meet monthly with the HLP Program Coordinator, receiving one-on-one mentorship in preparation for their immersive summer experience.


Immersive Summer Learning

Patman Fellows are awarded a $3000 stipend for use in the summer between junior and senior year. These funds can be applied to either a summer internship or to research for an honors thesis.

  • Internships must be with nonpartisan organizations or agencies that work broadly in the political realm, including, but not limited to: local, state, federal, or tribal governments; think tanks; nonpartisan legislative or policy organizations; political media or news literacy initiatives; youth political engagement; redistricting and gerrymandering; voting rights and ballot access; democracy reform/democratic renewal; civic participation; or political communications.
  • Thesis funds may be used for independent research contributing to a Sanford senior honors thesis on a question relating to any of the above topics or another aspect of political leadership.
  • Students must meet with the HLP program coordinator when developing their summer proposals. Funding proposals must be submitted for review and approval by April 1 in order to be processed.

Reflective Practice

Students write two “letters home” during their summer experience in which they reflect on their work and its implications for their own future political engagement. Each letter is read and responded to by a Hart faculty member.


Public Purpose

Students present their summer work at the Hart Leadership Program's Public Purpose Symposium in the fall semester.

Patman Support Team

Andrew Nurkin
Andrew Nurkin Hart Associate Professor of the Practice; Director, Hart Leadership Program
Deondra Rose
Deondra Rose Kevin D. Gorter Associate Professor of Public Policy
Suzanne Katzenstein
Suzanne Katzenstein PEP Faculty Advisor; Hart Fellowship Writing Coach; Lecturer of Public Policy
Lee Edelblut
Lee Edelblut Program Coordinator

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