Service Opportunities in Leadership

SOL is an intensive 12-month leadership program for Duke undergraduates that combines academic study, research service learning, mentoring, and leadership training.

What is SOL?

Service Opportunities in Leadership (SOL) is a nationally recognized, intensive 12-month leadership program for students who are interested in complex social and political issues and the art of implementing systemic political change. SOL’s three-stage structure includes a preparation (gateway) course in the spring, an immersive summer experience with a community partner, and a follow-up (capstone) seminar in the fall. Throughout, students participate in a structured process of critical reflection on the ethical, intellectual and personal aspects of their community-based research project. This reflection helps them discern ethical issues and leadership dilemmas inherent in their work.

We believe that leadership is honed through meaningful service and thoughtful engagement with communities. Students collaborate with community partners to design field-based service and research projects that are well-grounded in the context to address community needs. From experience, this model enables students to develop their own leadership skills and do so in a manner that is respectful of the communities.

Benefits of Participation

  • Understand social problems at the local level through immersive experiences.
  • Become familiar with groups, institutions, and social systems.
  • Develop problem analysis and problem-solving skills, and learn how to design systemic interventions by working with case studies.
  • Relate your personal experiences to systemic social issues through critical reflection, and enhance your ability to think politically.
  • Gain insights from different cultural values and perspectives.
  • Negotiate across value differences – learn to respect, work together with and mediate between opposing views.
  • Challenge and reshape your existing mindset to appreciate complexity and to see all sides of an issue.
  • Develop a healthy respect for the limitations of your own perspective and worldview. Learn how to examine basic assumptions you may have about yourself, your values, and your ideas for creating social change.
  • Learn to better adapt yourself to your context, self-purpose and role to enhance your community engagement.
  • Become more comfortable with independence and responsibility, encountering the unexpected and dealing with conflict. Build a capacity to handle difficult situations under pressure. Develop resilience, flexibility, and the ability to improvise with the resources at hand.
  • Develop relational skills with peers, colleagues, faculty, and HLP staff.

The SOL Process

Gateway Course: PUBPOL 263S | Leading In and With Community

Creating change is hard. “Leading In and With Community” serves as an introduction to a leadership framework for crafting social change. The course focuses on historic and contemporary examples of civic engagement and social change while challenging students to interrogate their own understanding of leadership through the lens of community. Projects are guided by the students’ creativity and curiosity and formed in partnership with community partners.

Immersive Summer Experience

SOL funds its students to engage in an eight-week immersive summer experience with a community partner. Students who have long-standing relationships with community partners may conduct independent, community-based research projects. Students who are newer to community-involved leadership may pursue internships with public-sector and nonprofit organizations. The experience centers deep community engagement, prioritizing learning through observing, experiencing, listening, and practicing.

Capstone Course: PUBPOL 415 | Communities of Practice

At the completion of their summer experience, students take the capstone course “Communities of Practice.” This course allows students to reassess their summer experiences with special attention to challenges and opportunities for creating change. Working in groups, students discuss strategies for creating broader change and ways of mobilizing institutions and implementing collective solutions to pressing contemporary problems.

"SOL significantly impacted my conceptualization of leadership from one of the traditional leader visibly heading a movement to understanding that leaders can be found throughout our communities. This shift in my understanding has been important for my personal growth to more sincerely identify my leadership skills that don't need to be visible to the public (like passion, dedication, language skills, empathy) and continue learning from leaders who aren't at the forefront of visible movements and follow in their footsteps."

— Maite McPherson, SOL '22, Trinity '24

SOL Support Team

Alexandra Zagbayou
Alexandra Zagbayou Hart Associate Professor of the Practice
Andrew Nurkin
Andrew Nurkin Hart Associate Professor of the Practice; Director, Hart Leadership Program
Lee Edelblut
Lee Edelblut Program Coordinator

The Latest from SOL

Andrew Sun_Banner

SOL 2022 Fellow, Andrew Sun, writes on Organizing Against Gun Violence for the Duke Chronicle

Gun violence is a collective issue that affects every American, particularly young people in schools and on college campuses. In a recent article for The…

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Introducing the 2024 Fellows for the Service Opportunities in Leadership Program

The Hart Leadership Program is pleased to announce the selection of new fellows for SOL – the Service Opportunities in Leadership Program. These promising students…

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Apply for SOL 2024!

The Hart Leadership Program is accepting applications for Service Opportunities in Leadership (SOL). Open to all Duke undergraduates in their first, second, or third years,…

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Headshots of the 2023 SOL fellows

SOL Fellows Embark on Immersive Summer Experiences

The Hart Leadership Program is excited to announce our 2023 Service Opportunities in Leadership (SOL) Fellows’ immersive summer experiences. As part of the SOL process,…

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