The Enterprising Leadership Initiative (ELI) places a heavy emphasis on teaching, coaching and supporting the leadership development of students and alumni during their time on campus, and well into their professional careers. Because leadership development continues when students graduate, ELI faculty and staff constantly work to find new, meaningful ways to stay involved in the lives of alumni, and to help them aim higher today.

Student Leadership Development

Professor Tony Brown has been teaching at Duke for 27 years and his signature course, PPS265S Enterprising Leadership, is a consistent student favorite. Enterprising Leadership is a results-oriented undergraduate leadership development course which seeks to provide students with analytical competence, leadership identity, and personal agency important to exercising enterprising leadership in organizations, in communities, and in life.

To solve problems in the community, students employ Brown’s signature leadership tactic: defining outcomes and equipping students with the necessary tools and resources. A dynamic group of students and alumni work together on Enterprising Benefit Projects to identify a community problem and create a project to address it, with a strong emphasis on defining and creating real results. Despite the challenges of switching to online education so quickly, Brown said that the Enterprising Benefit Projects in fall 2020 were “some of the best projects in years.” For example, the NC Transition Term Fellowship Program was initiated by Enterprising Leadership alum and fall 2020 class participant Alison Dorsey and sponsored by the Sanford School of Public Policy. This team of students created and raised funds for a fellowship sponsoring Duke students to connect with newly elected North Carolina public officials, aiding their movement into office by providing valuable policy advice, technical assistance, and administrative support. Over 81 Duke students applied and 22 were selected to aid 8 newly elected officials. Another successful 2020 project was the Duke Anti-Racism Winter Read Initiative, which identified Duke’s need for anti-racist learning outside the classroom and acted to distribute 500 copies of the book Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson to Duke students to read over winter break. Additionally, this team generated $8,550 in revenue for a Black-owned independent bookstore Marcus Books, and engaged speaker Anthony Ray Hinton for a follow-up event, all while building momentum for the Duke Anti-Racist Book Club.

Brown’s vision for the future of Enterprising Leadership is constantly adapting, as he learns from what did and did not work in previous semesters and tweaks the program to try to improve. Enterprising Leadership may return to in-person teaching post-pandemic, or it may remain an online program for the foreseeable future. In addition to involving alumni, future iterations of the course may include NCCU students and/or Durham residents interested in leadership and problem solving. One way or another, the core of the program remains constant: identifying problems, determining desired outcomes, and enterprising to achieve them.

Latest ELI Stories


RIPPLE connects groups of alumni all across the country who are committed to supporting each others' journeys of learning and leadership development and to taking action to give back to their communities. Learn more about this city-based alumni program here.

25 Hours at Duke

Learn more about ELI's latest alumni engagement "25 Hours at Duke," which launched in the spring of 2017. "25 Hours" brings alums back to campus for one day, creating a personalized schedule for them based on their interests and preferences.

36 Hours at Duke

36 Hours at Duke brings together current and former Duke students for a weekend on campus, allowing students and alumni to forge connections with each other, learn, and continue their leadership development. Learn more about the program here.

PPS271: Social Entrepreneurship in Action

Professor Tony Brown has been teaching his PPS271: Social Entrepreneurship in Action course to Duke undergraduates for over ten years. Read about his Fall 2016 students and their projects here.

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