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

The ELI experience begins with taking a course—generally PPS265 Enterprising Leadership—but it continues with the project incubator and also involves advising, coaching, help with internship connections, and a lifelong mentoring relationship with Tony Brown. ELI courses involve active-learning, results-oriented projects that have the potential to solve University, community and global problems. The Enterprising Leadership Initiative helps students create projects around issues they are passionate about, and to produce tangible results. ELI also provides programmatic support for students to continue their projects beyond the semester.

Classes in social entrepreneurship and enterprising leadership provide students with knowledge, analytical competence, and leadership skills that are important to exercise enterprising leadership. ELI focuses on the personal, moral development of students as well as their leadership development, and this approach leads to meaningful benefits for both the students and their community partner organizations.

Faculty and staff work directly with students who are implementing compelling projects by providing mentoring, coaching, and access to additional advisors.  Faculty and staff can also provide information regarding internships, and connect students with ELI alumni across the country who can offer networking opportunities and project assistance.

“The two courses I took through ELI fundamentally changed my academic experiences at Duke, and allowed me to view education from a whole new perspective. They were the most unique, hands-on opportunities I have had in classes at Duke. I was allowed the freedom to experiment with different methods of actually bringing projects to life in the real world. I learned more from my failures and personal struggles in the class than I could have ever learned if I was simply told how to succeed. Even though these were by far the hardest and most work intensive class projects I’ve been involved in, the experiences and lessons I’ve garnered are truly invaluable. They offered me the chance not just to read about others’ successes, but to create my own.”

– David Wang, ‘12

Alumni Leadership Development

The ELI community includes an alumni network of over 1900 Duke graduates. ELI strives to have an formative impact on alumni and supports them by hosting gatherings, facilitating alumni participation in class projects, and providing opportunities for ongoing mentorship as alumni pursue their current goals and projects. The Duke Leadership Accelerator, ELI’s core program for alumni, builds on the foundation of Tony Brown’s two decades of teaching enterprising leadership courses to undergraduates, being engaged in Durham, and maintaining active communications with his former students.

“Tony helps you shift from being an observer to being a problem solver. He makes you see there are things in this world that, because you have resources, support and knowledge, you can go do something about them. He provides a structure to make changes and gives you confidence and belief in yourself. He literally changes the way people think and challenges you to go out in the world.” – Liz Linzer, ‘09

The Duke Leadership Accelerator extends the impact of the undergraduate experience for alumni in ways that support Duke’s mission that students “engage their minds, elevate their spirits, and develop as adults committed to high ethical standards and full participation as leaders in their communities.” As Tony and his former students have discovered over the years, Duke’s job is not completed when students graduate at the age of 22.

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.

Read more stories about Enterprising Leadership Initiative
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