Across the nation, young people between the ages of 18 and 24 are the least likely to vote. At Duke, the Hart Leadership Program at the Sanford School of Public Policy is aiming to change that.
The Political Engagement Project (PEP)—co-led by HLP Director Gunther Peck, an associate professor of public policy and history, and POLIS Research Director Deondra Rose, assistant professor of public policy—is a three-semester opportunity aimed at supporting the political and leadership development of Sanford students. One of the program’s goals is to support women and underrepresented groups in political leadership, though the program is open to students of all identities. Eligible participants are public policy majors who apply during the fall of their junior year. Selected students will serve as PEP Fellows until their graduation from the Sanford School.
As PEP Fellows, students receive financial assistance for their Sanford summer internship and/or their Honors Thesis work. Additionally, PEP Fellows participate in other leadership development opportunities, including taking a HLP class called the “Democracy Lab” during their junior spring, participating in the work of the Policy Lab, and creating a public-facing project during their senior year.
Each student has access to $500 from a PEP Impact Fund to implement this project. Potential uses include an event showcasing their research, an on-campus get-out-the-vote effort, or a compelling semester long project via the Policy Lab.
POLIS/HLP work collaboratively to nurture the PEP 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.
PEP 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.
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