What is the program’s process?

You officially join SOL after you apply for and accept a SOL summer grant. You may apply for the SOL summer grant any time after you complete the gateway course, PPS 263: Border Crossing. Entry to the spring course in turn is dependent upon a course application, which we announce before registration in October. During the spring semester students learn relevant histories of political change and create a research proposal for an eight-week (minimum) summer project, secure commitments from a community partner, and find a faculty advisor. If you join the SOL program you are required to complete all portions of the three-part sequence within the same calendar year

SOL Timeline


Gateway course: Border Crossing

Creating change is hard. Border Crossing serves as an introduction to a leadership framework for crafting social change. The course focuses on various examples of civic engagement and social change throughout history. Then, the final section of the course is dedicated to training in basic research methods: learning the research protocol process for Duke’s IRB and completing an assessment of the historical challenges to political change in the particular context students are investigating. Projects are guided by the students’ creativity and curiosity and formed in partnership with community actors.


cbr project

Participants conduct collaborative research with the staff of an organization that is their community partner. Students choose a faculty mentor for their research, creating a final research product that is of immediate relevance for the partner and of interest to the student. Programmatic support is provided by HLP staff and the faculty mentor. The success of a project is dependent upon the relationships the student maintains with their partners, their faculty mentor, and Hart Leadership staff.


capstone course

At the completion of their summer projects, students must take the capstone course PPS490S. 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. Students will also learn how to organize campaigns for political change, including learning the skills needed to run for elected office.