What is the program 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 take the capstone course in the fall semester that follows on your summer project.

SOL Timeline


Gateway course: Border Crossing

An introduction to a leadership framework for engaging political and social change, and how we use history to better understand the collective and individual challenges that systemic political change generates. 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 not by  instructions from the student’s community partner, but by the students’ creativity and curiosity.


cbr project

Field research is conducted with the staff of an elected politician or a political organization in which students conduct community-based research in collaboration with their political partner.  Projects are designed to address a political challenge that is not narrowly partisan but which speaks to broader ethical and political challenges confronting democratic societies. Students choose a faculty mentor for their research and conduct it in a community setting, creating a final research product that is of  immediate relevance for the community partner. Programmatic support is provided by HLP staff and a faculty mentor. The success of a project is dependent upon the relationships the student maintains with their political partners, their faculty mentor, and Hart Leadership staff.


capstone course

Required for SOL students who have completed their summer research projects, this course allows students to reassess their summer experiences with special attention to the systemic challenges and opportunities for political change. Working in groups, students discuss strategies for creating political change and ways of mobilizing institutions and implementing collective solutions to pressing contemporary political problems. Students will also learn how to organize campaigns for political change, including but not limited to learning the skills needed to run for higher office.