First Try

Professor Bruce Payne was the founding director of the Hart Leadership Program. A few years ago we asked him to write a narrative about HLP’s formation, and we affectionately call the story “Bruce’s Early History.”

“In the fall of 1985, Mitch Hart came into my office after a number of conversations with Terry Sanford and Joel Fleishman. Mitch, a notable corporate executive and a longtime leader of the Young Presidents’ Organization (probably the best corporate leadership organization then in existence), had an idea for a national leadership program for students and had offered support for basing it at Duke…

Mitch admired Terry, both as a visionary university president at Duke and in his earlier career as a courageous southern progressive Democratic governor – the only one in the South during the early sixties who stood up to the Klan and who had defended the civil rights of African-Americans. Mitch and his family had determined that Duke would be a good place to send his kids, and in the process of learning about Duke, Mitch had become a good friend of Joel Fleishman. Terry and Joel had for almost fifteen years been focused on strengthening undergraduate programs at Duke and on raising Duke’s national visibility. The Institute of Policy Sciences and Public Affairs, [which became] the Sanford Institute, was distinguished among the emerging public policy programs in the country by having a solid and well-planned undergraduate major; and Sanford was known for supporting good teaching and innovative programs for undergraduates. In addition to heading the public policy program, Joel was serving as the university’s principal long term planner. Both were necessarily and profoundly concerned with bringing strong supporters to Duke. Although the university’s position had been strengthened during Sanford’s tenure, there was no hope of finding adequate money for Duke’s future plans among the alumni or from the great foundations. Money needed to come from corporate leaders and philanthropists, not great foundations, and the money needed to come from corporate leaders and philanthropists not already attached to Duke. Nevertheless, Joel and Terry turned down the plan for Leadership America based at Duke. The decision to turn down the national leadership program was consistent with their belief that Duke students should be the prime focus of every new initiative. Independent research institutes in many scientific and other fields were being accepted at many major universities in those years, but at Duke the critical question was always whether proposed programs had direct connections with what Duke students would be learning. A national program involving students from fifty or more campuses every summer might be a good idea, but in their view, not for us. So they asked Mitch to think instead about helping them make leadership central to the curriculum at Duke. (Mitch pursued his national idea in Dallas, funding and supporting a Leadership America [program] for five years, fostering some excellent leadership development, but never fully realizing his dream.)


I had been in occasional conversations with Mitch about leadership and politics since the spring of 1984—we shared an interest in presidential politics and we enjoyed arguing about a range of domestic and international activities. But it was only in the early fall of 1985 that it became clear to me that Mitch had decided to support an undergraduate leadership program at Duke, and only that summer did I learn by the grapevine that he was eager for me to be its first head. So one September afternoon he walked down the hall from Joel’s office and posed this question: “What would you do if you were asked to head a program in leadership that I would fund initially with an endowment?” I said I would ask for a week or so to think about it, and Mitch laughed and said that I could think all I wanted, but that he would like to have my first answer there and then. He added that he admired my ethics and policy course (PPS 116, “Policy Choice as Value Conflict,”) and that he thought it was a leadership course. He also thought, he said, that my civil rights interests, my passionate concerns about inadequate national political leadership, and my involvements with documentary work and community service gave me at least some of what I would need to run a leadership program. I was in fact ready with an answer, but it wasn’t one I was sure would persuade him. I said that we ought to help students learn about leadership through well-taught courses, courses that focused on stories, especially on history, rather than management skills or the kinds of leadership techniques advocated in the business schools. Beyond that, I said, we ought to combine serious and thoughtful learning with experience, and more particularly with experience that involved taking on responsibility. I said that if I had access to the kind of money about which he was talking, I would use it to create classes that would be the kind of “thinking” wing of the emerging student community service movement. There was no doubt, I said, that leadership experience was in principle available in business or governmental organizations, but most internships and entry-level jobs in such organizations didn’t give students much responsibility. Hard pressed social service and environmental organizations and agencies, on the other hand, put students to work making decisions because they were chronically understaffed. They needed help, and bright students who worked hard could quickly play important roles. They could learn about leadership by doing it. I finished by saying that leadership studies based in the humanities, in history and literature and political theory, were a perfect foil for experiential learning in the small non-profits and hard-pressed local social service agencies. Mitch said simply: “That sounds right. I want you to do it. Put it in writing; get the approvals you need at Duke, and come see me in Dallas.” The next couple of months were a blur of planning, writing, and negotiating, but by the second week in December we had a plan ready for Mitch, and I flew to Dallas with it. The spring of 1986 was partly taken up with some difficult negotiations with Duke’s President and deans about the terms of the gift. But my main activity during those months was nevertheless teaching a seminar for some of Duke’s ablest students that was aimed at designing a leadership program along the lines I had described. By the end of April we had forged a plan."
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The Founding Days

The story of the founding of the Hart Leadership Program (HLP) involves four key figures: Milledge “Mitch” Hart III, Linda Wertheimer Hart, Joel Fleishman, and Bruce Payne.

HLP was launched in 1986 by Mitch Hart, a Duke trustee (1983-1991) and member of the Board of Visitors of the Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy. A Dallas businessman, Hart was—and remains—committed to introducing young adults to ethical leadership through a learning process that combines intellectual study, personal reflection, and practical, hands-on experience.

Joel Fleishman was instrumental in coordinating a major gift to create the Hart Leadership Program. Fleishman was director of the Capital Campaign for Arts and Sciences at Duke at the time, and had previously served as director of the Institute of Policy Sciences and Public Affairs in early 1980s. Mitch’s son, Milledge Hart IV ‘87, was a public policy major at the time and had taken Professor Bruce Payne’s ethics course. Mitch Hart believed that ethics ought to be at the center of leadership education. This was a novel idea at the time, as most other colleges and universities did not add an ethics component to the curriculum until years, and in some cases decades, later. Hart also admired Terry Sanford’s belief that the Institute should not just prepare students for a rapidly changing world, but should also challenge them to set ambitious goals and to achieve them.



The Launch

From Bruce's Early History: "In addition to the leadership classes that I had wanted and the connections to organizations in Durham that seemed to represent good possibilities for leadership experience, that first seminar came up with an idea that was central to the first three years of the program. [The students] concluded that serious classes…

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The Early Years

Bruce Payne, Founding Director

Bruce Payne

Founding Director

For many years Bruce Payne taught his signature leadership course, PPS 116: “Policy Choice as Value Conflict,” which was a core requirement for the policy major. A lecturer in public policy studies, Payne was recruited to Duke in 1971 by Joel Fleishman, whom he had gotten to know while earning a master’s degree in political science from Yale University. Payne was interested in broad themes of leadership development, and wanted to attract students from across disciplines. In those early years, the small staff included two chaplains from the Divinity School (Reverends Earl Brill and Nancy Ferree Clark), associate director John Ott ’79, several development colleagues of Fleishman’s who were interested in leadership, and a volunteer staff of a dozen or so students who helped run the program, serving as teaching assistants, arranging internships, and helping with other program tasks.

Despite the groundswell of good intentions and support for undergraduate leadership development at Duke, some behind-the-scenes issues threatened to derail the program in its early years. Several proponents of the program thought HLP should focus solely on community organizing and community service, while Payne and others were emphatic that the program’s grounding in ethics and policy could prepare greater numbers of students for leadership positions regardless of their career choices. Other issues included funding and fund raising, control over new faculty hires, and conflicting opinions about how decisions should be made at the senior administrative level (not, it may be noted, an unusual set of growing pains for a new academic program).

Still, the program continued to gain strength as it offered students opportunities to engage in the kind of co-curricular community-based work—both domestically and internationally—that would eventually expand into a campus-wide emphasis on interdisciplinary and international experiences and the Research Service Learning movement. For example, the HLP-launched Interns in Conscience project, an outgrowth of Student Action with Farmworkers, sent groups of students to southern Florida during summer breaks to work directly at agencies serving farmworkers. Later, in the mid-1990s, HLP students and faculty formed the Refugee Action Project, which organized humanitarian aid trips to the former Yugoslavia, Turkey, Slovenia, and Austria.



PPS 145: Leadership, Policy, Change

Ethical and practical issues of social and organizational change, including conflicts about power and authority, violence, gender, race, fairness, wealth and work. How imagination, fictional and historical narratives, anger, friendship, and teaching skills can be useful in working for change. Problems of group dynamics, integrity, responsibility, and self-understanding faced by those supporting or opposing changes.

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From Bruce's Early History: "Looking back, the best thing about the on-campus part of the Leadership Program of those years was surely the intense involvement of students in the classes. Most years, in addition to the readings and the weekly quizzes, there were required individual or group projects. One of these resulted in the “Green…

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The Growth of HLP

Tony Brown, Bruce Payne, Bob Korstad

Tony Brown, Bruce Payne, Bob Korstad

Neil Boothby, director from 1992-1995, was an advisor to international organizations and governments involved with war and refugee populations in Southeast Asia, Central America and Africa. His interests and network of contacts helped the Hart Leadership Program further its connections to a number of international NGOs and humanitarian initiatives, and laid the groundwork for what would become the post-graduate Hart Fellows Program, a highly competitive and prestigious program that places recent graduates with international humanitarian organizations for ten months.

At the same time, a number of visiting and adjunct faculty members provided greater depth across the curriculum. Publisher, investigative journalist, and philanthropic and organizational management expert Katherine Fulton taught courses that encompassed democracy, organizational leadership, and women as leaders. Tony Brown, who joined the faculty as a professor of the practice in 1994, brought his business expertise to bear on an expanded HLP curriculum. A former chair and CEO of the Covenant Insurance Company, vice president for external affairs at the University of Connecticut, and COO of Credit Suisse First Boston’s Equity Division, Brown developed courses that combined public policy, leadership models, business ethics, and community development. In 2004, Brown launched the Enterprising Leadership Incubator, which helps students pursue innovative solutions to local and global problems.

Alex Harris, founder of Duke’s Center for Documentary Photography and co-founder of the Center for Documentary Studies, introduced Hart Leadership Program students to the uses of documentary work to bring attention to social issues, and effect change in diverse communities. With Kirk Felsman, a senior research scholar at the time, Harris augmented the Hart Fellows Program by adding a documentary component to the Hart Fellows’ work, as well as an increased emphasis on issues affecting adolescents and vulnerable children.

Documentary work, including the art of writing personal narrative essays about what Fellows are observing, continues to be a hallmark of the Hart Fellows Program even as the design of the program has become more structured around community-based research projects. Author David Guy, the HLP writing coach, provided training and ongoing feedback to Fellows, as well as to students in the Service Opportunities in Leadership (SOL) program. The process of critical reflection helps students make sense of their experiences, and also to understand their own character and orienting principles, what we call their “compass of values.”

Lecturer Alma Blount joined the Hart Leadership Program in 1994 and in addition to teaching courses about civic engagement and political participation, helped refine what was then called Summer Opportunities in Leadership. Originally a sister program to the Refugee Action Project, SOL tailored to the needs of students interested in domestic issues. From the start, SOL was a student-driven initiative that addressed students’ desire to combine academic coursework with meaningful, “real world” internships. SOL evolved to be a yearlong leadership development program consisting of an introductory spring course, a summer internship, and a fall capstone seminar. As with Hart Fellows, critical reflection exercises are a central requirement of SOL students.


PPS 146: Leadership, Development, and Organizations

This course is designed to provide students with the knowledge, analytical competence, and skills needed to exercise leadership in organizations and address problems in our society. Understanding and aligning values are emphasized in learning how every member can contribute to making good things happen. The course explores the many facets of leadership and leadership development…

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Growing Pains

From Bruce's Early History: "From the beginning, I had been in favor of the 'leadership' designation for the program because I thought it was a way to reach out to the large number of Duke students who in one way or another saw (and see) themselves as leaders: people planning careers in business, medicine, the…

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HLP Comes Into Its Own

Alex Harris and Hart Fellow Craig Cohen

Alex Harris and Hart Fellow Craig Cohen

Robert Korstad, director from 1995-2001, helped further expand HLP’s emphasis on community-based research opportunities. At the time a tenure-track scholar (he was awarded tenure in 2001), Korstad also brought an additional measure of credibility to program located in a department whose emphasis is rigorous research combined with policy engagement, and a university whose emphasis is knowledge in the service to society. With the help of trustee emerita and inaugural HLP Leader in Residence Susan King, Korstad attracted outside funding for the program from major foundations, and an additional gift from Mitch Hart allowed the program to establish an endowment for faculty salaries.

Susan King served as Leader in Residence from 1995-2001; her successor was former U.S. Ambassador to South Africa James A. Joseph, emeritus professor of the practice of public policy studies.

In 1996, HLP founder Bruce Payne launched Leadership and the Arts (LANY) in New York, a robust program that continued for a decade. Through the program, Duke undergraduates spent the spring semester in New York City exploring questions of leadership, policy, philanthropy, and creativity in the arts. The group usually consisted of majors in the social sciences and humanities. Some had career interests in law, medicine, or business, while others planned to work in government, international organizations, schools, or non-profits.


PPS 137: Adaptive Leadership

This is the capstone course for students completing community-based research (CBR) projects through Service Opportunities in Leadership. The course examines a leadership framework for working productively with value conflicts in groups and institutions, and the ethics of public problem-solving work. Students will have the opportunity to reflect critically on their summer work with community organizations…

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Learning From Mistakes

From Bruce's Early History: "We were playing a role in the emerging national movement for leadership studies, and in the national community service movement. I spoke regularly at meetings in Greensboro, Washington, and a range of other locations. I cherish my friends in the leadership studies movement from those days, and I still play a…

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Growth and Establishment

Alma Blount, John Smith

Alma Blount

Alma Blount succeeded Korstad as HLP director in 2001, and during the next decade HLP became nationally known for its pedagogy that combines academic coursework, experiential learning opportunities, and critical reflection. There has also been an increased emphasis on Research Service Learning, both through HLP and Scholarship with a Civic Mission, a four-year initiative created by HLP and the Kenan Institute for Ethics, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, and designed as a campus-wide demonstration project about research service learning. Through the research service learning model, students work with community partners to design field-based research projects that serve community needs and interests. As they conduct their research they also engage in a rigorous process of critical reflection, which helps them discern the ethical issues and leadership dilemmas inherent in their work.

In 2006, Bruce Payne left Duke to become executive director of the Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation. Due to his departure, Payne's signature LANY program morphed into the Leadership and Arts Policy Internship (LAPI) grants, which support students completing internships at the intersection of arts and policy.

PPS 140: Women as Leaders

Becoming a leader is more than mastering a set of techniques or following a recipe. The art of leadership involves embarking on a personal journey in and through which you will discover the qualities, passions, interests, goals, and vision which will best serve you and those whom you serve. This class will offer you the…

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The Modern Era

Gunther Peck

Alma Blount served as HLP Director before retiring in 2018. She was succeeded by Gunther Peck, associate professor of history and public policy. Although much has remained the same at HLP programmatically, some things have changed. In January 2019, Lalita Kaligotla joined HLP as associate director. They co-taught the gateway course of the SOL sequence during the Spring 2019 semester with an added emphasis on political engagement. One other change has been the piloting of a new domestic Hart Fellows Program.

During the 2019-20120 year, two fellows will work in the United States, while three will work abroad. Traditionally, fellows have left the United States for their work, collaborating with organizations in 40 countries since the Fellowship’s inception. But there are also gripping problems closer to home that may provide graduates the opportunity to learn and engage deeply with a community partner’s work. This pilot seeks to help HLP understand how it can best implement a domestic version of the program. HLP also revived the Connect2Politics program with a set of six events focused on youth leadership during the 2018-2019 year.

Throughout the Hart Leadership Program’s history, thousands of students have taken our courses or participated in our programs. We consistently hear from former students who report that their Hart Leadership experience was either the best, or one of their top experiences at Duke. Our faculty have received praise for helping students mobilize different perspectives in the problem solving process, and for encouraging alumni to continue to promote systemic interventions that build healthy communities and institutions.

As the number of courses has expanded and the ranks of our faculty have grown over the years, the Hart Leadership Program has stayed true to its original mission of helping students recognize their own potential for ethical leadership. The Terry Sanford Institute has now become the Sanford School of Public Policy, and the Hart Leadership Program is still playing an integral role in sustaining the strength of the undergraduate public policy major, while continuing to serve as a foundation for the study of ethics and leadership at Duke.