07 Feb

Dear Students, Alumni, Faculty and Friends,

Welcome to the Hart Leadership website, a portal into a unique and dynamic teaching community that has transformed the lives of generations of Duke students and Duke professors alike.  As the new Director of this storied leadership program, I am delighted to hold up the pedagogical values and aspirations that have not only made the Hart Leadership Program one of the jewels at Duke but also an incubator for lifelong practices of social and political change, innovation, and leadership among our students and alumni.

As an historian, I do not believe leadership is a timeless thing. Rather, it emerges from the ethical imperatives of a particular moment, what Martin Luther King Jr. once described as a recognition of “the fierce urgency of now.”  That recognition and the set of skills that nurture and sustain it can, fortunately, be taught and learned. Leadership is something we practice in relationship with others and in the particular historical context that gives our actions moral purpose. Leadership begins with a capacity for reflection and improvisation as we adapt what we think we know about the world to the messy and inspiring realities that we live within. It becomes visible not only when an individual change-maker experiences success — when a citizen wins an election, for example — but when she, he, or they learn how to mobilize people who disagree with one another toward common aspirational goals. Leadership manifests itself when people manage to build a bigger “we,” when seemingly ordinary people create systemic change that fires the imagination, and galvanizes hope for the kind of society we want to create and inhabit, as citizens of nations and this precious planet simultaneously.

I am excited to convene a truly remarkable community of teachers and students, some of them founders and former directors of the Hart Leadership Program (HLP), others teaching and learning in it for the first time, and still others who may have just heard of the HLP. I urge you to peruse our current course offerings and to visit the story quilt, a moving set of testimonials by former students that explain in powerful ways what a purposeful life looks and feels like. I also encourage you to pay attention to our events board where we highlight upcoming opportunities for students within Hart classes and across Durham County to listen, engage, and learn from one another.

This past January, we added two new faces to our Hart Program staff as Maria Pacheco departed to continue her career development.  We are delighted to announce the appointment of Lalita Kaligotla as our new Associate Director and Adjunct Professor in the Sanford School. Before coming to Durham last year, Lalita directed the Minor in Leadership Studies at Georgia Tech, a successful interdisciplinary program based in the Institute for Leadership and Entrepreneurship at the Scheller College of Business. The program facilitated leadership development among undergraduate students through curricular and co-curricular opportunities. This semester, Lalita is co-teaching the SOL gateway class, “Border Crossing,” with me, while also coordinating the Hart Fellows program and helping recruit a new cohort of Hart fellows.

Adam Beyer is the new Associate in Research. Adam graduated from Duke in 2018 with degrees in Public Policy Studies and History, as well as a minor in Political Science. He won the Terry Sanford Leadership Award for his dedication to expanding student political engagement while at Duke. Adam also became involved with the Hart Leadership Program during his sophomore year when he took the Political Engagement Pilot Project, a yearlong intensive leadership development program focused on politics taught by Alma Blount and Steve Schewel. After graduation, he worked for Sen. Jon Tester’s reelection campaign in Montana. At Hart, Adam helps plan our events, leads community engagement efforts and assists in our study of student perceptions of leadership.

This spring, our growing program is exploring some of the diverse, complementary, and unheralded forms of leadership emerging across the South, even as a new group of SOL students and Hart Fellows prepare to venture far beyond the confines of Duke, Durham, and the nation this summer.  As part of our ongoing Connect2Politics programming, we have planned several events that put our students directly into dialogue with invited speakers. Together they collectively tackle a range of pressing contemporary ethical and political challenges.

Our first event, “Remembering White Supremacy” on February 4th, featured the remarkable recommendations of the Durham City-County Commission on Confederate Monuments for what to do with the statue of a Confederate soldier taken down by a group of Durham citizens in the wake of the dramatic events in Charlottesville, Virginia a year and a half ago. Appointed by local leaders, the Commission featured our very own Hart Leadership Professor, Deondra Rose; Robin Kirk, co-chair of the Duke Human Rights Center at the Franklin Humanities Institute; and Charmaine McKissick-Melton, professor of mass communications at North Carolina Central University and also a civil rights veteran who helped integrate Durham’s elementary schools. Students taking the SOL gateway class, “Border Crossing” asked the distinguished panel “how do we commemorate a history that is complex, divisive, unresolved, and not yet fully past?” The reflective responses by all three presenters offered no simple answers. But each panelist provided stories that exemplified how engaged listening can bridge – if not reconcile – the heated emotions connected to Confederate monuments, a model for how truth and reconciliation can emerge from contemporary conversations about white supremacy.

Our second event, to be held February 25th, builds on the effort to put history to work by bringing students into dialogue with emerging leaders who are finding ways to expand citizen engagement beyond the immediate electoral cycle. Entitled “Organizing Beyond Elections: A Conversation with the The Atlantic’s Vann Newkirk II and local practitioners,” the forum links thinking and doing, not only by featuring the voices and insights of leading practitioners on criminal justice reform, health care policy, and campus sexual assault policy, but also by fomenting student-led breakout discussions about how to organize political engagement without candidates and elections in the foreground.

Our third Connect2Politics event, “Bridging the Urban-Rural Divide,” features Jacob Bachmeier,  who was elected to the Montana State Assembly at the age of just 17 by canvassing virtually every eligible voter in his remote Montana district. Returning to the theme of “Youth Leadership,” the event will also create opportunities for students to learn about the work of non-partisan citizens’ groups seeking to engage rural voters across North Carolina. Rural-urban divides are not new and neither are they going away anytime soon. By engaging the borders that vastly complicate the process by which American citizens of varied political outlooks respond to the most pressing ethical and political challenges of this moment, we hope to frame starting points for which our inspiring students learn the art of leadership and acquire the tools to foment systemic change across borders.

In addition to these important pedagogical convenings, the Hart Leadership Program will be awarding a new class of Hart fellows in early March, even as our current fellows Sanjeev, Michaela, and Andrew wrap up their remarkable fellowships.  For a peek into the transformative work they have been performing, look at the “Fellows in the Field” section under the Hart Fellows section of our website.

I look forward to sharing more of the exciting news about the work that our students and faculty are embarking on this semester – from the amazing impact that students of the indefatigable Tony Brown are creating in Durham, to the incredible skills about politics and policymaking that students are gaining from Marty Morris, the longest serving chief of staff in US Senate history.

Stay tuned!

Gunther Peck

Director, Hart Leadership Program
February 7, 2019