18 Dec

Dear Students, Alumni, Faculty and Friends

Greetings, welcome to the Hart Leadership website, and thank you for 24 great years. I am filled with gratitude as I retire from Duke.  In a special tribute at my retirement symposium, one of my former students, Ishan Thakore, told an engaging story about our adaptive leadership approach, which I share with you here:

And now it pleases me greatly to introduce Gunther Peck as the new director of the Hart Leadership Program.  Gunther joined the Hart Leadership Program as a faculty affiliate last year, and has been our colleague in Sanford School of Public Policy for years.  He will bring a whole new level of creative energy to our program, and it is exciting for us to welcome him to the director’s role.

Here is a note from Gunther:

I am honored to become the director of the Hart Leadership Program.  Under the dynamic leadership of Alma Blount, the Hart program became not only the gem of the Sanford School’s highly popular undergraduate major, but a nationally recognized model for leadership pedagogy.

I have long benefitted from inspirational conversations about leadership pedagogy with my colleagues who teach in the Hart Leadership Program, not only Alma, but also Tony Brown and Bob Korstad.  They are key reasons I have become fully immersed in the rewarding and challenging work of teaching leadership at Duke University.

Three specific practices have guided my effort to teach leadership over the past fifteen years:  ethical engagement that calls upon students not only to grapple with what they believe and why, but to locate those insights within a reflective writing practice that sustains their deepest ethical voices beyond the classroom; experiential learning, whether research service learning or immersive research, in which students develop critical insights about collective action challenges not from the vantage of an expert but in relationship with the people who so frequently become objects rather than subjects of public policy; and, finally, a passionate engagement with the craft of history, not only learning how to learn from our collective mistakes and accomplishments in the past but understanding how history has been made, how and why stories have been essential to the vital work of imagining a more just, genuinely democratic future and the leadership that will sustain it.

A key moment in the development of my leadership pedagogy was teaching the first- year colloquium for the Robertson Scholars in 2004 and again in 2005. That class combined ethics and history with experiential learning and explicit leadership training. I learned a great deal that term from students like Andrew Cunningham, who went on to become a Marshall Scholar and who also founded Duke’s largest student service organization WISER, a school for girls in rural Kenya staffed solely by women. I take no credit for Andrew’s remarkable work, but I do find inspiration in what we learned together as student and teacher – that ethical engagement, community-minded research, historical imagination, and leadership nurture each other in remarkable and enduring ways.

I have also learned about leadership and how to teach it from my work as a citizen activist over the past decade in Durham County and across the state of North Carolina.  As an activist, I have been especially committed to expanding access to voting and defending the voting rights of citizens, helping secure an early voting site on Duke’s Campus for the first time in the fall election of 2008.  I have relished conversations with local citizens who disagree with me or who do not believe their vote counts, finding ways, usually by listening and witnessing, to persuade them to participate in the messy project we call democracy.

My most passionate activism has been non-partisan, engaging registered Republicans, Democrats, and Independents alike in finding ways to build more representative political institutions in Durham and surrounding rural counties.

Finally, my appreciation of leadership pedagogy has emerged organically from my love for teaching, studying, and writing history. My scholarship, which engages several related historical topics involving migrant workers, human trafficking, abolition, and race formation, has taken me to archives and to people far and near in search of historical answers to pressing ethical questions that shape the past, present, and future of humanitarian engagement.

Studying history – and using it – is not a heroic exercise in studying famous historical actors we admire. It is instead a humbling and deeply moral process, one that is indispensable to preparing students to locate themselves as agents and leaders in the present, to begin the challenging work of asking transformative questions.

Like good history, moral leadership begins with compelling questions and complex diagnoses rather than self-serving and simplistic analogies.  The history we use changes as our present evolves.  So, too, does adaptive leadership require a deep grounding in history and the moral, empirical, and political challenges that it requires of its students.

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