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15 Oct

Dear Students, Colleagues, & Friends of the Hart Leadership Program,

As we continue to navigate a global pandemic that feels like a marathon with occasional sprints to an elusive finish line, I want to share with you some very good and exciting news from the Hart Leadership Program.

First, we are delighted to welcome Associate Professor of the Practice Alexandra Zagbayou to the Hart Leadership Program!  The former executive director of Student U in Durham, NC, Alexandra brings a wealth of pedagogical insight and community-based expertise and know how to her classes at Hart.  This spring, Alexandra is teaching Women in Leadership, a course we can now offer every semester, and Border Crossing, the gateway class for our Service in Leadership (SOL) program.  She will be guiding our new SOL cohort through their summer projects and sharing them with Andrew Nurkin who is teaching the SOL capstone in the fall. HLP’s signature leadership development program is in very good hands!

This spring we also are excited to launch our third cohort of Political Engagement Project (PEP) fellows, representing disciplines and departments from across the University. They will be  working with community partners like the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and North Carolina Asian Americans Together to perform research and build democracy deliverables in the Democracy lab, taught this spring by the fabulous Suzanne Katzenstein.  Suzanne and I are sharing this exciting pedagogical opportunity in partnership with POLIS.  Collaboration among Hart faculty and among Hart students has never been stronger or more rewarding.

We also look forward to hosting several exciting student-focused events this spring.  The first is an event highlighting the extraordinary research of a dynamic group of Duke students who have been studying barriers and solutions to youth political engagement across North Carolina, the state that ratified the 26th Amendment a half century ago last summer.  The voting rights conference, scheduled for April 12th, will showcase their research as well as bring community partners, national reform advocates, and election administration officials into productive dialogue.  The second is a story-telling challenge that invites any undergraduate to reflect on what “failure,” however defined, has taught them. (See details below) Our desire is not to celebrate the most spectacular individual failures – we all have them! – but to discern, through reflection, how we have adapted to the many challenges of building public leadership at this moment.  The Why Not Failure Challenge kicks off with an exciting roundtable discussion featuring Duke students reflecting on what failure has taught them on January 27th.

If this pandemic has taught us anything about leadership, it is that collaboration and reflection are more important than ever. Sometimes it does indeed seem that we are captives to histories that are not of our own making: a political culture that presumes the most important facts about a person can be observed with the naked eye; a procedural rule known as the filibuster, invented by the defenders of slavery, that stymies every effort to reform this thing we call Democracy. But leadership we also know begins with creativity and collaboration. These are gifts we possess, but which grow stronger as we share them with others. And we are indeed fortunate to be able to practice them with a beloved community of practitioners here at Duke and beyond, whether we are 20 or 50 or 80 years old.


Gunther Peck

Director, The Hart Leadership Program



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