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Hart Leadership Program announces inaugural North American fellows



The Hart Leadership Program is excited to announce the selection of two graduating seniors who will pilot a new Hart Fellowship designed for community engagement in North America.

The two recipients were selected because of their remarkable records of leadership on and off campus, their demonstrated capacity for thoughtful engagement to address societal challenges, and their compelling project proposals.

Rachel Rubin will spend her fellowship in Boone County, West Virginia (pop. 22,000) with the Southwestern Regional Day Report Center (SRDRC) implementing a Fresh Start Program in Logan County for those leaving prison for drug offenses. She will also help neighboring Boone County set up a Family Treatment Court. Rubin has spent the past two summers working in West Virginia around issues of criminal justice reform and social policy. At Duke, she was an Alice M. Baldwin Scholar and participant in the Hart Leadership Program’s Political Engagement Pilot Project. Originally from Fresno, CA, she graduated from Duke in 2019 with a degree in public policy studies.

Connor Vasu will spend his fellowship at the U.S.-Mexico border near El Paso, TX. He hopes to work with the Dilley Pro Bono Project (DPBP) at the Dilley Detention Center in Texas to understand the legal and humanitarian needs of migrants and asylum seekers at the southern border. At Duke, he conducted research on energy in Paraguay and participated in DukeEngage Durban. He also created a presentation on immigrant rights that has been used across North Carolina by advocacy organizations. Originally from Newton, MA, he graduated from Duke in 2019 with a degree in public policy studies.

They join three other graduating seniors who HLP previously announced would complete fellowships in Brazil, Jordan and Tanzania over the upcoming year.

Since 1995, the Hart Fellows Program has provided recent Duke graduates the opportunity to partner with community-based organizations around the world for intensive, 10-month fellowships. Hart Fellows conduct research projects in collaboration with their host organizations, while simultaneously developing their own understanding of ethical leadership as they encounter and engage with the social and political complexities of their work.

Traditionally, fellows have left the United States for their work, collaborating with organizations in 40 countries since the Fellowship’s inception. They have tackled issues ranging from human trafficking to environmental justice. 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.

(Image caption: Connor Vasu (left) and Rachel Rubin (right) are the new North American Hart Fellows.