Professor Marty Morris’ mantra of “one foot in politics and one foot in policy” is at the heart of his “The Republican Party and Its Future?” course. Morris spends the semester examining the Republican Party, its policies and the politics behind those policies. Whether a student wants to become directly involved in politics or not, whether one considers himself/herself a Republican or not, Morris believes an understanding of what is going on within the Republican Party will help any civic-minded person make better decisions in his or her public life.
“It is hard to know when each of my students will have the opportunity to lead others. But that time will surely come,” Morris stated. “In class I will do my best to give students examples of effective and ineffective leadership. Leadership is a messy business. Simply put, the more my students are subjected to the gray areas of governing, the better they will perform when it is their turn to take the helm.”
Throughout the semester, Morris invites Washington insiders to speak to his class, teaching practical political skills from writing op-eds and political briefings to creating commercials and direct mail pieces. He also leads his students through in-depth discussions on immigration, gun control, the influence of outside groups on political parties, and other hot-button issues, frequently inviting guests such as the former Legislative Director to Chuck Hagel to join the discussion.
Morris’ former student and teaching assistant Jacob Zionce described Morris as “willing to work his connections to bring the world of DC to life in the classroom. He would constantly push us to think bigger than we had before; he would try to convince us that we could run for Congress, that the political disorder of today could be salvaged if we were willing to lead the way, and that we should constantly strive to think outside the box.” Zionce added, “I, like many of the students in the class, am a Democrat and rarely agree with Professor Morris on policy but still loved every moment of his class.”
Although just now teaching his third semester, Morris has quickly established a reputation among students. He does not have an office, preferring instead to spend time in the Fleishman Commons where his students can easily find him. Last semester a student sat in on the class, although not enrolled, trying to persuade others to drop out so he could take their spot.
Once semester’s class cohort felt such a strong affinity for Morris they nominated him for the Susan Tifft Undergraduate Teaching and Mentoring Award. Student Ray Li declared, “Professor Morris was one of the most influential people I’ve met at Duke.” Li wrote a letter on behalf of ten fellow students nominating him for the award: “The thing that really sets Professor Morris apart from any other professor is his commitment to his students as people. . . . He has encouraged many of us to pursue careers in public service, but even more than that, he has truly inspired us to do so. His unwavering support for us and dedicated passion for the field has changed many of our otherwise cynical views on government. Professor Morris has sat down with many students for multi-hour conversations about their future, laying out grand visions of all the possibilities available for them.”
The transition from running a Senate office to teaching was a natural progression for Morris. While overseeing Senator Lugar’s Washington office and five Indiana field offices for 23 years, Morris supervised hundreds of interns. He always considered interns crucial members of his Senate staff. He felt it imperative to include them in meetings, phone calls and important office projects. As a former intern himself, he believes interns are vital to a successful organization. He approaches teaching the same way – he believes in his students and forms close relationships with them. Always eager to continue a class discussion or talk with students about their plans, he is quick to ask, “How can I help you?”
When asked about his former Chief of Staff, Senator Lugar said, “Everyone wanted to know Marty. He was extremely helpful to all he worked with.” He wasn’t surprised when Morris came to teach at Duke and considers Duke lucky to have a faculty member with Morris’ wealth of political leadership experience to share with students. This summer, Senator Lugar hosted Morris and six of his former and current students at The Lugar Center for an afternoon.
Morris first met Hart Leadership Program Director Alma Blount during his time serving on the Sanford School Board of Visitors. When Blount realized Morris was leaving Washington, she quickly called him to persuade him to join the Hart program. According to Morris, teaching in the Hart program is “a way to take 35 years of experience and make it useful in a pleasant way.”
“Terry Sanford created this building to show students you can change things. My students are bright and knowledgeable about policy. I want to show them they can do both policy and politics,” Morris said. He believes most people in Washington with political ties today are so shallow in their policy ability that when they run into someone with policy experience, they run away. He wants his students to know they can participate and be leaders in the political arena and make a difference.
When pressed to describe his teaching philosophy, Morris shared, “I attempt to understand each individual student to the best of my ability. That is my central motivation and I know the way all Hart Leadership instructors approach a classroom. Find out what the student wants from the class, from Duke and from life. If I am to be successful, I need to help each person with at least one of these three desires and hopefully all three. Often the classroom vehicle will not be enough – so I make myself available in multiple non-intrusive ways. This is the opportunity Hart gives to me and I am very, very grateful.”