28 Jun

Meet our 2017 SOL students

Seventeen Duke undergraduate students have officially embarked upon their summer projects for community partners through Service Opportunities in Leadership (SOL), a component of the Hart Leadership Program. (Pictured above are the students in the 2017 spring preparation course).

SOL is a nationally recognized twelve-month leadership program for students who are interested in complex social issues and the art of implementing systemic change. Students who participate in SOL are chosen for their intellectual curiosity, maturity, and dedication to public service.  For their SOL commitments, students provide volunteer services and also collaboratively design and implement field-based research projects for partner organizations.

In preparation for their summer projects, students complete a gateway course in the spring called “Border Crossing: Leadership, Value Conflicts and Public Life.”  The course is designed to help students confront the complexities of entering into diverse cultures and communities. When they return to campus in the fall, SOL students participate in a capstone research seminar called “Adaptive Leadership,” in which they integrate their summer work with concepts about leadership, politics, and public policy.

This year’s SOL students join the ranks of more than 400 SOL alumni who have come before them.  Since 1995, SOL students have worked with 224 partner organizations in 44 countries. Students in the 2017 SOL group are pursuing projects in a wide range of fields:


Spencer Flynn (‘19) is originally from Thousand Oaks in Southern California and is pursuing a double major in Chemistry and Philosophy. During the academic year he works in Durham as a hospice volunteer, at Duke as a research assistant in the new Health Humanities lab, and as an EMT with Duke University Emergency Medical Services. Spencer is passionate about community health outreach as a means to community empowerment and improved health outcomes, and is interested in and troubled by geriatric healthcare policy and national attitudes.

For his SOL summer, Spencer is working with Meet Each Need with Dignity, a medical clinic in Pacoima, California, to identify healthcare barriers of underprivileged residents in the San Fernando Valley.


Zhong Huang (‘19) was born in China and immigrated to Cleveland, Ohio at the age of nine. He is pursuing a degree in Sociology and is particularly interested in studying the dynamics between race and society, as well as differential access to healthcare for under-served communities. At Duke, Zhong is involved with the Community Empowerment Fund, Duke Swing Dance Club, and serves on The Chronicle Editorial Board. He also works as a peer tutor and a Resident Assistant to first year students.

This summer, Zhong is working with the Chinese Mutual Aid Association in Chicago, Illinois, a social services agency that provides programs for youth, adults, and senior citizens.

Omar Khan (‘19) is a Pakistani international student who is double majoring in Global Health and Chemistry with a Biological Emphasis. On campus, Omar is an executive officer in Duke’s International Association, as well as the Creative Design Director for the Sophomore Class Council. He has also worked at the Center for Leadership Development and Social Action, and participated in DukeEngage Jordan last summer.

This summer, Omar is working in Durham, North Carolina with Urban Ministries, an organization that provides food, shelter, and resources for homeless populations.

Erin Williams (‘20) was born in Washington, D.C. but has lived in Pasadena, California, South Bend, Indiana, and, currently, in New Canaan, Connecticut. Erin took a gap year after high school, during which she travelled to six countries, lived with host families, and worked with community partners to enact social change from the ground up. Erin is interested in pursuing degrees in both Public Policy Studies and Cultural Anthropology. On campus, she is a part of Green Devils, the sustainability club for first-years on campus, and the MASTERY program in the Kenan Institute of Ethics, helping to tutor kids from refugee families in Durham.

This summer, Erin is working with White Bison, a nonprofit in Colorado Springs, Colorado that works with Native American communities to encourage wellness and sobriety.


Gianna Giordano (‘19) is from New Providence, New Jersey and is pursuing a degree in Public Policy Studies. On campus, Gianna is a peer advisor, an advocate for the Community Empowerment Fund, and a member of the Club Equestrian Team. After her freshman year, Gianna participated in DukeEngage Peru and worked in the Hogar Amantaní orphanage. This experience prompted her to learn more about child welfare in the United States and inspired her SOL summer project.

This summer, Gianna is working with The Crossnore School & Children’s Home, a residential foster care home for children in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Jessica Rodriguez (‘19) grew up in San Diego, California and is pursuing a double major in Cultural Anthropology and Global Health. She is interested in education and engaging minority communities in conversations about mental health.

This summer, Jessica is working in Durham, North Carolina with Book Harvest, a non-profit that provides free books to children from low-income families in Durham and the greater Triangle area.

Linda Zhang (‘20) is from Tianjin, China and is potentially pursuing a degree in Public Policy Studies with a minor in Education. Linda is very passionate about higher education reform and bridging cross-cultural educational systems. At Duke, Linda is a research assistant in the Political Science department and is deeply involved with student life, serving as a Resident Assistant and campus tour guide. She has also worked extensively on the design and marketing for Duke Kunshan University (DKU).

For her SOL summer project, Linda is working with DKU at its Kunshan location, conducting research on attitudes towards liberal arts higher education in China.


Emily McAuliffe (‘18) is from Falls Church, Virginia and is pursuing a major in Public Policy Studies, a minor in Environmental Science and Policy, and a Certificate in the Study of Ethics. She is passionate about the intersections of environmental issues, social justice, and public policy. In her free time, Emily is an avid runner, and particularly enjoys running around the D.C. monuments at sunset.

This summer, Emily is working with the Rachel Carson Council, an environmental non-profit in Washington, D.C., to investigate the impacts of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline on surrounding communities.

Gino Nuzzolillo (‘20) is from Omaha, Nebraska and is pursuing degrees in Public Policy Studies and History. On campus, Gino is a member of Dukes and Duchesses, a Senator in Duke Student Government, a writer at Duke Political Review, and a Research Assistant at the Kenan Institute for Ethics. He also serves as the President of Alspaugh dorm on East Campus, and will be serving as a Resident Assistant (RA) for another East Campus dorm, Pegram, this fall.

For his SOL summer, Gino is working with the international non-profit Wine to Water, both at their headquarters in Boone, North Carolina and at their field site in the Dominican Republic, to examine water infrastructure systems in rural communities.

Urban Development

Ashlyn Nuckols (‘18) is from Burlington, Vermont, and is pursuing degrees in Cultural Anthropology and Political Science, with a focus on Politics and Social Identity. Ashlyn serves as president of the Duke chapter of United Students Against Sweatshops and is involved in labor organizing on and off campus. She is also a founding member of The Cook Center Media Workshop, a student-led group that produces film and media related to social justice issues in North Carolina. Ashlyn frequently works on freelance video projects and occasionally contributes articles to The Chronicle and Duke Political Review.

For her summer project, Ashlyn is working with Durham For All, a nonprofit that strives to mobilize working class and people of color communities for progressive causes, to examine the factors affecting political participation among low-income Durham residents, particularly staff members at Duke. Her research will help inform her senior thesis on social identity and community organizing in Durham, North Carolina.

Lizzie Speed (‘18) is from New York City and is pursuing the architecture concentration of the Art History major and a Political Science minor. In the fall of her junior year, Lizzie studied urban planning in Copenhagen and has since been very passionate about improving the livability of cities, both through design and policy. Lizzie has been involved with housing policy in the university setting since her first year, when she served as a Duke Student Government Senator of Residential Life. On campus, she acts in and directs All of the Above, an annual show comprised of monologues written, performed, and produced by female-identifying members of the Duke community, and works as an undergraduate research assistant at the Wired! Lab for Visualizing Art History & Visual Culture.

This summer, Lizzie is pursuing her interest in affordable housing by working with the New York City Housing Authority, the largest provider of public housing in the country.

Labor/Migrant Workers

Joyce Er (‘20) is a prospective Public Policy Studies and Computer Science major. A first-year student from Singapore, Joyce serves as the University News department head at The Chronicle and co-chairs the Duke University Union Visual Arts Committee. She also serves as the vice-president of the Singapore Students’ Association, assists with the Laboratory for Unconventional Conflict Analysis and Simulation, and sits on the Arts Annex Advisory Board, First-Year Library Advisory Board, and Nasher MUSE. She will also serve as a Resident Assistant and Bass Connections researcher this fall.

For her SOL project, Joyce is working with Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2), a non-profit organization she worked with in high school, whose mission is to promote equitable treatment for migrant workers in Singapore.

Amulya Vadapalli (‘19) is pursuing a double major in Public Policy Studies and Middle Eastern Studies with a minor in Economics. She is currently involved with the Duke Arabic Union, Duke Political Review, and was a Global Human Rights Scholar at the Kenan Institute of Ethics.  Last summer, Amulya studied Arabic for eight weeks at a Middlebury College language program in a no-English environment. Outside of class, Amulya can be found dancing, listening to classical Indian music or watching The Good Wife.

For her SOL summer, she is working in Amman, Jordan with Tamkeen, a non-governmental organization which provides legal aid to migrant workers.

Samantha Villalobos (‘19) is from College Station, TX and is pursuing a degree in Civil Engineering with certificates in Architectural Engineering and in Latinx Studies. On campus, she works as a lab technician in the Richter Lab at the Nicholas School of the Environment, developing and performing analytical methods for testing soils. Sam is interested in the fields of structural engineering and construction science, as well as the inequities faced by Latinx construction workers in the United States.

For her SOL summer, she is working with the Southeastern Outreach Training Institute at NC State Industrial Expansion Solutions in Raleigh, North Carolina to study construction safety training for Latinx construction workers with limited English skills.

Human Rights 

Young Park (‘19) is from Basking Ridge, New Jersey and is pursuing degrees in Public Policy Studies and International Comparative Studies, with a minor in Cultural Anthropology. On campus, she tutors and mentors refugee children through the MASTERY tutoring program at the Kenan Institute for Ethics and works as a student intern at the Duke Community Service Center. Young is interested in exploring the disparity between refugee expectations and realities during the resettlement process.

This summer, Young is working with the International Rescue Committee in New York City to assist refugee clients with their resettlement needs.

Olivia Pennoyer (‘20) is originally from Rumford, Rhode Island, but moved to Augusta, Georgia at age ten. Olivia is currently undecided about a major of study, but is exploring disciplines that connect science, service, and policy. On campus, she is the secretary for Future is Now (FIN), which provides mentorship to elementary school girls in the Durham area, and works in a lab specializing in studying the Epstein Barr virus. She is also an admissions ambassador, giving tours to prospective students, and participates in Spanish Service Learning classes, which provide vital bilingual services to the Durham education system.

For her SOL summer project, Olivia is working with two community partners in Durham, North Carolina this summer—the Center for Death Penalty Litigation and the Carolina Justice Policy Center.  Olivia’s research explores how PTSD diagnoses affects death penalty sentencing.

Ebony Hargro (‘18) is from Charlotte, North Carolina and is majoring in International Comparative Studies with a minor in French. At Duke, Ebony has been able to indulge her love of travel, going abroad four times through opportunities such as DukeEngage and SIT Study Abroad. In her free time, Ebony also loves to dance.

This summer, Ebony is working in Boston, Massachusetts, with Corporate Accountability International, an NGO committed to stopping human rights abuses by global corporations. From her SOL community-based research project, she hopes to write an Honors ICS Thesis, examining the relationship between multi-stakeholder initiatives, development, and human rights within the cocoa industry.

Lenae Ryan (‘20) is from Gainesville, Florida and pursuing degrees in Public Policy Studies and International Comparative Studies with a focus in the Middle East. At Duke, Lenae volunteers with INJAZ, a campus organization that partners students with Arabic-speaking refugee families to help them accommodate to life in the U.S. She also writes for the satirical newspaper on campus, Department Of, and is involved with the Catholic Center.

Although she is not in SOL this summer, Lenae took the Border Crossing class in the spring of 2017, which makes her eligible to apply for a SOL summer grant during the next two years of her Duke career.

This summer Lenae is in Cape Town, South Africa with DukeEngage.

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