Even amid social distancing restrictions, eighteen Duke undergraduates are working on virtual summer projects with community partners through Service Opportunities in Leadership (SOL), a signature component of the Hart Leadership Program.
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, leadership potential, and dedication to public service. For their SOL projects, students work with a community partner and collaboratively design and implement field-based research. This summer, due to social distancing requirements brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, SOL students have pivoted from field-based research to conducting their research and service projects via virtual platforms and remote work.
In preparation for their summer projects, students complete a gateway course called “Border Crossing: Leadership, Value Conflicts and Public Life.” The course is designed to help students confront the complexities of engaging communities and addressing ethically rich problems. When they return to campus in the fall, SOL students participate in a capstone research seminar called “Servant Leadership,” in which they integrate their summer work into broader concepts of 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 approximately 300 partner organizations in 46 countries. Students in the 2020 SOL group are pursuing projects in a variety of fields, including disparities in access to education, sustainable fashion, and voter engagement.
Read more about our SOL students:
Gabrielle “Belle” Allmendinger (Class of 2022, she/her/hers) is a neuroscience and International Comparative Studies double-major from Boston. Belle has served as VP of Programming for Blue Devils United since first-year spring. She also volunteers at the Duke Puppy Kindergarten, works at the Costume Shop, and will start as a Resident Assistant in the 2020 Fall semester. Initially inspired during her Duke in China program, Belle is interested in exploring perspectives on U.S. public transportation, through the historical lens of public opinion to policy debates. For her SOL project, Belle is working with the U.S. High Speed Rail Association to increase their social media presence and engagement, with the immediate goal of promoting a new stimulus bill.
Chitra Balakrishnan (Class of 2021, she/her/hers) is a philosophy major and mathematics minor. A junior from Chicago, she is most involved with the Kenan Refugee Project’s Citizenship Lab and education advocacy team, the Duke Student Government Judiciary, and Illyria selective living group. During her past few years at Duke, Chitra has realized her interests in public policy through experiences with the Chicago Office of the City Clerk, the Council of Europe, and the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network. This summer, she will be partnering with Valens Global to better understand ways in which national security aligns with advocacy on behalf of vulnerable populations such as refugees.
Nora Benmamoun (Class of 2022, she/her/hers) is a Public Policy and Asian and Middle Eastern Studies double major. A sophomore from Champaign, IL, Nora is a Baldwin Scholar, a research assistant in the Duke Identity Lab, a team member in the Prevention of Sexual Misconduct on University Bass Connections, and a resident assistant in Trinity dorm on East Campus. Nora enjoys reading, watching documentaries, and learning Chinese in her free time. For her SOL project, Nora will work for the City and Country of Denver Department of Safety and research the impact of COVID-19 on the prison and court systems.
Caroline Doherty (Class of 2021, she/her/hers) is a public policy major with a global health minor and is completing the pre-med requirements. Caroline enjoys participating in club volleyball, Bass Connections, and doing research at the Duke Hospital. She is also president of the Duke chapter of Doctors Without Borders. This summer, she is working with the Tarboro Public School system to help create materials to facilitate student learning and improve mental health.
Margaret Gaw (Class of 2022, she/her/hers), an English major and chemistry minor from Nashville, loves learning, laughing, and hiking in the great outdoors. When her nose is not in a book or journal, she is in deep conversation with a friend or listening to Hamilton. A Baldwin Scholar, she is involved in Duke Honor Council, the Kenan Refugee Project, the Episcopal Center, and the Ronald McDonald House. She wants to be a doctor empowering, equipping, and partnering with marginalized women and families to live with health and wellbeing. She loves learning at the intersections of the humanities and medicine and has interests in global health and social determinants of health. For her virtual SOL 2020 project, she is documenting underrepresented voices of young people in Durham and their perspectives during COVID-19. In collaboration with Partners for Youth Opportunities (PYO), she is interviewing and working with youth to understand and hopefully mitigate social and educational disparities.
Carlee Goldberg (Class of 2022, she/her/hers) is a political science and history major. A sophomore from Parkland, FL, Carlee is an A.B. Duke Scholar, serves as a Duke Student Government Justice, and researches the overlap between juvenile justice and gun violence. Outside of Duke, Carlee serves as the Director for the Triangle Debate League, an organization aimed at increasing access to speech and debate opportunities in the triangle area. This summer, Carlee is working with the Department of Justice Voting Section and conducting research on voting barriers facing indigenous communities.
Sakib Hoque (Class of 2021, he/him/his) is a biology Major with minors in linguistics and chemistry and is originally from San Antonio, TX. Outside of classes, Sakib can be found volunteering at Duke Hospital or exploring a developing passion for botany at the Pryer & Windham Lab. He also serves on the executive board of Duke’s American Sign Language Club and as the Philanthropy & Volunteer Chair of his coed board game fraternity, Psi Upsilon. Experiences with volunteering in nursing homes have turned his focus toward medical school to pursue a career in geriatrics, but he is also passionate about LGBTQ+ advocacy. This summer, Sakib will be exploring the intersection of queerness and Islam by working with the Muslim Alliance for Sexual & Gender Diversity (MASGD).
Lizzy Kramer (Class of 2022, she/her/hers) is completing an interdepartmental major in cultural anthropology and public policy, with a certificate in human rights. She was inspired to study cultural anthropology in a first-year seminar about the US/Mexico border, which combined artwork and narratives told by migrants to create a holistic understanding of the border. After this, she became interested in ways communities can unite, through art and social action, to change the policies that oppress them. She pursued this interest through DukeEngage Tucson last summer, working with an organization that used art as a form of social resistance and empowerment. On campus, she works as a gallery guide at the Nasher Museum of Art and leads the Student Advisory Board to the Duke Human Rights Center, where she has found a home and calling with both the faculty and students involved in this center. This summer, she is excited to work with Durham for All to find ways to mobilize voters to make the city better serve their needs.
Olivia Kramer (Class of 2021, she/her/hers) is a political science major pursuing certificates in human rights and Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE). A third-year student from Miami, she is passionate about refugee policy and human rights. Outside of class, Olivia is an active member of Dukes and Duchesses and the Editor-in-Chief of the Duke University Journal of Philosophy, Politics, and Economics. She works as an intern with Church World Service Durham, a refugee resettlement organization, providing support in its Office of Legal Services. This summer she will be working with the Tent Partnership for Refugees on a project facilitating private sector engagement with the global refugee population.
Mehdina Koleini (Class of 2021, she/her/hers) is a public policy studies major from Cocoa Beach, Florida. Mehdina works as a research assistant at the Sanford School of Public Policy. As someone deeply interested in social policy issues, Mehdina decided to focus on the impacts of summer education programs for underserved children in the D.C. area. Her project will include a report displaying the valuable effects that school-based programs have on summer learning. This project will be conducted with the help and guidance of Horizons Greater Washington D.C.
Lily Levin (Class of 2023, she/her/hers) is a prospective cultural anthropology and English Major from Raleigh. During her first year at Duke, she worked as a student leader with NARAL-NC, a co-leader of the North Carolina Poor People’s Campaign Youth Contingent, and a member of the student advisory board for the Duke Human Rights Center. She plans to continue her advocacy with the Poor People’s Campaign this summer, engaging in a remote internship to organize at the grassroots level and recruit community members to participate in an online nationwide moral march. She also will be an intern with the Community Empowerment Fund in Durham to expand on locally based work.
Leslie Li (Class of 2023, she/her/hers) is a prospective public policy major from Nanjing, China with an interest in health policy, education, and social justice. She is partnering with MAYLOVE, a sex education organization, to develop online sexual and reproductive health courses for students in China. At Duke, she is involved with the Duke Chinese Theater and Duke Debating Society while holding a part-time job at the Library Acquisition Department. Outside of class, she loves cooking in the dorm kitchen and inviting friends for a taste of her new dishes.
Swathi Ramprasad (Class of 2021, she/her/hers) is studying computer science and public policy. She is passionate about civil rights and will be working with the ACLU of Philadelphia on issues related to the school-to-prison pipeline. Outside of schoolwork, she is involved in the Cyber Policy and Gender Violence Initiative, works with SuWa, a mentorship program for refugee families in Durham, and also with Duke Partnership for Service. She hopes that she can learn from her summer experience from a place of humility and empathy.
Quinn Smith (Class of 2023, he/him/his) is studying public policy and documentary studies. Hailing from Albuquerque, New Mexico and a member of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma, Quinn is heavily invested in issues concerning the Native American community. He recognizes the importance of the academic analysis of policy, but also recognizes that the only way by which to convey this analysis to the public is through poignant storytelling. Quinn will work with the Indian Arts and Crafts Board, a division of the Department of the Interior, to create a research-based photodocumentary of the Blackfoot People of Montana and their unique relationship with Glacier National Park from never-before-seen photo archives.
Micalyn Struble (Class of 2022, she/her/hers) is majoring in computer science and philosophy. She is proud to be from the Bay Area (go Warriors!) but has loved her time in North Carolina and plans to one day live in the American South. Outside of class, she does research for Sanford Cyber Policy, the Duke Center for Science and Justice, and the Biometrics & Immigration Policy Bass Connections team. She is also part of the re-entry and restorative justice communities within the Religious Coalition for a Nonviolent Durham. In summer 2020, she will create nonpartisan cybercrime recommendations for the next presidential administration and research the cybersecurity vulnerabilities of electronic monitoring under the guidance of the Center for Cybersecurity Policy and Law.
Milagros “Mila” de Souza (Class of 2021, she/her/hers) is a Program II major—Philosophy of the Fashion Industrial Complex: Production and Consumption. Originally from Washington D.C., Mila is passionate about and participates in all things sustainable fashion. In her daily life, Mila only buys sustainable or second-hand clothing while also trying to live a more sustainable life in general. In her career, Mila is a stylist, model, designer, blogger, and entrepreneur in the fashion industry. In all of these roles, Mila incorporates social and/or environmental sustainability. This summer, Mila will be working with Remake, a non-profit committed to making fashion a force for good, in order to organize a #NoNewClothes Campaign and a sustainable fashion conference for college students.
Emily Woodrow (Class of 2021, she/her/hers) is a global health and public policy major from Phoenix, Arizona. Emily cares deeply about promoting health equity on a global scale. On campus, Emily is involved in the Duke Center for Global Reproductive Health, the Duke UNICEF Student Advisory Committee, and Bass Connections. After interning in the U.S. House of Representatives last summer, Emily hopes to combine her interests by working in the field of health policy after graduation. For her SOL project, Emily will be partnering with Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. She hopes to gain perspective through her work advocating for the Global Fund by engaging with U.S. policy makers and influencers.
Jessie Xu (Class of 2022, she/her/hers) is a prospective public policy major and economics minor, originally from Connecticut and Shanghai, China. On campus, Jessie has founded a local chapter of the Wellbeing Economy Alliance and serves as partner for Duke Impact Investing Group. Outside these involvements, Jessie is an active member of Business Oriented Women, a Resident Assistant, and volunteers with the Community Empowerment Fund. After conducting Bass Connections research on the 2008 financial crisis in her sophomore year, Jessie found a passion for financial regulation. She is excited to conduct SOL research with the Federal Reserve Board this summer on the cost of banking for low-income communities.