May 23rd, 2024

Duke University has received a $1.125 million gift from the Laidlaw Foundation that will greatly expand the Hart Leadership Program’s capacity to support community-engaged experiential learning opportunities for Duke undergraduate students.

The gift will establish the Laidlaw Research and Leadership Scholarship Program at Duke University, a 24-month leadership development program for cohorts of up to 25 students. During their two years in the program, Laidlaw Scholars will receive support for two summers of community-engaged research and civic practice, beginning in the summer of 2025. At full capacity, the program will provide support for up to 50 undergraduate students per year. The initial gift is for three years and is subject to renewal.

The program aligns with Duke’s strategic vision of transforming teaching and learning through experiential education, creating more opportunities for undergraduate research, and building community engagement in North Carolina and globally.

“Sanford is deeply committed to deepening the undergraduate experience of students,” Dean Judith Kelley said. “This program provides robust learning and global connections, and this gift augments the already extraordinary track record of the Hart Leadership Program in training undergraduate students for lives of leadership and service. We are grateful for the support of the Laidlaw Foundation for our students.”

The Laidlaw Scholars Program is designed to develop ethical leaders in every sector and field of interest. Through academic courses, experiential learning programs, community-based research and co-curricular initiatives, Duke students will be challenged to develop their own frameworks for leadership and work alongside others toward a common purpose.

Andrew Nurkin, director of the Hart Leadership Program, said the Laidlaw Scholars Program at Duke will incorporate all of the hallmark elements of the Hart Leadership Program: learning leadership through experience, conducting research with a civic mission, connecting classroom learning to community contexts, practicing mindful reflection, and growing alongside a strong community of peers and practitioners.

“Our aim has always been for each student to develop their own sense of public purpose in community with others,” Nurkin said.

The Laidlaw Scholars Program will be open to all first- and second-year Duke students. Students will apply in the fall, be required to take a spring gateway seminar, and receive full funding for two summers to participate in the program. The first summer will be focused on research with Duke faculty advisors, and the second summer will focus on “leadership-in-action” projects. At least one of the two summers will be spent outside the United States. Students will also receive ongoing leadership development through an overnight retreat and a colloquium dinner series, a certificate in ethical leadership from the University of Oxford, as well as access to the international Laidlaw Scholars Network.  

The Laidlaw Scholars Network includes some of the world’s top research universities, creating opportunities for collaboration at both the undergraduate and faculty levels. The network is comprised of 19 top universities in Europe, North America and Asia, including the University of Oxford, the London School of Economics, Columbia University, Georgetown University, Brown University, University of Hong Kong–and now Duke.

Susanna Kempe, CEO of the Laidlaw Foundation, said, “We are absolutely delighted to be partnering with Duke University, whose commitment to promoting an intellectual environment built on free and open inquiry, and developing students to lead with unwaveringly high ethical standards, completely aligns with our purpose in funding Laidlaw Scholars at the top universities in the world.”

The program at Duke will feature shared aspects, as well as specific features that make it “uniquely Duke.” One unique feature will be a Duke gateway class on community engaged research and leadership, required in the spring before the first summer of the program. In addition, the summer of research will be team-based and led by Duke faculty.

“We are thrilled that in the coming years up to 50 Duke students each summer will be expanding their research and leadership skills through this prestigious program,” Nurkin said. “This program will offer characteristic Hart Leadership moments found in our other programs while adding valuable new opportunities for students to grow as leaders, scholars and global citizens.”

Learn more about the Hart Leadership Program:

About the Laidlaw Foundation: The Laidlaw Foundation invests in the education of the underprivileged and underrepresented in order to break the cycle of poverty, reduce inequality and develop a new generation of ethical leaders. Learn more: