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The Brodhead DukeEngage-Durham Program: Exploring justice and community accountability

Durham, NC
Dates June 7 - August 1
Program Focus

Working with Durham organizations and government agencies primarily focused on reproductive healthcare, education, criminal justice reform, housing and labor rights, and gender or family violence.

Program Leaders
Service Themes
  • Human Rights & Civil Liberties
  • Public Policy
  • Race & Ethnic Relations
  • Women's Advocacy & Women's Empowerment
  • No Foreign Language Requirement
President Emeritus Richard Brodhead

In 2017, Duke University received a gift from The Duke Endowment to name the DukeEngage-Durham program after President Emeritus Brodhead, commemorating his deep commitment to Durham. “Thanks to this support,” said Brodhead, “Duke students will be able to deliver their classroom knowledge in service to the Durham community and integrate their DukeEngage experiences with their curricular learning.” Read more about Pres. Brodhead’s connection to DukeEngage.

Brodhead DukeEngage-Durham Program Overview

Communities with limited resources often call upon the State, via criminal justice, child welfare, healthcare, social services or education systems, to solve issues of violence both inside and outside the home as well as economic and health disparities. However, these systems are not designed to effectively prevent recurrence or transform those communities most impacted. Too often in the name of safety and security, the State perpetrates violence and exercises control in ways that further harm and disenfranchise communities of color, women/girls, transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals, immigrants, etc. These communities are ensnared in the carceral state where they are surveilled and criminalized in schools, foster systems, and in their communities, making them vulnerable to policing and incarceration and state-sanctioned violence. Schools and housing are divided unjustly, and few have the resources to get comprehensive health care without living wage employment and paid time off to care for themselves or others. Can we imagine a comprehensive vision of justice to include working towards economic, racial, gender, and reproductive justice? Can we imagine alternatives to our current punitive based justice system? Who is already working at the fringes to imagine such a world?

Durham’s landscape and history will be used as a rich backdrop to examine these tensions that are often raced, classed, sexed and gendered. Throughout the eight-week program, students will be placed in organizations and agencies working outside and inside these systems to envision alternatives to “policing” in our schools, healthcare clinics, workplaces, homes and streets.


Goals for Students

  • Understand the history and current reality of the State’s response to community violence and poverty
  • Recognize the unintended consequences of State intervention in marginalized communities
  • Imagine and practice alternative solutions, both inside and outside of the State, for addressing these systemic problems


Partnership Opportunities

Partners would include non-profit and government agencies working in healthcare, housing, education, or criminal justice systems, including community or reproductive health clinics, public schools, foster or child abuse response agencies, civil/criminal justice agencies (police, parole, restorative justice organizations, public defenders or re-entry organizations) or non-profit agencies providing support or intervention services related to these systems (crisis centers, homeless, transitional or other housing support agencies, etc.)

The Program Director will match students through an interview process based on the needs and preferences of the community partners as well as student professional and personal goals and interests. Students are NOT guaranteed a particular placement and should be open to working with any community partner.


Program Requirements

Language: Second language skills, particularly Spanish, may be useful in some placements but is not required.

Personal Qualities: The weekly readings, blogging and other assignments, the demanding enrichment schedule/pace and the nature of the work in each placement make this program particularly rigorous and personally taxing. The most successful students are therefore highly interested in the content area of the program, prepared to resolve conflicts and problem solve independently, open to consider other points of view on controversial issues, and eager to commit to and support the cohort and the experience beyond the placements and required activities.

Other: Some placements may require a background check, including fingerprints.


Program Details

Description of Community: Durham is a diverse city of over 250K people that’s recently experienced a revitalization of the downtown area, making it one of the fastest growing cities in North Carolina. However, this development comes at the expense of some communities of color displaced by the gentrification of the downtown area. The historic and racialized history of Durham continues to shape the city as affluent newcomers move in and jobs are further stratified by class and education. With the booming downtown, the Research Triangle Park and several institutions of higher education, Durham developed a new economic model; however, the city is still challenged to ensure that model can disrupt the racial and class inequities that have led to social dislocation.


Housing and Meals: Students will live together in shared housing in downtown Durham (either in rental house or apartment style accommodations) within walking distance or near bus transportation to placements. Students should expect to have a roommate assigned to them. Kitchens will be available in the residence facilities and a wide range of eateries and restaurants are within walking distance. Students should expect that cooking meals may be necessary based on both the stipend and the program schedule.


Local Safety, Security, and Cultural Norms: If you have special needs related to health, cultural, or religious practices, please contact the DukeEngage office,, to discuss whether or not your needs can be reasonably accommodated in this program.

For information related to how your religion, race, sexual/gender identity, ability or other aspects of your identity might impact your experience, we recommend starting with the Diversity, Identity and Global Travel section of the DukeEngage website.


Reflection and Enrichment:

Students will draft weekly reflections based on prompts, short readings, and/or discussions with mentors within the community placements; reflections will be shared over a weekly dinner discussion. Every other week students will polish a reflection for a public blog post. Students will participate in a variety of local enrichment activities to further understand the context of their work, including police ride-alongs, civil and criminal court observations, city council meetings, historic walking tours, faculty talks, film/theatre, museums and community conversations or events. Enrichment activities will take place most every weekend and some may be added with little notice, so students should expect weekends to be part of the program commitment.


Curricular Connections

Course(s) in Women’s Studies, African & African-American Studies, Public Policy or other courses using race, gender, class, etc. as a central lens of analysis would likely complement the summer experience.

The program might especially appeal to students interested in careers in law, healthcare, education or public service.


More Information

Racial Inequality, Poverty and Gentrification in Durham, North Carolina by Allison De Marco & Heather Hunt

Best of Enemies by Osha Gray Davidson (or feature film)