The Democracy Lab is a project-based course in which teams of students devise innovative solutions to the major political challenges of our time. Working in teams of three to five people, students are expected to think critically about a particular political issue and determine how best to address it. Projects have included:
Spring Breakthrough: Presidential March Madness
Who were the United States’ best and worst presidents? What does it even mean to be the “best” or “worst” when factoring all of the opportunities and crises that have benefited and befallen each presidency? Utilizing brackets and rankings based on the NCAA’s famed “March Madness” college basketball tournaments, students will examine the successes and failures of each presidency and draw conclusions on which ones were more successful than others. By the end of the class, each student will possess the skills to more thoroughly scrutinize elected officials—a vital step in one’s development as an engaged citizen.
Spring Breakthrough, an initiative led by Provost Sally Kornbluth and Duke's Office of Undergraduate Education, offers first year and sophomore students the opportunity to take an intellectually refreshing short course over spring break in a new area of interest, without grading pressures.
For more information on Presidential March Madness:
- Fritz Mayer and B.J. Rudell, co-instructors of the course, sat down for an interview with Kelly Brownell, dean of the Sanford School of Public Policy.
- The Duke Chronicle and Indy Week ran stories about the inaugural Presidential March Madness class in the lead-up to the first year.
- Duke Magazine sat in on the class and published an article recapping the vibrant discussions that took place among the students.
- An op-ed by Fritz Mayer and B.J. Rudell published after the class walks through some key takeaways on how young voters view presidential greatness.