This year, Polis co-sponsored “Project Citizen,” an experiential orientation program that gave 118 first-year Duke students a unique opportunity to build new connections and to develop skills to become more active, global, and compassionate citizens through programming in Durham and Washington, DC. 

Student Reflections

Project Citizen: Alex Naper (’26)

Alex Naper (’26) is studying Public Policy at Duke University Last Month I was able to participate in the Project Citizen orientation program. This was genuinely an incredible experience where I was able to meet great people and learn more about democracy’s role in society. Throughout the week, we were able to hear from a variety of speakers who talked to us about the different roles we could potentially play in our democracy after college. One of the highlights of the program was the trip to D.C. This trip went beyond simply visiting the tourist attractions, as we were given... Continue reading

Project Citizen: Lila Godfrey (’26)

Lila Godfrey (’26) is a statistics major at Duke University. Duke’s new experiential orientation was no joke. As I explored my options for when I made the move to Durham in August, I was in awe: I could go on a trip to DC? What kind of college does that? Fortunately, Duke is that kind of college, and I had the opportunity to be a member of Project Citizen, a first-year orientation group spearheaded by Duke POLIS that aimed to immerse students in citizenship, democracy, and public service on various levels. We were engaged around campus, but we also took... Continue reading

Project Citizen: Angelie Quimbo (’26)

Angelie Quimbo (’26) is planning on majoring in political science and global health. Orientation week seems like such a long time ago when looking at how much we’ve already completed this semester, but in reality, it was only a little over 2 months ago. I may be a little biased, but Project Citizen was definitely the best experiential learning program. From forming relationships with fellow freshmen, to being immersed in all things democracy, to say that being a part of this great opportunity is an understatement in itself. At the beginning of the week, we were presented with guest lecturers—... Continue reading

Project Citizen: Kaitlyn Lewars (’24)

Kaitlyn Lewars (’24) is one of the Program Director’s of Project Citizen. She is a double major in Biology and Global Health. “The hard work and long hours that went into this program was made worth it when you saw students debating on the couch in the hotel lobby, going up to panelists to talk after the panel, or even just hanging out after O-week.”

Project Citizen: Pranav Mukund (’26)

Pranav Mukund (’26) is planning on majoring in biomedical engineering. My experience in Project Citizen was nothing short of amazing. During orientation week, I was able to shed all my worries about finding friends and seeking acceptance because my PCitizen faculty, student leaders, and peers, made the trip to DC such a memorable experience. A few highlights include belting out karaoke tunes on the bus, meeting inspiring Duke alumni who work on Capitol Hill, staying out late exploring DC, and making lifelong friends. I can’t think of a better way to start my Duke career than to travel to Washington... Continue reading

Project Citizen: Jordan Phillips (’26)

Jordan Phillips (’26) is planning on majoring in public policy and history. When I called home to my nervous parents after my first day at Duke, they asked how things were going. “Amazing” was the only word I could articulate. Ironically, my first call home wasn’t from campus at all, but from Washington DC, where POLIS and Project Citizen brought first-year students like me to learn what it means to be good citizens of our campus, community, and nation. This was not your average field trip. Our days in DC consisted of panels discussing everything from political extremism to life... Continue reading

What Does it Mean to be a "Good Citizen?" with Professor Eric Mlyn

Professor Eric Mlyn is a Distinguished Faculty Fellow in the Kenan Institute for Ethics and Lecturer in the Sanford School of Public Policy.

Professor Eric Mlyn opened up programming with an interactive presentation on citizenship. He highlighted the different priorities of engaged citizenship (participation as allegiance and influence) and duty bound citizenship (duties and responsibilities).

He got students thinking about citizenship and socialization. He asked students about their first political memories, the political engagement of their parents, and the role of K-12 education play in their own political socialization.

Professor Mlyn concludes his presentation with the wise insights of Michael Sandel’s TED Talk “The Tyranny of Merit.” Sandel argues that there must be a change in how contributions to the common good are judged and rewarded and how success is defined. He asserts that “meritocratic hubris” leads many to believe their success is their own doing and to judge the “losers” who haven’t made it. This only provokes resentment and creates divisions in civic life.

Global Citizenship in Washington, D.C.

During the D.C. programming, students had the option of visiting either the Oxfam headquarters, Embassy of the Republic of Armenia, or the Embassy of The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Visit to the Oxfam America Headquarters

Matt Bunyi (MPP ’16), Director of Executive Education and Strategic initiatives at Sanford School of Public Policy, took students to the US headquarters of Oxfam for a tour and staff presentation.

With a mission to end global poverty and advance inclusive social and economic development, Oxfam is one of the world’s largest charitable organizations, executing programming in over 90 countries around the world. Its work spans multiple sectors ranging from food security to climate change to humanitarian response.

Students had the opportunity to interact with Oxfam’s staff that lead their organization’s work on policy advocacy efforts related to global humanitarian response and climate change. Oxfam staff also highlighted various ways that university students can engage in Oxfam’s global work, including advocacy campaigns and student internship opportunities.

Visit to the Embassy of the Republic of Armenia

Students visiting the Embassy of Armenia learned about Armenian history and culture, as well as snacked on gata, a traditional pastry or sweet bread. They learned about the history and importance of bilateral partnership with the United States. The presentation even ended with a visit from Ambassador Lilit Makunts, Ambassador of the Republic of Armenia to the United States of America! She reiterated the importance of culture sharing and encouraged students to study abroad at many of Armenia’s great universities.

Compassionate Citizenship: Viewing of the Musical American Prophet

Along with Project Identity, students attended the musical American Prophet, directed by Duke alum Charles Randolph-Wright. The musical chronicles the life and legacy of Frederick Douglass, a human rights leader and abolitionist, as well as an author, orator, and statesman. After the play, students were able to talk directly with Randolph-Wright and the cast.

Angelie Quimbo (’26) reflects, “Throughout the musical, we watched the story of Frederick Douglass unravel before our eyes; In this performance, I learned more about the essences of American history that did not make it in our history books. It was truly an amazing experience that was followed by a private meeting with Randolph-Wright and some of the cast. Watching the work of Charles Randolph-Wright made me realize that you do not have to be a politician to make an impact in the realm of democracy.”

Check back later for more Project Citizen content!