Governance, Policy & Society:

Urban Affairs and Urban Politics in the American South and South Africa

Please note:  All students participating in Duke Immerse fall 2021 are expected to follow Duke’s guidelines and policies for undergraduates regarding COVID-19 vaccinations, masking, and social distancing. For more information, visit the Duke United website or contact Duke Immerse Program Director,  Morgan Barlow.  

Students and professor in a living room

By the year 2050, approximately 7 billion people will be living in cities worldwide. This makes it imperative that we not only think about how best to plan and build urban centers in terms of physical features and infrastructure, but that we also pay attention to how inhabitants interact and coexist in these environments, and how politics and public policy can significantly affect these human interactions.

The Governance, Policy, and Society (GPS) Duke Immerse theme is a research-intensive semester-long examination of politics, policymaking, and social interactions in urban settings. GPS uses three U.S. cities, Atlanta, New Orleans, and Durham, and two cities in South Africa, Durban and Pietermaritzburg, as case studies and sites for student fieldwork. In both the U.S. and South Africa, racial and class divisions and group-based disparities remain prominent features of the urban landscape, despite the formal barriers of segregation having come down, 60 years ago in the U.S., and two-and-a-half decades ago in South Africa. The persistence of these various divisions and disparities has serious implications for community cohesion, race relations, public health, education, and general economic and social development.

Along with these topics, GPS Duke Immerse participants examine issues such as gentrification, urban redevelopment, economic mobility, zoning, public safety enforcement, public-private initiatives, tourism and leisure, and political decision-making. An underlying premise of GPS is that comparative analyses provide an opportunity for expanding knowledge and understanding of patterns of social and economic deprivation. Such analyses also have the potential of suggesting policy reforms and prescriptions that could contribute to more cooperative group relations and enhance opportunities for all to have a fair chance at significant positive economic mobility.

This Duke Immerse has been offered since Fall 2013. A quarter of GPS students have gone on to write honors theses in public policy and political science.


Locations: Durham, NC; Atlanta, GA; New Orleans, LA; Philadelphia, PA

Term: Fall 2021

Dates: September 9 – 11, 2021: Atlanta, GA; October 11-14, 2021: New Orleans, LA; October 26-29, 2021: Philadelphia, PA

Application Deadline: Applications are closed for Fall 2021, but Duke Immerse will consider late applications on a case-by-case basis. Please contact Morgan Barlow ( for more information and to apply.

Academic Themes: Political Science, Public Policy, African & African American Studies, Human Rights

Eligibility: Students must have taken WRITING 101; non-Duke students matriculated at Duke are eligible for this program

Program Fee

Participants are required to pay a program fee of $1,500 in addition to regular Duke tuition, fees, and room and board. This fee covers all program costs, including airfare for all domestic trips. Financial aid packages may be used to cover these costs; if you have any question or concern as to whether financial aid will be able to cover this for you, please reach out to the Karsh Financial Support Office directly (; they are familiar with Duke Immerse and can answer your questions. 


Students accepted into Governance, Policy & Society will receive the permission numbers needed to enroll in this set of Duke Immerse courses. Enrolled students must take all four courses outlined below. Overloading is acceptable with the permission of all instructors; no underload is permitted. One Duke semester course credit is equivalent to four semester hours.

Course numbers: AAAS 290-01, POLSCI 390-2-01, PUBPOL 290-02
Curriculum codes: CCI, CZ, SS
Course Description: A critical analysis of South Africa’s policymaking and governance. Instructor consent required.
Instructors: Kerry L. Haynie, Ph.D. & Ralph B. Lawrence, Ph.D.

Course numbers: POLSCI 235S-01, PUBPOL 285S-01, ICS 213S-01, RIGHTS 235S-01, AAAS 234S-01
Curriculum codes: CCI, EI, SS
Course Description: A comparative examination and analysis of urban governance in South Africa and the U.S. Examines potential consequences of persistent racial and class disparities for housing and neighborhoods, public health, education, community infrastructure, and general economic and social development. Specific attention to how the physical layout, government structures, politics, culture, and the civil society of cities and urban areas may both promote and hinder human development and social justice.
Instructors: Kerry L. Haynie, Ph.D. & Ralph B. Lawrence, Ph.D.

Course numbers: POLSCI 236S-01, RIGHTS 236S-01, AAAS 237S-01
Curriculum codes: CCI, R, SS, W
Course Description: Advanced research and writing seminar. Participants produce a 30-40 page research paper based on fieldwork and archival research experiences in Durham and an approved South African city. Includes tutorials in research design and comparative research methods. There is a required fieldwork component of the course which entails a two-week trip to South Africa. Students will collect data, do interviews, visit municipals offices, and or spend time at NGOs in Pietermaritzburg. DukeImmerse students only. Instructor consent required.
Instructors: Kerry L. Haynie, Ph.D. & Ralph B. Lawrence, Ph.D.

Course numbers: POLSCI 319S-01, RIGHTS 319S-01
Curriculum codes: CCI, SS
Course Description: Intensive comparative examination of government, political cultures, and politics in the American States, including institutions (governors, legislatures, courts), history of federalism, policies, practices, and diverse cultural factors such as class, race, ethnicity, gender, religion, urban-rural-suburban residencies that affect state politics. 
Instructors: Kerry L. Haynie, Ph.D. 

Lead Faculty

Kerry Haynie Portrait

Kerry Haynie, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Political Science & African and African American Studies; Director of the Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity, Gender in the Social Sciences

Ralph Lawrence Portrait

Ralph B. Lawrence, Ph.D.

Professor Emeritus of Government and Public Policy at the University of Kwazulu-Natal in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, & Adjunct Professor of Political Science at Duke University

Program contacts: Email Kerry L. Haynie ( or Duke Immerse ( for more information.


All students who are interested, regardless of documentation or citizenship status, are encouraged to apply; accommodations and opportunities will be made for students who are unable to travel internationally due to visa issues.
We welcome Durham based DKU students and UNC Robertson Scholars to apply. Please email Duke Immerse director ( if you are interested in participating. Submit the following items using MyExperientialEd:

  1. Online application
  2. Duke Transcript
Bradford Ellison, class of 2016 quote, ""Duke Immerse was my most engaging semester at Duke. The program enabled me to critically examine the significance of power in an interdisciplinary manner, considering policy, political science, economics, anthropology, and history. Even more beneficially, it provided me with a learning environment with equally enthusiastic classmates with diverse skill sets, and two dedicated professors who respected and sought to stimulate our potential to produce cogent scholarly work.”