December 8, 2016

Leadership Team

POLIS is led by Sanford School Associate Dean for Strategy and Policy Engagement and Professor of Public Policy Frederick “Fritz” Mayer and Associate Director B.J. Rudell.

Frederick “Fritz” Mayer is Professor of Public Policy, Political Science, and Environment and Associate Dean for Strategy and Innovation at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy. Mayer teaches courses on the political economy of public policy, globalization and governance, political analysis, and leadership. In addition, Professor Mayer is the director of POLIS: The Center for Political Leadership, Innovation and Service. Mayer’s research concerns the role of stories in politics. His book Narrative Politics: Stories and Collective Action (Oxford University Press, 2014) argues that shared stories are essential tools for enabling communities to overcome free riding and other obstacles to collective action. He is particularly interested in the role of narrative in global environmental politics. Mayer’s second line of research addresses globalization and its effects, with particular emphasis on the labor and environmental impacts of economic integration. His book Interpreting NAFTA: The Art and Science of Political Analysis (Columbia University Press, 1998) chronicled the history of NAFTA and explores the nature of the political processes that created NAFTA. Recent work has involved exploring the policy implications of a world in which most international trade is conducted within “global value chains,” and in which a relatively few large firms enjoy considerable power in defining the terms of trade.

In addition to his academic experience, Mayer served as senior international trade and foreign policy advisor to former U. S. Sen. Bill Bradley from 1992 to 1993. In previous stints in Washington, Mayer served as an aide to Congressman Sander Levin, as a policy analyst at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and as editor at the Close Up Foundation, an educational non-profit organization. From 1997 to 2000, he was director of Duke’s Center for North American Studies.

Mayer received an A.B. in history and literature from Harvard College, and an M.P.P. and a Ph.D. in public policy, both from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

B.J. Rudell is the associate director of POLIS, collaborating with Fritz Mayer to advance civic engagement and civil discourse at Duke and throughout the country.  His 20+ year career has included stints on Capitol Hill, on a presidential campaign, in a newsroom, in classrooms, and for a consulting firm.  He has authored three books and numerous political op-eds, including for the Dallas Morning News and Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  Additionally, he has shared political insights on CNN, Fox News, and dozens of radio stations across the country.

A 1995 Davidson College graduate, B.J. was born and raised in New York City and, before moving to this area, also had lived in Washington, DC, Keene, NH, and Mumbai, India.  On the side, he performed and taught improvisational comedy for many years, has written and acted in many short films for the international 48 Hour Film Project, and has won several national fantasy sports competitions.

B.J. lives in Cary with his wife, Carey (yes, it’s a bit confusing) and their three young children.



Joel Luther is the Program Coordinator at POLIS. He graduated from Duke in 2015.  During his time as an undergrad, he was a Resident Assistant and a writer for the Chronicle among other things. Joel majored in computer science and is passionate about public affairs and public policy.  (He says he was hooked after taking classes with Bill Adair.) Joel is active on social media, particularly Twitter.  One of his Twitter hashtags, complete with a funny image, sparked a trend and was featured on the Today Show.  He’s also taken courses in design and photography, and is comfortable editing video.  Joel is a native North Carolinian who currently lives in Durham.