Preparing Policy Leaders
The Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University is one of America’s leading schools of public policy, offering undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral degrees in public policy and international development policy.
Terry Sanford, then president of Duke University, established the school in 1972 as the Institute of Policy Sciences and Public Affairs. Sanford’s experience as governor of North Carolina and, later, as a U.S. Senator, convinced him the country needed leaders who were not only politically savvy, but also ethically grounded and capable of rigorous analytical thinking. He urged students to set “outrageous ambitions,” a call to action that remains at the core of the school’s identity.
Our Core Academic Programs
U.S. News and World Report ranks the school’s master of public policy program in the top 10 for public policy analysis, environmental policy, social policy and health policy. By design, the MPP program has remained relatively small; 65 to 75 students enroll each year.
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Terry Sanford (1917-1998)
As governor of North Carolina from 1961 to 1965, a U.S. senator, president of Duke University, and founder of Duke's Institute for Policy Sciences and Public Affairs, Terry Sanford had a profound impact on the state and the university. As governor, he pursued a new vision for the South by working for civil rights, equal access to quality education, desegregation and economic development. He launched Duke’s transformation from a small liberal arts college to a world-class research institution.
The school’s Master’s in International Development Program (MIDP) enrolls a similar number of mid-career professionals from more than 20 nations. Both programs emphasize personal attention and allow students to tailor coursework to accomplish their professional objectives. The PhD program, launched in 2007, places graduates in a variety of high-level positions in academia, corporations and nonprofits.
The undergraduate program is among the nation’s oldest and largest, with about 200 graduates each year. Public policy is among Duke’s most popular undergraduate majors, enrolling more than 500 students.
The Sanford School is dynamic hub for interdisciplinary teaching and learning at Duke. The school’s accomplished faculty includes 16 scholars who hold distinguished chairs and four who have been elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Kelly Brownell is the school’s dean. He is a public health expert who coined the phrase “toxic food environment” and helped revolutionize thinking about the complex causes of obesity. TIME magazine named him among “the world’s 100 most influential people.”
The 70 core faculty members represent numerous academic fields including public policy, economics, political science, history, psychology, medicine, health policy, international development and population studies. The faculty also includes distinguished practitioners from government, law, diplomacy, journalism, international development and public health. They have been top officials in U.S. federal agencies, the White House Council of Economic Advisers, the World Bank, and India’s Administrative Service. They have led international NGOs and major foundations. Among them are former senior civilian attorney for the U.S. Army Tom Taylor, former U.S. Treasury Deputy Assistant Secretary Billy Pizer, and former Washington Post Managing Editor Phil Bennett.
The Sanford School operates several multidisciplinary research centers and programs. They include the Duke Center for International Development, a large and active organization that oversees the MIDP graduate program, provides on-site executive education for government officials from around the world, and provides tailored consulting services to government agencies in developing nations.
Other centers include:
- Duke POLIS: The Center for Political Leadership, Innovation and Service
- DeWitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy
- Hart Leadership Program
- Center for Strategic Philanthropy and Civil Society
- Center for Child and Family Policy
Our scholars also lead centers focused on energy, health policy, child and family policy, terrorism and security studies.
Meet Our Dean, Kelly Brownell
Duke Values Diversity and Inclusion