The Sanford School’s mission is to improve lives by researching the most pressing public policy issues and preparing students for lives of leadership, civic engagement and public service.

Diversity, equity and inclusion are among the school’s core values.

Our Vision

Our vibrant and diverse community of faculty, students and staff shares a commitment to the mission of the Sanford School. It is the nature of public policy that we draw strength from our different disciplines, perspectives and personal backgrounds, and we pride ourselves on collaboration and a strong sense of community. Moreover, we live in a diverse world, and to produce great research that matters and to empower and inspire future leaders, we embrace diversity. Each member of the Sanford community is committed to upholding these values and to ensuring that all are welcome here.

Our Commitment to Collective Action

While diversity, equity and inclusion have long been among the school’s set of core values, the Sanford School has developed a collective action plan to fight social bias, discrimination and racism. Developed in 2020, the action plan organizes our school-wide efforts and commitments and lays out metrics and timelines for implementation and transparent reporting for each commitment to fight social bias, discrimination and racism. The goal of the 2020 Collective Action Plan is to create a community that embraces all its members and educates leaders who are prepared to engage policy problems in ways that include the perspective of structural racism and inequality.


Sanford DEI Contact

J. Spenser Darden (He/They) is Assistant Dean for Diversity and Inclusion and leads the school's diversity and inclusion initiatives.

More about Spenser

Committee on Diversity and Inclusion

In 2015, we founded the Sanford School’s Committee on Diversity and Inclusion (CDI). Approximately 25 students, staff, faculty and administrators make up the CDI’s working group.

CDI Leader - Faculty

Jay A. Pearson

Jay A. Pearson

Associate Professor in the Sanford School of Public Policy

Jay A. Pearson’s research, teaching and advocacy address how policy sponsored and structurally rooted social inequality influence the social determination of health disadvantage. A native of Hertford County North Carolina, Pearson’s early experiences in the rural agricultural south shaped and informed his professional interests. Pearson began his public health career as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer in Honduras where he worked as a child survival health specialist training and evaluating midwives and local health workers.

Upon returning to the U.S. he worked as a health educator with the East Coast Migrant Health Project, later designing and implementing health and safety training for Spanish-speaking factory workers, pesticide safety training with a multi-ethnic farm worker population, and lead poisoning prevention in an impoverished urban community. Pearson served as assistant project director of an NIH-funded research study in which he was responsible for primary data collection in an ethnically diverse Detroit community.

Academically, Pearson moved from a model of individual behavior change in undergraduate studies at North Carolina Central University to one of community assessment and intervention during his masters’ work at the University of North Carolina. While pursuing his doctoral degree at the University of Michigan, Pearson began to study the social determinants of population health. He is particularly interested in the health effects of conventional and non-conventional resources associated with racial assignment, ethnic identity, national origin, immigration, and cultural orientations.

CDI Leader - Faculty

Kathryn  Whetten

Kathryn Whetten

Professor in the Sanford School of Public Policy

Director, Center for Health Policy and Inequalities Research
Research Director, Hart Fellows Program,
Professor, Public Policy and Global Health 
Professor, Nursing and Community & Family Medicine 

Kathryn Whetten (PhD) is Chair of the Maternal, Adolescent and Child Health working group, and she is the Co-Chair of the University Diversity Task Force and the Sanford Diversity Committee. 

Kathryn Whetten is the Principal Investigator on multiple grants and publishes numerous scientific articles every year. In addition, she mentors many students and gives guest lectures and presentations throughout the year.


World Hijab Day Celebration

In recognition of World Hijab Day, Mennah El-Gammal MPP‘23 and Jaelyn Nixon PhD'25 worked with Sanford's Committee on Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) to host a pop-up event on February 1, 2022. They showed fellow students how to wear a hijab, talked about why it holds religious significance to many Muslim women, and why it's important to understand the hijab. Learn more by reading the event handout.

Video from Event

Diversity & Inclusion News and Student Blog

Anti-Racism at Duke

"We are committed today and throughout the future of Duke to addressing systemic racism on our campus and setting an example for our nation and the world. Our efforts will need to be focused and sustained, with clear goals and transparency as we work toward them." - Duke President Vincent Price

Anti-Racism Website