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"How Can We Make A Difference?"

Dean Judith Kelley, smiling at cameraThat's our guiding question. The community at Sanford is eager to interact with practitioners and policy makers to create innovative solutions to some of the world's most challenging problems - from local school issues to global matters such as climate change. In the true spirit of our founder, Terry Sanford, our students are dedicated to leading and serving society.

Following are a few examples of our initiatives that support our students in becoming leaders in their communities.

Polis: Center for Politics

Democracy is not a spectator sport. Polis was launched in 2016 and is dedicated to stimulating greater student interest and engagement in politics and to improving political processes in North Carolina, the United States and the world. The center offers leadership training with workshops like "Campaign Training for Women," and Political Participation Boot Camps. They also offer Democracy Lab, a project-based course in which teams of students devise innovative solutions to the major political challenges of our time. 

Find out more on the DUKE Polis website.

Hart Leadership Program

The Hart Leadership Program is offered to all Duke University undergraduates, including public policy students. With guidance from innovative faculty, it challenges students to practice the art of leadership in public life. The program serves students through four channels:

  • Courses give students analytical frameworks for grappling with the problems facing our global community.
  • Immersion experiences outside the classroom help student see how policy works in the real world.
  • Writing and discussions challenge students to reflect critically on their experiences and make sense of them.
  • One-on-one mentoring helps students develop the skills, confidence and motivation to translate their learning into action.

Find out more on the Hart Leadership Program website.

Sanford Board Leadership Initiative

The Sanford Board Leadership Initiative (SBLI) places Duke Masters in Public Policy students as non-voting members on local nonprofit leadership boards for one calendar year. This partnership offers nonprofits strategic support from graduate students with policy-specific knowledge and the opportunity for students to learn about nonprofit governance. As this program is in high demand, a competitive application process determines which graduate students can participate each year. Following are comments from students who are participating in SBLI in 2014.

Abigail Cohen MPP'15 portrait“Serving on the board of the Achievement Academy of Durham has provided me with practical insights into the operations of a small local non-profit. I have been able to work on a diverse set of issues ranging from fundraising strategies to human capital policies, which kept things interesting and allowed me to expand my own knowledge base. I am confident that I will be able to leverage this experience in my job search, and it has absolutely informed my own ideas about what I want to do next.”—Abigail Cohen MPP'15

Professor William "Sandy Darity" is tackling important issues in society like the racial wealth gap and reparations for Black Americans. "What I hope we are accomplishing at Sanford is making what many people might view as impossible, possible," says Darity. "If it was 1810 in the United States there might be people who would say, 'There's no point in fighting against slavery because you will never get rid of it.' If you don't have folks who think about in changing the world in dramatic ways, then the world will not change in dramatic ways."