Real-world experience is an important part of the MPP program. Here are five notable ways MPP students receive hands-on opportunities to hone their skills.

1. Spring Consulting Projects

Teams of first-year MPP students serve as consultants to clients. The semester begins with a 48-hour memo experience  and ends with client recommendations. Students define a problem, frame a policy question, conduct interviews in the field, research and develop policy options, undertake analysis, draw conclusions, and make recommendations.  

The project helps prepare students for their master’s projects and gives them concrete experience to show future employers. 

If you are an organization or an agency with a policy question that needs answering and you are interested in being a client, explore more information on the Spring Consulting Project.

Deandrea Newsome lets us follow along on her 48-Hour Memo journey.

2. Worldwide Internships

MPP students also complete a required internship.  Students test new analytical tools, make connections for their master’s projects and/or determine areas for further study.

MPP students have interned at organizations such as:

  • The White House
  • The World Bank
  • UNICEF, India
  • US Agency for International Development
  • Action Aid, Ghana
  • FBI: Counterintelligence Unit
  • Booz Allen Hamilton
  • US Senate Finance Committee
  • World Health Organization
  • UN Environmental Programme​

3. Capstone Master's Research Project

All students work closely with a faculty advisor while completing a yearlong capstone master’s project.

For his project, Tyler Gamble MPP'17 applied principles from behavioral economics to a local government system. He ran an experiment to find out if small changes could get more people to pay their property taxes on time.

4. Citizen Experience Lab


The goal of the CX Lab is to improve the citizen experience working directly with organizations in the Durham community. Using human-centered design, students work with local organizations to design improved customer and employee experience. Student teams act as consultants to local organizations, using the design process of Discover, Design and Deliver, to understand, improve and measure the user experience.

5. Sanford Board Leadership Initiative

This initiative places MPP students as non-voting members on local nonprofit leadership boards for one calendar year. The partnership offers nonprofits strategic support from graduate students with policy-specific knowledge and the opportunity for students to learn about nonprofit governance.


Client-Focused Opportunities

Sanford offers many ways for students to gain additional real-world experience in policymaking.

Policy Lab: Students research policy questions for policymakers, issue advocates, and other change agents.

Democracy Lab: Part of the Hart Leadership Program, Democracy Lab is for students who are interested in researching how to make democracy more representative, empowering, and effective.

Browse all opportunities