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MPP students in social activities

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Student Organizations

Duke MPP students have developed a variety of student-led organizations to share specialized knowledge and talents with a like-minded community. These organizations also aim to cultivate professional contacts, engage in community service activities and gain real-world policymaking experience.

Sanford Board Leadership Initiative

Sanford Board Leadership Initiative (SBLI) places Duke MPP students as non-voting members on local nonprofit leadership boards for one calendar year. As this program is in high demand, a competitive application process determines which graduate students can participate each year.

This partnership offers nonprofits strategic support from graduate students with policy-specific knowledge and the opportunity for students to learn about nonprofit governance.

woman with building behind her

"Sanford Board Leadership Initiative was actually one of the reasons I wanted to come to Sanford. It was a really unique program among other MPP programs I was looking at.

My job before Sanford was at a nonprofit, so I was able to work on the staff side but I didn't really understand the board side. I wanted to learn about what  board does and get really deep into the details of nonprofit management, the decisions that a board needs to make on a daily basis."—Allie Jaarsma MPP'20

Recent organizations participating in the SBLI program include:

  • CASA
  • Crayons2Calculators
  • Durham Central Park
  • Durham Community Land Trustees
  • Durham Literacy Center
  • Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association
  • Food Bank of Eastern and Central North Carolina
  • Girls on the Run
  • Lillian's List
  • Meals on Wheels
  • North Carolina AIDS Action Network
  • Rebound
  • Students2Scholars
  • SwingPals
  • Thomas Mentor Leadership Academy

MPP Student Social Committee

The MPP Social Committee coordinates MPP social gatherings, such as a student mentor/mentee networking event in September, a formal holiday party, international potluck dinners and a graduation party. The committee’s objective is to bring the MPP and MIDP students, faculty and staff together. Contact

Additional Activities Open to All Sanford Community Members

Academic Committee

The Academic Committee serves as a forum for student concerns regarding topics such as:

  • requirements for academic concentrations
  • course offerings and electives
  • core curriculum needs
  • Master’s Projects
  • faculty-student interaction and advising

Bridging Communities

Bridging Communities strives to ensure a welcoming, inclusive community for diverse students and advance the interests of social justice at the Sanford School.  The groups aim to build stronger relationships within Sanford's professional programs, MPP, MIDP, Ph.D. and Duke's other professional schools. Contact

Graduate Professional Student Council

The Graduate and Professional Student Council of Duke University (GPSC)  is the umbrella student government organization for Duke’s eight graduate and professional schools. Contact

Sanford Pride

Sanford Pride aims to make the LGBT community more visible and active to help Sanford recruit top-notch students regardless of sexual orientation. It provides support, community and visibility to LGBT students and allies to create a supportive and inclusive environment. Contact

Duke Interdisciplinary Social Innovators

Duke Interdisciplinary Social Innovators (DISI) is a graduate and professional student group that contributes its talents at the intersection of business principles, technology innovation and effective policy. DISI project teams help local, domestic, and international nonprofits, government organizations, and social businesses better achieve their missions. Website | Background | Facebook | Contact

Sample project:



Graduate and Professional Women's Network

The Graduate and Professional Women’s Network has been providing Duke’s graduate and professional women students with personal and professional networking opportunities since 1994. The group’s goals include:

  • fostering networking opportunities across departments and schools;
  • sponsoring programs that will teach graduate and professional school women skills that will help them succeed in their careers;
  • providing a forum for discussion of campus and community issues;
  • and advocating on behalf of graduate and professional school students to the Duke administration.

Leaders for Political Dialogue

The Leaders for Political Dialogue (LPD) initiative aims to create a place where representative voices, bipartisan and nonpartisan, undergraduate and graduate, can convene to discuss issues and hear each other’s point of view with curiosity and without fear. LPD also aims to foster skills training for participants in community engagement, facilitation and conflict mitigation so they can create similar forums to foster dialogue at home, on campuses and in communities. Website

Sanford Women in Policy

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  • Sanford Running club

    Got Sneakers? You're In

    Sanford is located a few blocks away from more than three miles of gravel jogging and walking trails in Duke Forest - perfect for the Sanford Running Club! The Al Buehler trail is named for the former Duke track coach and six-time ACC Champion. Members of the Sanford Running Club have even participated in longer runs together in other states.

    Pictured: the Sanford Running Club with professor Subhrendu Pattanayak (center).

Sanford Women in Policy (SWP) provides a forum to discuss and address challenges and opportunities for women in the field of public policy. SWP also serves as a space to cultivate, empower, and promote unity and fellowship for those who identify as women and their allies. SWP hosts discussions with speakers, networking events, skills workshops, and participates in service within the Duke and Durham community. SWP invites all graduate students to join in its activities. Facebook group | Contact

Sanford Journal of Public Policy 

The Sanford Journal of Public Policy was created in 2009 as a forum for public policy students and professionals to contribute to the current policy discourse through insightful analysis and innovative solutions. Produced by graduate students at the Sanford School, the online journal is published twice a year. The SJPP solicits articles across the spectrum of public policy in a variety of formats including:

  • policy research and position papers
  • issue briefs
  • opinion pieces
  • reviews of recently published books
  • interviews with policy professionals.

The journal designed to be a place where public policy students and practitioners can stay connected to current policy discussions and express their own views on today’s policy challenges. Website | Contact

Sanford Energy and Environment Club

SEEC represents students interested in environmental policy, energy policy, water and oceans policy, and agriculture and food policy. SEEC facilitates faculty discussions and career panels, promotes attendance at local and national conferences, and sponsors outdoor adventures and eco-outings. Contact

Sanford Running Club

The Sanford Running Club provides an opportunity for members of the Sanford community to exercise together, to share healthy lifestyle choices, and to network with peers via running through weekly runs, workouts, and local races. Facebook | Contact

Sanford Latin American and Caribbean Group (Sanford LAC)

Sanford LAV's mission is to lead and support academic, career, outreach, cultural, and social efforts of the Sanford community focused on Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) in order to strengthen collaboration and engagement between LAC and Sanford. Twitter | Facebook | Contact

Social Entrepreneurship and Policy Initiative (SEPI)

SEPI's mission is to provide opportunities for and leverage the skills of our members through ventures, leadership, and education in social entrepreneurship and policy. SEPI hosts or co-sponsors social entrepreneurship panel discussions, professional development opportunities and networking events.