'A culmination of the coursework'

The Public Policy undergraduate internship provides students the opportunity to see how policy skills and knowledge they have developed in their core courses apply in a real-world context. It also gives students a chance to gain exposure to different jobs in policy and advocacy.   Alec Lintz PPS'19 interned at the White House.

Steps to Completion, Resources, and Assistance Availability

The required internship was instituted by the Sanford Faculty and Dean. The criteria for the internship is updated as necessary by Sanford Faculty and guidance for what satisfies the internship requirement is revisited annually by the Director of Undergraduate Studies and shared with Sanford Undergraduate Internship Advisors and the Undergraduate Program Student Services Coordinator, who partner in assisting students as they complete the requirement.

  • All Public Policy Majors, Program II Majors, and Inter-Departmental Majors must complete an internship that satisfies the requirement before they can graduate.
  • Students should complete their internship during either the summer after Sophomore Year or summer after Junior Year. Students must complete a minimum of 350 hours of an internship to meet the criteria of the requirement.
  • Students can request to combine two internships during the summer to meet the 350-hour requirement. In this case, students must complete two internship records and two personal evaluations but submit only one final Internship Reflection.  Each of the two internships must last a minimum of 100 hours. 
  • Academic-year internships (fall/spring) are not permitted, unless students are completing their internship through the Duke in DC Spring Semester program, or students enroll in 2 (two) consecutive semesters of the same Bass Connections project. The Bass Connections program director sets the number of hours. A summer and an academic year internship in Bass Connections or the Duke in DC program cannot be combined.
  • Students cannot begin their internship until their Experience form has been completed in Handshake and has been approved by a Sanford Undergraduate Internship Advisor and the onsite Internship Supervisor.  If students begin their internship prior to these approvals, the hours will not count toward the required 350 minimum. 
  • Students must have completed 3 (three) of the required courses listed below prior to starting their internship hours.
  • Students cannot submit a past internship to satisfy the requirement.

Students must complete at least 3 (three) of the following 6 (six) required courses, to complete a required internship. From this list of courses, at least one course needs to be PUBPOL 155, PUBPOL 301, or PUBPOL 302/GLHLTH 210.

  • STA 199L Intro to Data Science or STA 101L, STA 102L, STA111L, STA 130L, STA140L, STA 198L or ECON 104
  • PUBPOL 155 Introduction to Policy Analysis
  • PUBPOL 301 Political Analysis for Public Policy
  • PUBPOL 302 Policy Choice as Value Conflict or PUBPOL 330/GLHLTH 210 Global Health Ethics
  • PUBPOL 303 Microeconomic Policy Tools
  • PUBPOL 304 Economics of the Public Sector

This reduced requirement allows students to complete the internship in the summer after either sophomore or junior year. However, students are encouraged to complete as many public policy core courses as possible before completing the internship, to be stronger internship applicants and to gain a more robust experience.

 Undergraduate Internship Advisors provide the following services:

  • Brainstorm with students about possible internship ideas, based on student interests and geographical preferences.
  • Discuss with students ways to connect with alumni and contacts at organizations that interest them.
  • Provide advanced feedback on students’ resumes that have been approved by a PUBPOL 120 TA and posted by the student in the Documents section of Handshake.
  • Assist students with creating a cover letter that demonstrates how students’ skills and experience fit a specific job description, in preparation for potential interviews.
  • Assist students with identifying organizations that have hired Duke interns in past years and that are aligned with students’ interests.
  • Provide students additional ideas of faculty, staff, and local organizations that might not be advertising for interns; however, might consider bringing someone on as an intern if the student’s skills and experience are highly relevant. 
  • NOTE: Sanford Career Services (including Internship Advisors) is not responsible for advising on immigration status.

Internship PUBPOL 120 TA’s provide the following services:

  • Email students introducing themselves and explaining their role as a PUBPOL 120 TA for the internship search process.
  • Email students the Sanford resume template and assist with resume formatting.
  • Meet students in person (strongly preferred) or virtually to introduce them to the steps necessary for completion of the internship requirement.  At least one meeting is mandatory.
  • Demonstrate students effective use of the Handshake platform.
  • Email students reminders of important dates and deadlines for the internship requirement.
  • Approve students’ final resume for students to upload into the Documents section in the Handshake platform.
  • NOTE: The Sanford Career Services staff (including TAs) is not responsible for advising students on immigration status.

After creating a profile in Handshake and receiving resume approval from the PubPol 120 TA, students should make an appointment in Handshake with an internship advisor.

Following are the steps a student should take before their first meeting with their PubPol 120 TA:            

  • Complete Handshake profile (adding a photo is recommended)
  • Set up an in-person or virtual meeting with a student’s PUBPOL 120 TA as soon as the TA reaches out via email. Students should be hearing from their PUBPOL 120 TA approximately 10 days to 3 weeks after they declare the major, depending on the time of the semester they submit their declaration. If students have not heard within three weeks, they should reach out to the Sanford Internship Advisors directly and put their name in the subject line of the email.
  • Review which courses students need to complete prior to accruing hours toward the internship requirement. (See below)
  • Mark the important dates and deadlines in their calendar.
  • Update Handshake profile - As soon as major is declared
  • Complete the Internship Experience Form in Handshake - LDOC
  • Register for Summer Session 2 for PUBPOL 120. Once the on-site internship supervisor and one of the Sanford Internship Advisors have approved the internship Experience Form in Handshake, the student's name is then added to the list to receive a permission number in mid-June from the Undergraduate Program Student Services Coordinator - July 1
  • Supervisor Evaluation (supervisor receives a link directly from Handshake) - August 1
  • Upload Final Internship Assignment to Handshake - August 1
  • Complete Student Evaluation in Handshake - August 1

Important Notes:

LDOC - Submit Internship Experience in Handshake for review by Undergraduate Internship Advisors and the internship supervisor listed on the form.

July 1 - Register for PUBPOL 120 in Summer Session 2: permission numbers are provided on a rolling basis by the Undergraduate Program Student Services Coordinator, shortly after the Internship Experience has been approved by an Undergraduate Internship Advisor and by the onsite Internship Supervisor listed on the Internship Experience.

August 1 - Internship Supervisor submits a Supervisor Evaluation form; a link is provided to the supervisor directly via an email from Handshake. Students are responsible for providing the accurate name, title, and email information for their onsite supervisor.

August 1 - Complete final internship reflection and upload to Handshake; instructions are emailed to students in mid-July by an Undergraduate Internship Advisor.

August 1 - Complete Student Evaluation form in Handshake; an individual link is emailed to students in mid-July by an Undergraduate Internship Advisor and Handshake.

  • PUBPOL 120 is a zero-credit, no-cost course students must complete to fulfill the internship requirement.
  • Students must enroll in the PUBPOL 120 course for Summer Session 2. Once Undergraduate Internship Advisors and the onsite Internship Supervisor have approved a student Internship Experience in Handshake, the student is added to the list to receive a permission number to enroll in the course.  The permission number will be sent between mid-June and up to a week before the last day of registration for Summer Session in June from the Undergraduate Program Student Services Coordinator.  Please do not reach out to the Undergraduate Program Student Services Coordinator directly. 
  • To be eligible to enroll in summer courses, students should follow these steps: https://registrar.duke.edu/registration/about-registration
  • Grading: Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory.  A dash “- “ will appear on a student’s transcript to indicate Satisfactory when the internship requirement is complete. You may also see NoGrade, which is the Registrar’s language, and it does not affect internship requirement completion.

When communicating with PubPol 120 TA’s and Undergraduate Internship Advisors, begin your email subject line with your name and add a few words to indicate the focus of the email (e.g., “Reiss Nelson: Help with a Cover Letter” or “Reiss Nelson: Need More Places to Apply”).


Elise Goldwasser – elise.goldwasser@duke.edu
Director of Internships                                                                                                                120 Rubenstein Hall

Suz Allen – suz.allen@duke.edu
Director of Internships 
112 Rubenstein Hall                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Students can get assistance with Handshake from their assigned 120 PubPol TA (Teaching Assistant).

The Sanford School Internship Funding Program for undergraduate students is a summer program designed to partially defray summer expenses of students who choose to take unpaid or low-paying internships to meet the internship requirement. Through the generosity of Sanford donors and the Sanford School, the goal is to provide parity among students who choose paid and unpaid or low-paying internships; however, annual allocations are limited to funds available. This assistance is intended to be used towards living expenses and should not be considered as compensation for the work being performed during the internship. Students are encouraged to seek other funding sources as they are planning for their summer expenses. Allocations are based on funds available and consider compensation from an organization and location.

  • The application deadline to be considered for funding is June 1.
  • To be considered, students must complete a FAFSA and demonstrate institutional financial need, as determined by the Karsh Office of Undegrduate Financial Support.
  • Sanford Career Services Summer Internship Funding cannot be used for funding internships for political campaigns (for an individual or an issue), a PAC 501c4, or a political party.
  • All internships are subject to approval by Undergraduate Internship Advisors, adhering to faculty criteria and guidelines.
  • Even if an organization is already listed as an employer in Handshake, each specific internship is subject to review and approval/ rejection based on the workplan (see below) that students submit as part of the Internship Experience Form they complete in Handshake.
  • For more approval criteria, please refer to “Key Facts About the Internship Requirement” above.

Students must demonstrate that their day-to-day work incorporates an analytical component or is project-oriented, rather than being only administrative or direct community service (such as tutoring or building a clinic).

Internships that satisfy the internship requirement:

  • Internships with any nonprofit, government, education, or military organization (.org, .gov, .edu, or .mil).
  • Exception: for a .com internship to satisfy the requirement, it must be on a government relations team or with a political strategy or political communications firm. Working on a political campaign does meet the internship requirement. However, Duke University does not fund political campaign internships or PACs (503c4s).

Duke Programs that satisfy the internship requirement:

  • Stanback Internships (paid environmentally-focused internships offered through the Nicholas School)
  • Hart Leadership Program/Service Opportunities in Leadership/Political Engagement Project
  • Duke in DC Spring Semester Program
  • Duke Engage
  • Bass Connections projects (provided they span consecutive semesters during the school year with the same project)
  • Required military service (domestic and international with proper documentation)
  • EADS-funded summer projects through the Sanford School

Internships that DO NOT satisfy the internship requirement:

  • Internships in finance, business, or commercial consulting.
  • Update profile in Handshake (an account has been created for each student by the Duke Career Center)
  • Respond to the initial email from the assigned PUBPOL 120 TA.
  • Inform PUBPOL 120 TA about when a student plans to complete their internship.
  • Continue responding to PUBPOL 120 TA as soon as possible, to stay on top of the internship process.
  • Schedule an in-person (strongly preferred) or virtual meeting with PUBPOL 120 TA to discuss student interests and get tips about how to make the best use of Handshake, the newsletter with internship listings, other platforms, and resources, etc.
  • Work with PUBPOL 120 TA to complete three assignments:
    • Complete resume in the required Sanford format, provided by PUBPOL 120 TA.
    • Create a Google Doc spreadsheet with a min of 2-3 organizations that are of interest and share this link during the first appointment with an Undegrduate Internship Supervisor.
    • Create or update LinkedIn profile.
  • Upload resume into Handshake, after approved by PUBPOL 120 TA.
  • Make an appointment via Handshake with one of the Undergraduate Internship Advisors. Bring a laptop and the spreadsheet with organizations of interest (as described above) to the appointment. Take extensive notes during the appointment and make note of the next steps. Upon completion of the appointment, email these notes to the Undergraduate Internship Advisor and assigned PUBPOL 120 TA.
  • Develop a targeted cover letter.
    • Undergraduate Internship Advisors assist with development of the first cover letter customized to a specific internship’s job description.
    • Continue working with Undegrduate Internship Advisors in person, virtually or via email.
    • For tips on writing a cover letter, see the Undergraduate Internship Resources Webpage https://sites.sanford.duke.edu/careerservices/undergraduate-resources/
  • Connect with Undergraduate Internship Advisors (Elise Goldwasser and Suz Allen) on LinkedIn, which will provide access to a wide network of PubPol students and alumni who have completed internships in the past, as well as faculty and staff contacts in areas of student interest.
  • Obtain tips on reaching out to those who have interned at organizations of interest, as well as alumni who currently work there.
  • If substantial progress in has not been made in a student’s internship search by March 1, they should reach out to the Undergraduate Internship Advisors for further individualized support.
  • Apply as early as possible; do not wait for deadlines.
  • Include previous internships other Sanford students have done on the list of places to apply.
  • Balance the number of places that are recognized nationally and are very competitive with smaller, less well-known places that might be able to provide interns with more responsibilities.
  • Include all organizations of potential interest.
  • Watch for early deadlines.
  • The State Department, CIA, and other federal agencies have early fall deadlines because they conducting lengthy security clearance processes.

REMEMBER: THIS IS NOT A DO-IT-YOURSELF PROCESS. This is not an exhaustive list; the Undergraduate Internship  Advisors and the assigned PUBPOL 120 TA can make suggestions as well. A list of Sanford students’ prior internships is available at https://sites.sanford.duke.edu/careerservices/undergraduate-resources/

Internship Databases:             

  1. Please note: After students have met with their onsite internship supervisors to complete their workplans, they must make an in-person (strongly preferred) or virtual appointment with one of the Undergraduate Internship Supervisors to review the details before they take Step 2.
  2. Log in to Handshake and create an Internship Experience form that includes a customized workplan. The Experience will be reviewed against the faculty criteria to determine if it satisfies internship requirement. Stanback interns must complete both a Stanback and a Sanford Experience in Handshake.
  3. Fill out the work plan in detail:
  • Do NOT cut and paste a general job description. Provide personal tasks, deliverables, and goals for the internship. This will be determined during discussion with the onsite internship supervisor. The Undergraduate Internship Advisors can help prepare for this discussion.  
  • Review with onsite internship supervisor exact tasks and projects over the course of the internship.
  • Make note of specific tasks and deliverables.
  • Compose the work plan from a first-person perspective, e.g., “I will be conducting research on the impact of tax incentives on electric car purchases in the U.S.” Plans that are not complete or clear will be sent back for further clarification.
  • List the more complex tasks first (e.g., list the research you will be doing at an advocacy group first and list canvassing further down the list), following the resume format.
  • Indicate the exact number of total hours you will be working on the Experience form. Estimates will not be accepted.
  • All internship documentation is due on August 1st by 11:59 PM. This includes the student evaluation of the internship experience, the supervisor’s evaluation, and the final internship assignment (see all deliverables and deadlines in the grid above.)
  • Before the final week at the internship, schedule an in-person review/exit interview with the onsite internship supervisor and make sure they have completed the evaluation in Handshake.  Sanford’s Career Services Office will send students a link to the evaluation in early July.


  • Late deliverables cannot be accepted without documented prior permission in writing from the  Undergraduate Internship Supervisors.
  • Final Internship Assignments or Final Evaluations received after the deadline will result in a blank grade for PUBPOL 120. Students who do not receive a dash “-“  grade, complete another internship the following summer and register for PUBPOL 120 the following summer.
  • For the students completing their internship the summer after their senior year, their graduation date will change from May to September.


  • US Department of State
  • US Agency for International Development
  • The White House
  • International Union for Conservation of Nature
  • WGBH TV/Radio
  • Asia Society
  • National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism
  • Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence

Full lists of past internships

Look at complete lists of past internships in Handshake in order to find places where Duke already has employer and/or alumni connections. 

Career Services

Sanford's Career Services Team offers assistance with:

  • Interview preparation
  • Networking
  • Career exploration
  • Resume & cover letter writing

And more!

Connect with a career advisor

Combining interests for an internship

A citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, a Public Policy major, and Documentary Studies certificate student, Quinn Smith spent his summer interning in Ada, Oklahoma, working with Chickasaw Nation Productions, the Nation’s media production company.

Read more a bout Quinn Smith