Best Honors Thesis

Awarded annually to a Duke Sanford student.


Best Honors Thesis 2023

Mary Monti won 2023 Best Honors Thesis for her work looking into the regional differences in high school textbooks to assess how different perspectives  might help shape different political beliefs and ideologies. Professor Kristin Goss described Mary's thesis as a “tour de force” and “hands down” the best thesis she has advised in her 20 years as a thesis advisor. 

Read Mary's Story

Best Honors Thesis 2022

Arya embedded herself with a grassroots organization in India to conduct interviews with migrant women related to COVID-19. Her advisor, faculty member Anirudh Krishna, wrote, “Arya wrote a masterful survey of the literature on itinerant  migrants,” with immediately relevant policy solutions, and “conducted rigorous, grounded research during the worst of COVID-19.”

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2021 - Sophia Katz

2020 - Tyler Kopp

2019 - Madison Ann Mastrangelo

2018 - Blaine Elias

2017 - Jessica Elisabeth Kalili Van Meir

2016 - Christie Marie Lawrence

2015 - Xinshu Sui

2014 - Caroline Michelle Jacobs

Joel Fleishman Distinguished Scholar Award

Recognizes the graduating major with the highest academic achievement in Public Policy Studies.


Joel Fleishman Distinguished Scholar Award 2023

Nicholas Camposano was named the Joel Fleishman Distinguished Scholar for highest academic achievement.  Camposano double majored in Public Policy Studies  and Economics and graduated Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude.

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Joel Fleishman Distinguished Scholar Award 2022

Rebecca DiLuzio was named the Joel Fleishman Distinguished Scholar for highest academic achievement in public policy, named in honor of the public policy program’s founding director (pictured above). DiLuzio majored in Public Policy Studies and earned a certificate in Documentary Studies. 

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2021 - Hannah Miao

2020 - Hayden Lynn Manseau

2019 - Kushal Tushar Kadakia

2018 - Maura Elisabeth Smyles

2017 - Parker Colburn Gilbert and Jessica Elisabeth Kalili Van Meir

2016 - Matthew Allen Peterson

2015 - Reed Adam McGinley-Stempel

2014 - Michelle Christine Burrows, Li-Kuang Chen, Marissa Weil Medine, and Hong Zhu

Terry Sanford Leadership Award

Presented annually to a graduating major recognizing their achievement in leadership.  Students are nominated by faculty and staff and voted on by the faculty committee. 


Alex Hoffman

He did not see himself as a leader, but shook up the status quo on campus.


Shrey Majmudar

He’s a “once in a generation talent.”


Quinn Smith

He is an advocate for Native people on Duke’s campus and beyond.


Olivia Reneau

She’s got “the kind of magic that we associate with people like Terry Sanford."


Lauren Howell


Kaylee Brilhart


Shandiin Herrera

2018 - Adam Nicholas Beyer and Jacqueline Aram Monetta

2017 - Osasenaga Kelly Aghayere and Jessica Elisabeth Kalili Van Meir

2016 - Christie Marie Lawrence and John Anthony Sullivan

2015 - David Gregor Robertson and Ishan Yatin Thakore

2014 - Andrew Leon Hanna

Susan E. Tifft Teaching and Mentoring Award

This award is presented to a Sanford faculty member who has made outstanding contributions to the teaching mission of the undergraduate program and has a deep commitment to the intellectual, professional and personal development of undergraduate majors in public policy.


2023 Tifft Award Winner

Mallory SoRelle's research and teaching explore how public policies are related to inequality in the US. She focuses primarily on issues like consumer financial protection and access to civil justice that fundamentally shape the welfare of marginalized communities yet are often overlooked by scholars of the welfare state because they are not traditional redistributive programs. Details from the nomination include how Professor SoRelle has been a spectacular mentor and how she is able to treat students as an intellectual peer while still helping them grow.

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2022 Tifft Award Winner

Suzanne Katzenstein is a lecturer in public policy and is faculty affiliate with the Hart Leadership Program.  Since 2020, she has been an instructor and writing coach with the Hart Leadership Program, teaching “PPS 259 – Women as Leaders.”  Katzenstein received the Susan E. Tifft Teaching and Mentoring Award in spring of 2022, which recognizes outstanding contributions to teaching undergraduates and a deep commitment to the intellectual, professional and personal development of undergraduate public policy students.

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2021 - Professor Kristin Goss

2020 - Professor Abdullah Antepli

2019 - Professor Deondra Rose

2018 - Professor Nicholas W. Carnes

2017 - Professor Catherine Adcock Admay and Professor Gunther W. Peck

2016 - Professor Kenneth S. Rogerson

2015 - Professor Jay A. Pearson

2014 - Professor Alma G. Blount

Undergraduate Speaker

Each year at the Public Policy graduation ceremony a senior makes a speech.  The speech is often the highlight of the ceremony. 


2023 Student Speaker

Gabrielle "Gaby" Battle comes from a family rooted in justice and advocacy for marginalized communities. Raised by her mother and grandmother, and close to her great-grandmothers, she says their intergenerational teachings, "not only made me feel empowered to be Black but also motivated to continue to advocate for our people." Battle's speech focused on the idea of "radical hope", a term popularized in a 2006 book of the same title. Gaby will be attending Harvard Law School.

Watch Gaby's Talk

2022 Student Speaker

Kyle Melatti grew up in Las Vegas, the first generation son of parents who migrated from Brazil. His parents both worked in the casino industry. His selection as graduation speaker was a surprise to his parents. Kyle took advantage of many of the opportunities available at Sanford and Duke, including American Grand Strategy Student Council, Duke Student Government, Kenan Institute for Ethics, Polis and the Hart Leadership Program. 

“Majoring in public policy has made me feel like I am on the path of becoming the civil servant that I’ve always wanted to be,” he said. 

Watch Kyle's talk

2021 - Aly Diaz

2020 - Eric Biehn

2019 - Vanessa Agudelo

2018 - Amy Lynn Kramer

2017 - Steven Richard Brenner

2016 - Isabella Kwai

2015 - Vignesh Sapthagiri Krishnaswamy and Emily Catherine Hadley

2014 - Joy Chang Liu