Is Public Policy Right for Me?

Choosing a major is an important decision. Fortunately, Duke University offers extensive resources to guide you. Even before you arrive on campus, you can start charting your path with the people and resources at the Duke Academic Advising Center.  Students must declare a major by the beginning of spring break in their sophomore year.

When considering the public policy major, think about what you hope to accomplish in life. Then work backwards to see what types of courses and experiences will prepare you for this. What will you value most? What will you be remembered for?


Fundamental Problem-solving

"There is a public policy application for every discipline at Duke and for every one of the challenges we face in this world. Public policy is pivotal for understanding what the core issues are and the analysis needed to develop and activate adequate solutions. Public policy is even more relevant today – in fact, it is mission critical right now."

- Lori Cashman, PPS’94, co-founder of venture capital firm Victress Capital


The original graduating class of Public Policy Studies (PPS) undergraduate majors in 1974 had four students. From that start the department has graduated more than 3,500 undergraduate majors.

Here’s what some of our alumni have said:

  • They enjoyed the interdisciplinary nature of the major
  • They liked the freedom to construct their own course of study
  • They continue to use analytical tools taught in Introduction to Policy Analysis (PPS 155), including decision analysis and negotiation tactics
  • Learning to write a concise memo is a valuable skill for almost any pursuit, including law, business, and government
  • The required internship experience was a highlight
  • Ethics classes forced them to think and communicate their ideas  

Student Spotlight

Before I came to Duke, I watched the TV show Parks and Recreation. I saw so much of myself in the main character, Leslie Knope, who’s a civil servant. I thought to myself, ‘Wow, I could really love a career like that!’ - Betsy Broaddus PPS ’20

Explore more stories

Equipped for the Real World

"I felt like the public policy department was best equipped to prepare me not only intellectually but also to apply what I learned beyond Duke. I loved that the Public Policy coursework was so directly linked to change-making and its very applied approach." – Arya Patel PPS’22


Explore more about Arya’s experience at Sanford

Hear What Students Say

What is Public Policy Studies?

What does it mean to study Public Policy at Duke's Sanford School? Dean Judith Kelley and students give you a 50-second explanation.

Faculty & Student Profile

Conduct Research That Matters

Dean Kelley and undergraduate Jessica Van Meir worked closely together on a research project.

Student Ambassadors


Student Ambassador Kishan

Kishan is curious about (social) network analysis and big data, and how they can enhance the efficacy of public policy and improve outcomes. Kishan's concentration is in Security, Peace, and Conflict, Political Institutions.

Contact / Browse More Ambassadors

Student Ambassador Yadira

Yadira is a "Latinx On Fast Track Leadership Institute Fellow" for the Hispanic Heritage Foundation. She is a recipient of the prestigious Benjamin N. Duke Memorial Scholarship at Duke University, which is given to students from the Carolinas who have demonstrated academic achievement, community service and potential for leadership.

Contact / Browse More Ambassadors

Student Ambassador Eden

Eden is studying public policy, political science, and gender, sexuality and feminist studies. Passionate about social justice, education, and civic engagement, Eden is President of Empower Her Voice (Duke Chapter), an international feminist collective working to promote girls' empowerment.

Contact / Browse More Ambassadors

Helpful Links