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 stories


Student Spotlight

Gaby Battle PPS'23 chose public policy because she is passionate about improving the lives of underserved communities, specifically women and people of color. Her career goal is to become a civil rights attorney and to one day serve as a United States Senator. In her graduation address, she encouraged her classmates to "lead with a true and honest heart and never let others deter you from upholding your radical hope." After graduation, she will attend Harvard Law School.

More about Gaby

Equipped for the Real World

Arya Patel PPS'22 says she felt like a degree in public policy equipped her for the read 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." After graduation, Arya took a job as a Freedom in the World Fellow at Freedom House.

Explore more about Arya’s experience at Sanford

Featured Video

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.

Featured Video

One Student's Story

Yadira Paz Martinez's parents immigrated from Mexico to the US, and they are farmworkers in Eastern North Carolina. She has become passionate about public policy, and is an undergraduate student ambassador for Sanford. She is willing to answer any questions you might have.


Need Advice? Talk with a student ambassador

Interested in public policy? Not sure what the major is like, or if it's right for you? Meet one of our student ambassadors! They are happy to give you an insiders perspective on what majoring in public policy is like. (Pictured: Chinmay Amin PPS'24)

Connect with an ambassador

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