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Honors Program

Honors Program

Graduation With Distinction or WHY DO AN HONORS PROJECT?

When the Public Policy department asked its alumni what they valued most about their education at Duke, those who had done honors projects often ranked that experience as the most satisfying part of their college education. There are many reasons to engage in an honors project: a desire to explore a policy research question in depth; an interest in determining whether academic research might be a potential career path; or the rewards of working closely with an expert in a particular policy field.

"I am so glad that I did this. There are things that I have learned from this process that one can only learn by doing. It was an amazing way to tie all of my undergraduate interests (Public Policy, Economics, and Health Care/Biology) together."—Kyra Socolof PPS'14

For many students, the honors project offers a welcome intellectual challenge. The combination of creativity and sustained effort required for a successful project can yield a strong sense of accomplishment. Down the road, graduate schools and employers see the completion of an honors project as a signal that a student sought the chance to produce excellent work. What students will often take away from the experience, in addition to recommendations and accolades, is a sense of self-awareness and knowledge of what they are capable of producing.

"This was undoubtedly the most rewarding academic experience I've had at Duke."—Dan Pellegrino '14

"Had I not decided to complete a senior public policy honors thesis, I would not have gotten the job offer that I did" - Shanelle Van '15

Featured Honors Thesis

What would we see if we looked very closely at the public and private language of the New York Police Department? How about if we compared such language to that of those protesting police action, like the widow of Eric Garner who died at the hands of police on Staten Island in 2014? Lauren Forman set out to answer such questions. For her honors thesis, she scrutinized public documents from the police – things like press releases and press conference transcripts. She also scoured internal police documents like training materials. And then she looked at the language used by protesters. Language used on both sides, Forman says, matters profoundly:



Other Recent Honors Theses

Students complete honors projects in a variety of topic areas using diverse methodologies. Some projects produce essays that resemble academic journal articles. Others produce research monographs that require students to use the skills and perspectives taught in the public policy major—economics, ethics, political analysis, statistics, decision analysis and historical analysis—to delineate the dimensions of a policy problem, identify alternative policy options and analyze their strengths and weaknesses. These projects are akin to the scholarly research published by the Brookings Institution or American Enterprise Institute.

  • 2014 Best Thesis Award Winner: “Stewart vs. Colbert 2012: How Satirical Coverage of the 2012 Presidential Election Affected College Students” (Caroline Michelle Jacobs)
  • “Self-Sufficiency and Dependency Among Bhutanese and Iraqi Refugees” (Grace Elizabeth Benson)
  • “Two Systems of School Choice: Expectations, Decision-making, and Satisfaction in Chile and the U.S.” (Kaitlyn Elizabeth Ellett)
  • “Tackling the NFL: An Analysis of the Role of the Government in Workplace Safety” (Melanie Liza Green)
  • “The Global Youth Unemployment Crisis: Exploring Successful Initiatives and Partnering with Youths” (Andrew Leon Hanna)
  • “Evaluating the Impact of Leandro vs. State of North Carolina on Education Policy” (Firoz Asanuma Jameel)
  • “What’s the Goal? Brazil’s Response to Hosting the World Cup and Olympics” (Dana Lisa Kraushar)
  • “North Carolina Public School Teachers’ Perceptions of Value-Added Measures” (Bernadette Anne Leblond)

Honors Program Contacts

PPS Honors Program Director/Seminar Instructor: Christina Gibson-Davis (919) 613-7364

Seminar Instructor: Deondra Rose (919) 613-7387

Larence poses with award

Christie Lawrence was awarded best honored thesis of the 2016 class. Lawrence, who minored in Turkish and political science, wrote about "U.S.-Turkish Relations: Re-Situating the 'Kurdish Question'." She conducted interviews in Turkey and the United States to help craft policy recommendations on the issue.