Build vital skills in national security policy

Cyber security and technology, great-power competition, intelligence, strategic deterrence, pandemics and international health security, environmental security, and economic stability—these are all national security issues of great importance. Regardless of your area of focus, finding the time and most effective way to increase your critical thinking and advanced skills is vital.

For most people who are mid-career, leaving work to study full-time at a top university is not an option. Fortunately, Sanford’s Master of National Security Policy executive degree program was created with this issue in mind. It is the opportunity to increase your skills and connections while continuing to do the important work that keeps our world secure.

Our MNSP executive program is a hybrid program requiring both online and in-person activity on the Duke University campus. This allows for the best of both worlds. You have the flexible schedule of an online program and the ability to build relationships beyond the computer screen during required on-campus “immersion” experiences.

We encourage you to explore Sanford’s MNSP degree program and consider how one year of intense study can advance your skills and change your future.


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Why Sanford MNSP?

Enjoy the flexibility of an online program and make real connections with your classmates and professors during in-person “immersion” experiences on Duke’s campus.

  • Program features personal attention/small classes
  • Classmates often become friends for life.
  • The Sanford School emphasizes collaboration over competition
  • Graduates join an active network of alumni

Our faculty are ranked among the most research productive of any public policy school in the world.

Admiral Dennis Blair

UNC faculty member, former Director of National Intelligence, former commander in chief, U.S. Pacific Command.

Course:  Methods of Policy Analysis

Doug Brook

Served in four presidential appointed positions.

Course: National Security Budgeting

Frances Tilney Burke

Served in multiple roles in the Department of Defense.

Course: National Security Institutions

Philip Candreva

Lecturer and author retired from 22 years of active duty.

Course: National Security Budgeting

Greta Creech

Former GEOINT analyst and Chief of staff at the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency.

Course: Leadership in the National Security Environment

Emily Goldman

Cyber strategist at the U.S. Cyber Command and National Security Agency.

Course: National Security Strategy

Elizabeth Grasmeder

Foreign-policy analyst in the U.S. government.

Course: Methods of Policy Analysis

Laura Hall

Acting director at the National Exercise Division at FEMA

Course: Team-Based Learning

Mark Mazzetti

Journalist for The New York Times who has received multiple Pulitzer awards

Course: National Security Ethics

Tim Nichols

Former intelligence officer in the Marine Corps for more than 20 years.

Course: Team-Based Learning for National Security Professionals

Jon Rosenwasser

Budget and policy director for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence

Course: Spring National Security Elective

Read more about the program faculty >>


Benefit from connections with numerous centers and programs including the Duke Center for International Development, Duke University program in American Grand Strategy, Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security and more.

Related programs:

There are 180,000 Duke alumni around the world. The networking opportunities are top-notch.

Sanford excels at graduate education that builds skills, enhances critical thinking, and develops deep expertise. These are exactly the attributes that national security employers wish to enhance in their mid-career workforce.


Located within driving distance from major military bases and Washington, D.C., Duke University offers unique connections and expertise in national security policy that you won’t find elsewhere. Duke is one of the most prestigious, rigorous universities in the country, located in Durham, N.C., which is always ranked one of the best places to live and visit. In addition, Duke is located near the Raleigh-Durham International Airport, connecting easily to major cities in the South and the East Coast region. Graduates join an active network of alumni of more than 180,000 Blue Devils worldwide.

Duke has opportunities and connections with partners to offer program financial support, including Duke’s Office of Veteran Affairs, Sanford Veterans Association and more. Proximity and Duke affiliation to the Durham VA Health Care System provides unique connections. In addition, Duke has a Duke in DC program, offices, alumni network and resources in the capitol.

What Our Students Say


Foundational Depth

I took advantage of national security courses with Professor Nichols, budgeting with Professor Brook, national security electives with Professor Jentleson, and upper level electives with Tom Taylor. I also worked with Congressman David Price for my internship, participated in the Duke in Geneva program, and did the Carlucci fellowship. They were all incredible in terms of giving me the foundational depth that I needed in the military. I’m appreciative of the network I have as a result of going to Duke. The experience that you will go through – I would have a hard time believing that any other school is going to beat that. - Rex Steele MPP ’19 – Instructor of American Politics, US Military Academy, West Point (Pictured: Rex with his family)

MNSP Courses

Dream Come True

Duke has been a dream come true for me. As a practitioner, Sanford is a paradise. The faculty are practitioners themselves, with troves of experience, anecdotes, and passion. The program itself is oriented toward application through client-facing practicum, addressing contemporary policy issues. Sanford’s connective tissue to public and private sector authorities, across all policy disciplines, was surprising.

I’ve had the opportunity to compete in national cyber policy competitions, author scholarship and help establish the Sanford Veterans Association. - Marc Losito, MPP'22, 20-year warrant officer based at Ft. Bragg, 12 years in Special Operations

MNSP Faculty

Why Consider MNSP?

Featured Video

Christian Jones MNSP‘24

Featured Video

Andrea Orlowski MNSP‘24 & Philip Knight MNSP‘23

Why Choose an Executive Master's Degree?

An executive master’s degree is intended for mid-career professionals who are employed either full or part-time. The degree is 30 credits total/ Students will finish in12 or 20 months.  Executive master’s degrees are designed to accommodate working professionals and offer more flexible and convenient meeting times than a traditional master’s degree. Participants can work at their own pace for some of the material. This program also aims to connect classroom work with your specific professional practice. Classroom discussions and networking are robust due to the make-up of the student population for this program.

Cost of the program: ~$45,000 (additional student fees may apply for students who are in the program beyond one year)

What is a Hybrid Program?

Compared to traditional programs (where students meet “face-to-face”) or “online” programs, a hybrid program uses both formats. In a hybrid program:

Classes meet primarily online 

Some are asynchronous where you can work on material at your schedule and other elements are synchronous - a weekly class at a set time.

The program has face-to-face elements 

Two weeks on campus in the first summer, two weekends a term in the fall/spring, and a final summer experience week at the end of the program.)

Summer (June-August) – 2 immersion periods at Duke, 2 weeks in summer, hybrid courses online synchronous and asynchronous, end of summer 9 credit hours

Fall (August-December) – 4 courses, Thurs-Sat 2 weekends, online otherwise

Spring (January-May) – 3 courses, project based, graduation

MNSP Faculty

Faculty members include:

  • Admiral Dennis Blair, UNC faculty member, former Director of National Intelligence, former commander in chief, U.S. Pacific Command
  • Doug Brook, served in four presidential appointed positions
  • Frances Tilney Burke, served in multiple roles in the Department of Defense
  • Philip Candreva, lecturer and author retired from 22 years of active duty
  • Greta Creech, Former GEOINT analyst and Chief of staff at the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency
  • Emily Goldman, cyber strategist at the U.S. Cyber Command and National Security Agency
  • Elizabeth Grasmeder, foreign-policy analyst in the U.S. government
  • Laura Hall, acting director at the National Exercise Division at FEMA
  • Mark Mazzetti, journalist for The New York Times who has received multiple Pulitzer awards
  • Tim Nichols, former intelligence officer in the Marine Corps for more than 20 years
  • Jon Rosenwasser, budget and policy director for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
Read more about program faculty

Featured Video

About MNSP

Professor Tim Nichols says the Master of National Security Policy program is "perfect for people who want to keep their job and continue to work in the national security field and credential themselves for positions of higher responsibility."

Featured Video

Danelle Gamble

In this video blog, Army Captain Danelle Gamble MPP’20 discusses how Sanford opened her eyes to the systemic social inequalities in the military, and how her research seeks to address them. 

Contact Us

Timothy Ward Nichols

Timothy Ward Nichols

Visiting Professor of the Practice in the Sanford School of Public Policy

Tim Nichols (B.A, UVA; M.A, USF; M.B.A.,NCSU) Tim served as an intelligence officer in the Marine Corps for over 21 years with extensive experience in the special operations, intelligence, and counterterrorism fields. His overseas experience spanned deployments to Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Middle East, East Africa, Central America, and the Pacific. He was designated a Regional Affairs Officer for East Africa. While in Iraq, he directed a joint interagency task force attempting to track and target foreign extremists traveling to Iraq for violent activities. Prior to his retirement from the military, Tim taught courses in Leadership, Ethics, and Management at Duke, UNC, and NC State for four years. In addition to his consulting activities, Tim is currently a research fellow and visiting  professor of the practice in the School of Public Policy at Duke University. He is the executive director of the Counterterrorism and Public Policy Fellowship Program and the Faculty Representative for the Master of National Security Policy Program.  His research interests and teaching responsibilities include  policy analysis, intelligence, interagency coordination, national security, homeland security and counterterrorism policy.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Visits Duke

Featured Video

Trends, Challenges, and Solutions for Government National Security Apparatus

Former U.S. Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence and Duke University Rubenstein Fellow Susan Gordon joins Visiting Professor of the Practice and Former Marine Intelligence Officer Tim Nichols to discuss current national security issues. Moderator: Sanford School for Public Policy Dean Judith Kelley. Recorded: Dec. 7, 2021