What is it really like to be a MPP student at the Sanford School of Public Policy? We asked students to share 5 things about the program that surprised them.

Brittany Gabriel MPP'24 - Health Policy

  1. You can design your own curriculum around topics and passions that interest you most.
  2. Professors are really accessible and willing to meet with you to help academically, professionally and personally as well! The same goes for staff. These people really are amazing and want to see you succeed.
  3. It REALLY is a family-like environment here.
  4. You WILL be challenged and pushed to think beyond your boundaries, but that is good! You want people to challenge you (in a respectful way) to help shape and mold you into the BEST future policy practitioner that you can be. You will also solidify what you believe in, what you stand for, and what you are against while here too -- and that is not only encouraging but liberating.
  5. There are COUNTLESS opportunities for you to get involved, research, and travel abroad. There are people here in your corner to help you realize your dreams.

Maya Sood MPP/JD'26 - International Humanitarian Law & Policy

  1. Everyone has done such cool work and has so much to offer in their respective policy areas! You are surrounded by people who are just as passionate about their area of interest as you are about yours. It’s an inspiring and empowering environment! 
  2. You will be rewarded for putting yourself out there! I signed up for a "Works in Progress" event, and ended up in a room with Ph.D. candidates and professors, reviewing a colleague's thesis. I even got to contribute my own thoughts! I met one of my favorite professors there, too!
  3. Signing up for the DUKE-UNC campout was one of my best decisions! I met some of my best friends in the program and made so many memories (even though I’m a Tarheel! 😉)
  4. Being an MPP student means that you are constantly working with difficult and emotionally-challenging subjects. It’s important to take time for self-care.  Love yourself for what you have been able to accomplish and forgive yourself for what you can’t. 
  5. Sanford thrives because of its community and the MPP community is truly one of the best!

Maria Goodfellow MPP'24 - International Development Policy

1. Sanford offers a variety of academic assistance opportunities to first year MPPs. Economics, statistics and writing tutors are all ready and eager to help you get back into the groove of school. Having been out for a few years, I was relieved to know this was available.
2. You can print as much as you want!! Not that many of us do print that much—but I appreciate that we’re not limited.
3. As a graduate student at Sanford, it is vital that you always carry Tupperware. This ensures you can take advantage of abundant free food.
4. Graduate students can enroll in physical education classes! I took yoga and weightlifting during my first year. Having dedicated exercise time helped me to feel balanced (both literally and figuratively).
5. You get a locker. I had no idea. And obviously, that is where I keep my Tupperware.

Jimmy Ragan MPP'24 - Education & Social Policy

1. 2nd year MPP and 3rd year dual-degree students are on a completely different course schedule from 1st year MPP students. If you want to get to know 2nd years, look outside the classroom!
2. The Duke shuttle system goes pretty far! If you live by West Campus and want to get to 9th St., just take the East-West shuttle!
3. Course readings aren't usually there for deep reading of all the posted materials. Ask former students, TAs, and even professors if you're expected to read everything on the syllabus; you might be surprised!
4. The Law School and Fuqua have weekly events open to all grad students that often come with free lunch! If you're on campus midday, check out what's going on at neighboring schools!
5. Many clubs advertised primarily to undergrads are open to grad students! Want to sing? Join the Duke Chorale!

Maggie Giordano MPP'24 - Social Policy

1. I didn’t know how much I would love the people and the community! While I did get a glimpse during the Admitted Student’s Day, I didn’t know how amazing and supportive the faculty and the students would be. Having that community has made the transition back to school so much easier.
2. Truthfully, I didn’t know how difficult it would be. I was overwhelmed by the workload when I started in the fall. I may have cried to my mom once or twice, but we made it through!
3. I didn’t know how many people came from non-policy backgrounds! I truly thought I would be one of a couple of people who came from an industry outside the public policy realm, so it’s been a comfort to share that experience with some of my classmates.
4. Everyone’s interests are so different from each other, even within niche policy realms. I didn’t realize that a single policy area, such as education, could encompass tons of different policy interests.
5. A more fun one – before starting the program I didn’t know my roommate!! My roommate is also in the MPP program and having her to bounce ideas off of, help me tweak my writing, calm my stress levels, and go to MPP events with has been wonderful. 

Juan Merlo Romero MPP'24 - Energy & Environmental Policy

1. It is really easy to take courses outside Sanford!  I have taken courses in the Fuqua School of Business, the Nicholas School of the Environment, the Graduate School and the Pratt School of Engineering. 
2. Sanford students are the best combination of incredibly smart people and people enjoying life beyond academics. This balance makes this experience unique! For example, one day I was camping out for basketball tickets and dancing with my MPP friends, and the following day, we were engaging in a deep discussion about health policy.
3. Every week, you see someone lost in Sanford's buildings... trust me, the architecture of those two buildings is beautiful, but weird!
4. The staff are always open to feedback. I feel empowered to speak up, give my opinion, and be honest (maybe the quality I appreciate the most from policymakers).
5. I did not know how much I would relish sharing my perspective as a Latino, Colombian, and international student. It has been fulfilling to talk about mi tierra and my experiences!

Laura Hohenberger MPP'24 - Diversity, Equity, and Addressing Structural Inequalities & Energy and the Environment

I didn’t know:
1. How many clubs and committees Sanford has and how well funded they are.
2. That there is a lake on campus.
3. How much free food there is at events.
4. That the West Campus is surrounded by a forest.
5. How many talks and workshops are offered every day beyond classes.