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New Leaders Named for Sanford’s Center on Politics

March 26, 2019

Professor of the Practice Mac McCorkle will be the new director of POLIS: The Center on Political Leadership, Innovation and Service at the Sanford School of Public Policy. In addition, Deondra Rose, assistant professor of public policy and political science, has been named director of research for the center.

Since 2015, POLIS has sought to address the problems of contemporary politics and to prepare a new generation of political leaders and engaged citizens. The center hosts speakers, holds conferences and offers training programs to prepare students for roles in U.S. politics.

The leadership changes were announced by Dean Judith Kelley.

“POLIS has made important contributions in its first three years – modeling civil discourse, helping students build skills and showing the importance of lifelong citizen engagement,” Kelley said. “Mac and Deondra will make an excellent team to expand on, and deepen, this important work.”

Photo of Mac McCorklePhoto of Deondra Rose

McCorkle succeeds founding director Frederick “Fritz” Mayer, who will leave Duke after the spring term to become dean of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. The changes take effect July 1.

McCorkle has been a member of the Sanford faculty since 2010, teaching courses in policy analysis and management and leading the Master of Public Policy program from 2012-2018.

However, McCorkle’s connection with Duke’s policy programs dates back farther, to 1981. That year, Duke President Terry Sanford and Institute of Policy Sciences Director Joel Fleishman hired him as staff director for Sanford’s bipartisan Duke Forum on Presidential Nominations.

McCorkle earned his law degree at Duke in 1984. After clerking on the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, he joined Terry Sanford’s Raleigh law firm in the fall of 1985.

In 1994, McCorkle launched his own consulting firm. For the next decade and a half, he advised political candidates, elected officials and various organizations in North Carolina and 28 other states. He is a frequently quoted political expert, having appeared in state and national media including NPR, NBC News, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal.

Rose is a political scientist whose research focuses on U.S. higher education policy, political behavior, American political development and the politics of inequality. She is the author of Citizens By Degree: Higher Education Policy and the Changing Gender Dynamics of American Politics (Oxford, 2018), which examines the role of landmark federal higher education policies in the progress of women since the mid-20th century. 

A summa cum laude Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Georgia, Rose received her M.A. and Ph.D. in Government from Cornell University, with a specialization in American politics and public policy. Previously, Rose worked in Georgia and Minnesota politics, and she is an alumna of Barack Obama’s 2006 “Yes We Can” Campaign and Political Training Program.

Rose has served on the POLIS Steering Committee since 2015. She also serves as co-director of the North Carolina Scholars Strategy Network (SSN). As a publicly engaged scholar, Rose serves as a board member for Habitat for Humanity of Orange County and the Durham People’s Alliance (PA) Fund. She also recently served on the Durham City-County Committee on Confederate Monuments and Memorials.

In addition, POLIS Associate Director B.J. Rudell remains in that role.

Mayer welcomed the new leadership team.

“The mission of POLIS is to inspire the Duke community -- students, faculty, administrators, and alumni -- to be more engaged in politics,” Mayer said. “So, it is wonderful that the new leaders have such rich backgrounds in research, teaching and external engagement. I’m confident POLIS is in good hands.”