An Alumni Base to Fill Cameron; A Network to Serve Our World

 June 4, 2024

Did you know? Sanford has enough alumni to fill the entirety of Cameron Indoor Stadium. That image is impressive – almost 10,000 Sanford graduates linked together.

Even more impressive: the work our alumni are doing in our communities, our cities and throughout the world to improve policy and create a better future – with people at the center.

On May 10, our newest alumni had the opportunity to learn directly from one of the thousands of Sanford changemakers. Alumni graduation speaker Ryan Smith MPP’14 is leading a new branch of public safety in Durham that is reimagining how to respond with greater compassion to 911 calls. In his graduation speech, Ryan said he seeks to stay proximate to the people he is serving. He talked about understanding of others to understand policy. He emphasized action when others need your help.

“Sometimes, you will sense an opportunity, but it will feel just out of reach because the problem you see will, on paper, not be your responsibility. It will not be under your control or maybe only a very small part of it will be. People aware of this problem will point to others who are responsible for it, and you will face a decision point. What are you going to do about it?” Ryan asked.

Ryan encouraged our graduates to be leaders in the face of constant adversity, to stand for something, to stand for others. It can be daunting when you think you are standing alone.

The good news is our graduates are not alone. They are part of a network unlike any other. With an alumni network large enough to fill a stadium, anything is possible.

Metaphorically, there are times when we face a road ahead of us that is uncertain. In Denmark, we have a concept called the “red thread” that means there is a throughline to your life. Although policy is very rarely a straight line, all of our graduates have a red thread in their lives: the connection to Sanford.

More than 50 years ago, former Duke President and our founder Terry Sanford shared a vision for a better world. The vision for what would become the Sanford School had a positive impact on Duke. Sanford faculty pioneered a culture of collaborative, interdisciplinary, problem-oriented research to tackle the thorniest questions in society.

Today, Sanford has almost 10,000 alumni changemakers continuing this mission. We celebrate all of our Sanford alumni, including our newest 2024 graduates.


Judith Kelley
Dean and Terry Sanford Professor of Public Policy and Political Science
Duke Sanford School of Public Policy


Dean's blog, Alumni