Making the world better one policy idea at a time

 April 5, 2023

Can we make the world better? Sanford students said a resounding “yes!” to our Board of Visitors last month describing experiential learning and community engagement. Sanford students are taking on important policy challenges with analysis + action.

One example is Policy Lab, a non-partisan service-oriented experience in which faculty member Deondra Rose works with students to develop and deliver policy memos on pertinent topics for legislators and organizations. Alexia Jackson PPS’24 showcased an important environmental Policy Lab project for Sen. Natasha Marcus of the NC General Assembly surrounding “rolling coal,” a practice of modifying a diesel engine to emit large amounts of black exhaust fumes. Alexia and fellow students developed a detailed memo and dove into tangible policy options. The best part? Their research was used to introduce a bill into the N.C. Senate, combining two of the group’s policy recommendations.

In addition, undergraduates Ashley Bae PPS '24 and Simran Kapoor PPS ’25 presented on how they assessed a bill on clean energy. They remarked on the power of their education and the Policy Lab experience to convey information directly to policymakers. Mennah El-Gammal MPP ’23 said the fun part is seeing the high-quality work that the students deliver to policymakers. Professor Rose described how one volunteer team recently responded to a policy memo request from the U.S. Supreme Court!

Democracy course students presentation

Many of our courses also feature real-life experiences. In the course “Democracy at a Crossroads,” Ian Hitchcock MPP ’24, Sophie Johnson PPS ’23 and Elizabeth Paul MPP ’23 learned from faculty member Asher Hildebrand how to think about democracy in new ways. As we approach another election juncture, it is thrilling to hear about solutions that could be applied in our systems. Ian, Sophie and Elizabeth developed applicable criteria for decisionmaking to break down democracy challenges and identify solutions. One of the students poignantly said, “It’s important not to give up hope. Although we are looking at big problems in this course, there are practical solutions. But these big problems won’t fix themselves. They require work.”

Hope, solutions, work: These attributes describe our Sanford students. Several years ago, our MPP graduate Meril Pothen said, “Policy is the academic and professional manifestation of giving a damn! It is taking that inherent human instinct to care for one another, and scaling it to care for society.” Every day, Sanford students continue to show me how much they care.

They truly are making the world better one memo and solution at a time.


Judith Kelley
Dean and ITT/Terry Sanford Professor of Public Policy and Political Science


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