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Support Sanford Students

Giving to Create Scholarships, Fellowships & Stipends

Sanford School founder and former Duke President Terry Sanford urged students to set “outrageous ambitions” and work diligently to achieve them. But pursuing these passions comes with a price: most of the professional opportunities in the policy sector pay modestly at best.

Philanthropic support makes all the difference in bringing outstanding students at the undergraduate and graduate levels to Duke and providing them with the foundation necessary to become effective public policy leaders. Opportunities to invest in our students include scholarships, fellowships, internship support, annual giving and curriculum development.


Duke’s need-blind admissions policy is particularly important to ensuring the excellence of our undergraduate public policy programs. It helps ensure that our classrooms are filled with rich and lively debate. Our pledge to meet 100 percent of admitted U.S. students’ demonstrated need provides the most promising applicants access to a Sanford education.

New endowments help provide the permanent funds that will enable us to cast a wide net for the brightest minds and make an enduring difference in the lives of individual students and their families.

  • Your gift of $100,000 or more can create an unrestricted scholarship that helps exceptional students reach their potential.
  • Your gift of $250,000 or more can create a restricted scholarship endowment, such as a fund that gives preference to students pursuing a particular field of study, like media or education policy or education policy.

Graduate Fellowships

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  • Raphael Obonyo sitting outside the Sanford School

    From Slum to United Nations Honoree

    Raphael Ononyo MPP'13 received a scholarship to come to Sanford and it changed his life. “I grew up in a small village in Kenya, an informal settlement called Korogocho. It’s the third largest slum in Kenya," he remembers. "I applied for this scholarship, and I got it."

    In 2017, Obonyo was named the one of the United Nations Persons of the Year.

    "A few years ago, I didn't even dream of connecting with the UN. Now I am named one of the UN persons of the year. Those are ‘aha moments’ that make you really, truly see and reflect on how far you’ve come," he said.

    Obonyo has served as a Special Adviser on United Nations Habitat’s Youth Advisory Board and the World Bank’s Global Coordination on Youth. Previously Obonyo served as the Director of The Youth Congress, a premier non-profit organization in Kenya.

    Read more student stories.

Our professional students will go far—often very far. Our Master of Public Policy and Master of International Development Policy programs help smart, passionate students develop the foundation of skills they need to become leaders in fields as wide-ranging as energy, immigration policy, child development, national security, and global health.

But to enroll the very best students, we must offer funding packages competitive with other top public policy schools. Many of those schools offer to fully fund the educational costs of excellent applicants; the Sanford School has limited resources to devote to making similar offers.

Increasing endowment support for our professional degree programs also creates the strongest platform to catapult our students into the field, helping them minimize their debt and maximize their ability to accept positions after graduation where they can have the greatest impact.

  • Your gift of $100,000 or more can establish an unrestricted endowed fellowship to assist some of our most talented graduate students.
  • Your gift of $250,000 or more can create a restricted fellowship endowment, such as a fund that gives preference to graduate students pursuing a particular field of study.

Summer Internship Stipends

We don’t just encourage our public policy students to get out in the field. We require it. Internships are a vital part of our curriculum at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. They offer an important opportunity for our students to apply classroom learning—from statistical analysis to theories of leadership—to an array of real-world concerns.

But many of the most dynamic and prestigious public policy internships are unpaid, especially those with financially constrained government agencies and nonprofits. Many of these organizations also happen to be located in cities with high costs of living or in far-flung regions of the world with significant associated travel expenses. See places around the globe where Sanford students intern.

Philanthropic support for summer internships opens up a world of possibilities for our students, enabling them to focus on the most compelling issues and projects, rather than on how they’ll pay the bills.

  • Your gift of $100,000 or more can establish an endowment to support summer internship stipends for undergraduate and graduate students.

Curriculum Development

How do you teach students to lead in an ever-changing world? That question fuels the Sanford School’s educational programming. As new challenges emerge, from political upheaval to the evolution of health care, our faculty members develop innovative programs to address society’s evolving needs. Undergraduates in the India Internship Program, for example, engage in an interdisciplinary study of health and development issues Created by Professor Anirudh Krishna the program combines internships at local nonprofits and research projects. Together, these experiences give students profound insight into the practical constraints of implementing public health innovations.

Specialized certificate programs for undergraduates, such as Policy Journalism and Media Studies and Child Policy Research, are other powerful examples of curriculum enhancements that provide students with the chance to deepen their knowledge of a specific field of study.

Student interest in these intensive programs is high. But it takes a significant financial investment for our faculty to develop the most promising educational programs. Programs that span multiple disciplines or require smaller classes to maximize students’ hands-on learning opportunities are particularly costly to establish. Philanthropic support helps our professors create these extraordinary educational experiences for our students.

  • Your gift of $100,000 or more can support a curriculum enhancement fund that aids Sanford’s most creative teachers as they expand and enrich educational experiences for public policy students.