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Work with Student Consultants

Your organization can benefit from the expertise our graduate students are gaining during their two-year Master of Public Policy (MPP) degree program — at no cost to you. The goal of the program is to train and develop complete policy analysts – dedicated professionals with the skills needed for successful careers and the values needed to address important issues.

We average 65-75 incoming students each year, most with 2-4 years of prior work experience, including Peace Corps, Americorps, and Teach for America. Students complete:

  • Core coursework in economics, quantitative methods, political and policy analysis
  • Professional skill development including teamwork, written and oral communication, leadership, budgeting, and project management
  • Optional concentrations in Development Policy, Environment and Energy Policy, Health Policy, Global Policy, National Security, Population Studies, and Social Policy.

There are three structured ways to work with Sanford MPP students.

Spring Consulting Projects

“Sanford spring consulting teams produce research and information of similar or higher quality to products from our paid consultants—for free and on time.” —Philip Price, CFO, N.C. Dept. of Public Instruction

Every spring our first-year MPP students work in teams on real policy problems faced by actual organizations and agencies at no charge to the clients. Clients can be public or private, nonprofit or for-profit, with no geographic limitations.

Small student teams of 4-5 students conduct interviews, complete data analyses, make site visits, research best practices and review scholarly literature, with each student devoting about 100 hours to the project. Experienced Sanford faculty members manage the project teams, review strategies, evaluate written reports, coach oral presentations, and assign grades.

Proposals are accepted throughout the fall semester and selected by the students in early January. Students present results to clients in late March and submit a final written report in late April. Successful proposals will include a mix of research, analysis and decision-making.

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  • Emily Johnson presents her MPP research on hogs and policy

    Master's Project: Hog Waste

    North Carolina is home to nine million hogs on more than 2,000 hog farms. For her master's project, Emily Johnson MPP'18 explored whether North Carolina policies can better support hog farmers in adopting improved waste systems. She presented her project to the Sanford community (students, faculty, alumni and staff) as part of the Master's Project Symposium.

Examples of recent projects:

  • Using EdSphere to increase school retention for MetaMetrics, Inc.
  • Reviewing financial investment laws for Myanmar Development Resource Institute
  • Revising policy toward panhandling for Durham, N.C., City Manager
  • Evaluating mobile banking user experience in three countries for Datu Research, Inc.

Master’s Projects

Master’s Projects are year-long individual capstone projects completed by second year MPP students. Students spend the fall semester identifying a client and a policy question and completing background research. In the spring, they produce extensive high-quality reports overseen and graded by a faculty committee. Students use their master’s projects to demonstrate skills and knowledge to prospective employers.

Recent projects include:

  • Barriers to Opioid Addiction Treatment
  • Staff Recruitment and Hiring in Higher Ed: Is Diversity a Priority?
  • Are Judges Who Were Law Professors More Liberal?
  • Evaluation: Consumer Lending at Self Help Credit Union and Self Help Federal Credit Union
  • Cost-Effectiveness Analysis of Financial Incentives for Smoking Cessation in North Carolina Medicaid
  • Analysis of the barriers faced by social enterprises in East Africa focused on Menstrual Hygiene Management

Practicum Consulting Teams

Practicum Consulting Teams are poised to tackle intensive client-based projects in the fall semester, supervised by Sanford advisors with relevant policy expertise. For example, one year teams completed two projects:

  • a comprehensive economic impact analysis of the school system in Orange County, N.C.
  • financial analysis and recommendations for Medicaid expansion in North Carolina

We seek a small number of challenging projects for our second-year MPP students who are honing advanced skills in quantitative and qualitative analysis, financial impact assessment, program evaluation and policy writing. With student teams of 8-15, project scope can be broader and more sophisticated than the spring consulting projects. Sanford faculty can help you design your project to meet your needs and help our students build experience. Health, Education, International Development, National Security, and Budget and Finance are typically areas of strong student interest, but we welcome projects in all policy fields.

Kerry Condon headshot"Our team worked closely with nonpartisan researchers at the Friday Institute to evaluate the North Carolina Opportunity Scholarship Program. We designed, tested, and implemented a survey to over 8,000 parents. We also prepared an analysis and report to inform state policymaking. The experience challenged us to work remotely in a short time frame and drew on our qualitative and quantitative analysis skills training. The findings challenged our understanding of education policy and built our skills in collaborating in a dynamic team environment."  - Kerry Condon, MPP '18