Developing countries, systems and communities
Sarhang Hamasaeed MIDP’07 looked out over the crowd of Sanford graduates at the 2019 graduation ceremony. Just 12 years earlier, he had been one of these graduates. Now, he was addressing them as the distinguished alumni speaker.
He spoke of peace and hope from a life experience of conflict and war. By the time Hamasaeed had turned 30, his native country of Iraq had been in three wars and he had been displaced twice.
Hamasaeed made a promise to himself to become a professional who worked to create peace. He came to Sanford as a Fulbright Scholar to earn a master’s in international development policy (MIDP). Through case studies and learning about the experiences of other countries, Hamasaeed came to see that Iraq’s experiences with conflict were not unique.
“(The Duke experience) gave me the sense that we were not alone in this,” he said.
Hamasaeed is now the director of Middle East programs at the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP), and he says, “Peace-building is the business of building hope.”
In 2023, another member of the MIDP class of ’07, Noorin Nazari stepped onto the Sanford graduation stage, looking out at a sea of graduates she addressed. Echoing Hamasaeed’s experience, she was also displaced by conflict.
When the Taliban came to power in 1996 in her native country of Afghanistan, Nazari was unable to continue her schooling – simply because she was a woman. Believing in the power of education, she pivoted to support an underground elementary school for girls. She and her family were forced to flee to Pakistan and then to Canada.
“I returned to Afghanistan after my undergraduate degree and was excited to bring change. Soon after, I realized I could benefit from a more nuanced program. I still had policy questions. I applied to Duke and was accepted,” she said.
When the Taliban again took over Afghanistan in 2021, Nazari was heartbroken.
“At a very personal level, I know policy is crucial – because of the absence of it living through civil war in Afghanistan,” she said.
For Nazari, policy has been critical in preparing for an unexpected world. Her life journey has shown her the power of policy.
Two MIDP graduates. Two Sanford graduation speakers. Two advocates of the power of international development policy for change in the world.
International development policy is a hallmark of Duke University.
The MIDP program is perhaps one of Duke’s most diverse master’s programs, with dozens of countries represented in each cohort and the alumni base. The alumni network has grown to 967 alumni residing in 109 countries as of 2023.
MIDP alumni are working in leadership positions in governments around the world, including Alejandro Weber MIDP ’17, the Undersecretary of Finance for Chile. He was elected one of the 100 young leaders of Chile in 2018 while he was in the Civil Service. He is the youngest Undersecretary of Finance since the recovery of democracy in Chile in the 1990s.
International development policy impacts are far-reaching, from MIDP alumni to undergraduate projects to the faculty who have provided training and consulting to governments for decades. Faculty have advised World Bank, USAID, the Millennium Challenge Corp., UNICEF, field-based NGOs, and community-based implementing organizations.
Under Edmund Malesky’s leadership, the Duke Center for International Development (DCID) has increased efforts to focus on research and to become a development hub for researchers. This effort includes the hiring of four lecturing fellows who have partnered with Sanford faculty on grants, participated in conferences and workshops and coordinated DCID’s monthly research seminar for faculty and graduate students.
Sanford’s international development policy impacts represent a lifetime of work.
Faculty have trained thousands of foreign government officials in public finance and governance topics. Scores of DCID consulting activities have influenced policy in developing nations.
- Roy Kelly led a team of Nepali researchers to conduct a fiscal decentralization study. As input to the new federal-based constitution, this study identified the extent to which the Local Self-Governance Act (1999) had been implemented.
- Gangadhar P. Shukla and Sandeep Bhattacharya proposed fiscal policy measures for stemming environmental degradation and water, air, and noise pollution for the Government of Thailand.
- Graham Glenday, Bhattacharya and Kelly also produced a Reform Action Plan for the overall tax system in Guyana for the Office of the President.
- Fernando Fernholz conducted a cost effectiveness analysis to assist the government in Mozambique in evaluating malnutrition interventions and trained officials to continue this work.
Bruce Jentleson said in 2023: “In the past 20 years, Duke has internationalized tremendously. DCID was the heart of Duke’s early global presence.”
Over the past several years, several longstanding DCID faculty members have retired, including Francis Lethem, Roy Kelly, GP Shukla and Fernando Fernholz.
Lethem said, “The great work of the public finance group is the great work of Duke University.”
Over 27 years, Lethem served as professor of the practice, director of graduate studies for the MIDP, and DCID’s director, and co-director and board member of the Duke-UNC Rotary Peace Center. He mentored countless international fellows in the MIDP program, supervising the master’s projects of nearly 100 fellows and serving on the committees of another 125.
In 2021, he founded the Francis Lethem Fellowship, an endowment that will help provide financial support for select international students in the MIDP program long into the future. His gift is matched by The Duke Endowment, doubling his investment.
Lethem said at DCID, “We have been together for 27 years, which is marvelous. All I have done is to capture the spirit and vision of our founder, Bill Ascher. We are very fortunate to have Eddy Malesky as the director, and he has the same forward-looking vision.”
Examples of impact in International Development Policy
Robust Executive Education
In 2023, 188 professionals participated in specialized training and longstanding Executive Education programs.
Lusine Stepanyan MIDP’20 was accepted as one of a handful of Duke students to the Clinton Global Initiative University, an international initiative for students around the world that is focused on social entrepreneurship and innovation. Stepanyan is originally from Armenia where she started a School of Languages to teach those entering the workforce for the first time.
International Children's Advocacy
Maya Ajmera MPP’93 started her first organization, the Global Fund for Children, shortly after she graduated from Duke. She is the President and CEO of Society for Science and Executive Publisher of Science News. The Society for Science is best known for its world-class science competitions and its suite of outreach and equity programs.
Change through Diplomacy
Susana Garcia Garcia MIDP ’14 is a global changemaker. In July 2019, Garcia was hired as a diplomat and is now serving under the first secretary to the Permanent Mission of Mexico before the Organization of American States. She oversees many of the issues she has worked on her entire life, such as corruption, access to information, and conflicts of interest. She also has cases before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
Fighting Human Trafficking
Drawing on her research into the effectiveness of U.S. efforts to reduce human trafficking, Judith Kelley advised Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), a key sponsor of related legislation. She also briefed then-Ambassador at Large Susan Coppedge (a Duke Sanford alumna) in the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons in the U.S. Department of State. Her office used Kelley’s book, "Scorecard Diplomacy," to help justify a request for continued funding to fight human trafficking worldwide.
Based on research in Peru, Kenya, Uganda, India and Durham, N.C., Anirudh Krishna developed the Stages-of-Progress model to measure movement into and out of poverty. His work has helped shift thinking globally about poverty interventions.
International Diplomatic Briefings
In 2021, Edmund Malesky provided a briefing for U.S. State Department officers on political and economic developments in Vietnam and presented two briefings on anticorruption successful approaches policy to principles and country officers at USAID. Malesky authored the Vietnam Provincial Competitiveness Index report and presented results to national politicians and leaders of all 63 provinces. Malesky also authored the Vietnam Provincial Governance and Public Administration Performance Index (PAPI) Report and presented results to national politicians.
Service in India
MIDP alumnus Chanchal Kumar is one of the highest-ranking officials in India, serving in the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region as a Secretary of the Government of India.
MIDP alumnus Esra Guler is Director General, Economic Modelling and Conjunctural Assessment, Strategy and Budget, of Turkey.