Our Story

Impact is the heartbeat of the Sanford School of Public Policy—a pulsating force that defines our existence at Duke.

It's not just a concept; it is our raison d'être. We thrive on impact—whether it is the profound influence we have on our students, the transformative power of our scholarship, or the authentic connections we forge with the world.

Duke is a leader in public policy scholarship and education, a trailblazer that set the stage over half a century ago. Back then, Duke revolutionized the landscape with an innovative public policy undergraduate major and new graduate programs, blending rigorous analytical training with hands-on experiences and real-world action.

Man, smiling
Joel Fleishman, founding director of the Sanford School

It was a vision ignited by the belief that universities should be catalysts for change, championed by Duke President Terry Sanford and embodied by Joel Fleishman, the visionary founder of the Sanford School.This spirit has been the driving force behind the Sanford School for over 50 years. Our purpose is clear—to make a difference every single day.

"Our singular goal at the Sanford School is to make the world a better place," declares Judith Kelley, the dean of the Sanford School of Public Policy. Guided by our mission to enhance lives and communities, we delve into the most pressing public policy issues, shaping students into leaders committed to civic engagement and public service.

The momentum at Sanford is unstoppable.

In the last five years alone, our impact has surged in myriad ways. Yes, there are new programs and initiatives, but more importantly, there are tangible stories of individuals, engagement, and consequences. Today, the Sanford School of Public Policy stands as one of Duke's defining aspects of the university’s century of excellence. This report unfolds the narrative of the past five years, showcasing 100 impactful stories—a testament to a century of shaping public policy for the better.


Our Ultimate Measure

“The ultimate measure of a great university is the quality of its supply to the ranks of university scholars and teachers, that endless intellectual column which marches into the future to mark and transform society. That is our ultimate mission, not only to seek truth, but to enlarge and perpetuate the search for truth. If all of that is seen as outrageously ambitious for Duke University, then let it be, but nevertheless let us set it as our goal.”

- Terry Sanford, 1984

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2024 Impact Report: Sanford then & Now