Before Sanford sent off its esteemed class of 2020 MPPs to become the bright and innovative policy makers we know they will be, we were able to hear the culmination of their hard work at the virtual Master’s Project Symposium on May 6th. The breadth of topics covered was impressive; ranging from housing, anti-racist education, refugee and immigrant youth, disability voting access to flood mitigation strategies, and more.
Every spring, the Duke Energy Initiative and EDGE, the Center for Energy, Development and the Global Environment at Fuqua School of Business, hosts an energy related panel discussion with Duke alums, along with networking and a group mentoring session. But it is not every spring that the world is faced with a viral pandemic. However, COVID-19 did not halt a much-needed virtual conversation on gender equity within the energy industry.
This May, Julian Xie is graduating with his second Duke degree – his Master of Public Policy (MPP). By next year, he plans to complete his third Duke degree – his MD. He is quick to point out the complementarity between the two advanced degrees with his focus on improving health and food systems. “My interests are around food policy and food systems. I knew I wanted to get a non-medical perspective across disciplinary lines. I think the MPP has given me more skills to communicate about and analyze health topics as a medical student,” Xie said.
In the fall of his sophomore year, Tyler Kopp PPS'20 traveled to Mexico City with the DukeImmerse program, where he interviewed returnees who had been deported from the U.S. Kopp, who majored in public policy and Spanish, knew that he wanted to write something bigger about deportation and family separation. The resulting paper, “It’s a Trauma That Stays with You: How U.S. Family Separation Policies Affect Mexican-U.S. Migrant Families,” earned Kopp the Best Honors Thesis Award for 2020.
Advocating for racial justice and equality, with a focus on criminal justice, has been a passion of Leah Abrams’ PPS’20 throughout her career at Duke, and one that she has explored in her pursuit of policy change. In the fall of her sophomore year, Abrams began working with the Community Empowerment Fund (CEF), a local non-profit aimed at enabling and sustaining transitions out of homelessness. She would continue to work there for the rest of her time at Duke. “Pretty early in my experience there I started working with members of the community who were facing really tangible obstacles because of a prior interaction with the criminal justice system” said Abrams.
Kaylee Brilhart Brilhart struggled with being a first-generation student from a low-income family at Duke, and then turned that struggle into advocacy for other such students. In their nomination of Brilhart for the 2020 Terry Sanford Leadership Award, Deondra Rose, assistant professor of public policy, and Elise Goldwasser, Sanford’s director of undergraduate internships, called her “a behind the scenes leader who has championed first-generation, low-income students at Sanford and on campus.”
Even before coming to Duke, Maryam Asenuga PPS’20 knew that she wanted to become a lawyer. In addition to being pre-law at Duke with the intent of studying criminal and civil rights law to advocate for minority communities, Asenuga found ways to make others feel more at home both at Duke and in Durham.
For Daniel Gardner PPS’20, becoming a Duke student – and now alumnus – has been a lifelong dream. Coming from a Duke family, he has photos on campus at various points throughout his childhood, culminating in his graduation pictures this week.
Romina Tomé is the first person to defend a dissertation remotely at the Sanford School. At first she was disappointed that she would not be in the same room with her Doctoral Committee members. But the remote defense ended up making big news in her hometown, a small agricultural community in Argentina.
As a freshman, Linda Zhang PPS’20 conducted a research project that helps Duke faculty members understand the mindset of Chinese undergraduates at Duke Kunshan University. She also runs an ambassador program that fosters connections between students at Duke Kunshan and Duke.
Sanford students, both undergraduate and graduate, are always amazing. They come from all over the world, and from nearby neighborhoods in Durham. They start organizations, volunteer in the community, earn awards and develop friendships that have the potential to last a lifetime.
On March 15, 2020, the Peace Corps officially announced to all volunteers that they would be evacuated due to risks associated with the international COVID-19 pandemic. Over 7,000 volunteers would soon be flown back to the U.S. Two first-year MPP candidates shared their thoughts about their decisions to come to Sanford and on what’s happening with the Peace Corps program now.