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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
Dear Class of 2020: We celebrate you! Duke and the Sanford School are “Marking the Moment” to recognize your unique class through an online project to share your memories. We will be bringing your memories all together to share online on May 10. We invite you and your families to submit photos and videos to contribute to the celebration.
Becca DiLuzio is a junior studying public policy at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University. Like many universities, Duke transitioned to online learning in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Rebecca kept this video blog for a week to give us a sense of what her life is like.