The Sanford School offers a wide variety of curricular and co-curricular opportunities for students at all levels to study international relations, foreign policy, and national security policy in the United States and globally.

Helping the world overcome these challenges and preparing students for the future are the goals of Sanford faculty, who are experts in statecraft, strategy and security.

Courses and programs explore traditional areas of security studies such as military and defense policy, diplomacy, and intelligence, while also offering opportunities to learn about topics that impact security, such as:

  • climate change
  • development
  • migration
  • human rights
  • technology

Our distinctive strengths in the areas of U.S. foreign and security policy are complemented by our international and comparative reach.

Sanford blends the study of the past and the present to equip the next generation to meet the policy challenges of the future. Our faculty are engaged in research efforts in the security field and provide executive education offerings through both degree programs and customized courses. 

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Why Security at Sanford?

  • Strong curricular offerings
  • Rich student interest
  • Solid track record of collaboration
  • Successful provider of collective goods (public programming and co-curricular opportunities)
  • Strong career mentoring via Faculty with government experience and fellows program
  • Effective outreach and engagement
Sanford's Key Theme

Curricular Programs

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Undergraduate

Undergrads majoring in public policy can explore security studies topics throughout the major and prepare for a career in national security.  Over a dozen Sanford full-time and affiliated faculty teach and conduct research on domestic and global security topics. Security faculty:

  • teach core courses for the major
  • offer security-related electives
  • advise senior honors theses on security-related topics.

Sanford faculty and staff assist in obtaining security-related internships in federal agencies in Washington, D.C., Capitol Hill, think tanks and NGOs.  Alumni serve in the Department of Defense, the Central Intelligence Agency, the State Department, and the National Security Council, or have worked as staff for congressional committees that oversee these agencies. Many alumni work for private sector companies that support the mission of these and other agencies, think tanks and NGOs. 

Sanford PPS Major
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Master of Public Policy

MPP students may choose to concentrate in national security.  All national security concentrators will take a course in Topics in National Security and choose from electives at the 500 and 800 levels.  Many MPPs intern in federal government or international agencies during the summer and then complete a master’s project on a security-related project in their second year. Each year, the MPP cohort includes active duty military servicemembers, as well as students that have been awarded distinguished fellowships from the State Department, Military Services, and other federal agencies to prepare for or advance their careers in national security.

Master of Public Policy
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Master of National Security Policy

The MNSP is a hybrid learning experience for mid-career professionals in the national security field. Students attend two residential periods on campus per semester and otherwise interact with their faculty and fellow students on-line so they can continue their careers. Courses are taught by core Sanford faculty members and adjunct professors who are leading practitioners in their fields. 

Master of National Security Policy
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Master of International Development Policy

The MIDP is a flexible interdisciplinary degree focused on mid-career professionals who will dedicate their careers to policymaking and public service in developing countries. Students may choose to focus in “Peace and Conflict Resolution” and choose from a variety of security studies electives. Many MIDP graduates return to employment in national security agencies in their home countries.

Master of International Development Policy

Security Programming at Sanford

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American Grand Strategy

The Duke University Program in American Grand Strategy (AGS), centered in both the Sanford School and Trinity College, helps anchor Sanford’s security studies co-curricular programming. 

American Grand Strategy
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Counterterrorism and Public Policy Fellows

Each academic year, Sanford hosts a cohort of career national security professionals from agencies of the federal government to take courses, conduct research, and engage with students.

Counterterrorism and Public Policy Fellows Program
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Triangle Institute for Security Studies

TISS is a four-university consortium – consisting of Duke, UNC Chapel Hill, North Carolina State, and North Carolina Central – dedicated to the study of national and international security.

Triangle Institute for Security Studies
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Cyber Policy Program

The Cyber Policy Program sponsors research and events dedicated to issues of cybersecurity and public policy. The program offers events geared toward students, executives, and the broader public.

Cyber Policy Program
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Rethinking Diplomacy

Rethinking Diplomacy focuses on research bringing together faculty, current and former practitioners, and other experts to consider the changing nature of diplomacy in today’s increasingly globalized and interdependent world.

Rethinking Diplomacy Program
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Carlucci Fellows

Carlucci fellowships are awarded each year to incoming MPP students committed to pursuing careers in national or international security. 

Carlucci Fellows Program

Security Faculty

From foreign policy to cyver policy to counter terrorisim. Sanford has dozens of faculty members focused on security.

Browse Faculty

Security Curriculum

Can an undergraduate focus on security? What does the Master of National Security concentration requirements entail?

Explore security curriculum

Security Research Projects

From American exceptionalist to Arctic security - students can get involved in a wide range of academic research.

Look at research projects

Partnerships

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Duke

Partners include: Duke Human Rights Center, Jewish Studies, ROTC, the Duke Center on Law, Ethics, and National Security, the Duke University Middle East Studies Center, and many others

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Research Triangle

Partners include: Security studies entities at UNC, NC State and NC Central via Triangle Institute for Security Studies

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North Carolina

Partners include: National Defense University campus at Fort Bragg through the TISS-JSOMA partnership, Special Forces units at Fort Bragg and beyond

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Executive Education

Customized Courses

We offer tailored executive education courses for national security professionals as individuals and group clients.

  • vary in length and content
  • have covered issues relating counterterrorism, irregular warfare, great power competition, security cooperation, and counterproliferation
  • combine seminar discussions, readings, in-class simulations, and team-based analysis

Program on Governance & Fragility

The Duke Center for International Development (DCID) offers an Executive Education Program on Governance and Fragility for civil affairs officers. It was offered four times in 2022-2023 and hosted 93 officers from the U.S. Army’s 95th Civil Affairs Brigade. Participants learned about the core principles of good governance and experts in the field led in-depth discussions about political and economic institutions, civil conflict, armed non-state actors, and peace and stabilization interventions. The program concludes with a day-long group exercise centered around a governance in crisis scenario. 

Executive Education

Student Stories

Featured Story

American Grand Strategy 'Staff Ride'

The Program in American Grand Strategy hosts ambitious 'Staff Rides' where students role play military and war-period characters alongside faculty and military experts to learn the stakes of war. For example, 40 Duke students, faculty, alumni and guests spent 8 days traveling throughout Gibraltar and Morocco tracing the steps of Operation Torch, part of the US North Africa Campaign during World War II. 

Featured Story

Marc Losito

Marc Losito was an active-duty U.S. Army Warrant Officer when he decided to pursue a Master of Public Policy degree at Duke University. He focused on the intersection of technology and national security policy. At the time, Marc had served in the military and SOF for 20 years specializing in counterterrorism, irregular warfare, and intelligence operations.