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I just don't feel like you've done Sanford right if you do not leave here with one changed perspective. If you leave Sanford the same way you came in, you have done yourself a disservice.

Brittany Gabriel

Two years ago, Brittany Gabriel MPP'24 could not have imagined the experiences she’d go on to have in graduate school—creating Duke University’s and Sanford’s first student-led Black Policy Conference, heading to Geneva to participate in a summer global health policy program, or leading an on-stage interview with a renowned writer to a sold-out crowd.

“I applied to graduate school on a whim. The only people I told were my daddy and my recommenders,” she says. Now, she feels fully confident that she and her Sanford cohort will make big changes in the world.

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Brittany at picnic table, hand on face, Sanford building tower in background.
Brittany Gabriel MPP'24 will work at at Deloitte’s DC office after graduation.  

A registered dental hygienist by training, Brittany arrived in Durham fully expecting to focus on policies related to large healthcare systems like Medicaid and Medicare. But soon, she changed her professional focus.

“My passion, or the passion I really found while here, is making sure that we can fight for equitable access to reproductive rights and access for women, especially Black women, and reducing the maternal mortality rate,” she says.

When Brittany was young, she could usually be found trying to stand up for what’s right. If someone snatched the ball from a friend, she’d snatch it back and say, “Don’t do that.” So, it’s no surprise that she has grown into someone who has tried to use her voice to advocate for justice.

Her outspoken nature has sometimes caused problems, though. “Sometimes, as a child, people told me to be smaller, or that I talked too much, or that I needed to leave space for others. But Sanford has given me a space to fully step into my voice and be able to articulate and stand up for things that I believe in, or even challenge things that I maybe once believed in,” she says.

A pivotal moment in her Sanford journey was attending a Black Policy Conference at Harvard University. Members of Sanford’s Policy in Living Color student group traveled to Massachusetts for the event. The mostly Black and brown aspiring policymakers were deeply inspired by a conference featuring policymakers who looked like them.

Brittany soaked it in and then started dreaming.

“It really just ignited my imagination, like, ‘We can do this here!’ We should not have to travel to the Duke of the North (aka Harvard) to be surrounded by policymakers who look like us and are doing amazing things!” she remembers.

A few months later, she spent her summer days interning at Deloitte in Washington, DC, and her off hours “trying to dream up what Duke Sanford’s Black Policy Conference could look like.” She made connections with alumni through the Sanford Alumni Relations office, and the idea started to take shape.

She knew the project would take most of her free time to pull off, but she did it anyway, with the support of Master of Public Policy program director Ken Rogerson, Sanford’s DEI team, Dr. Jay Pearson and Dr. Cassandra Boyd, and Sanford friends Christian Jones, Ryana Jones, Omolayo Ojurongbe, and Jordan Wilson.

The two-day event featured a domestic policy panel, a foreign and international policy panel, and a panel on imagining reparations. Nine featured speakers joined from organizations like the State Department, The Global China Initiative, The Dream Keeper Initiative, the North Carolina General Assembly, and more.

That same week, Brittany hosted an on-stage Q&A with Pulitzer Prize writer Isabel Wilkerson, a renowned author and leading voice on social justice in America, to a sold-out crowd.

Brittany says that in the last two years, she has truly found her voice.

“I think Sanford ignited something in me that maybe started when I was little, and I kind of buried it a little bit along the way because of society and just wanting to fit in. But I feel like Sanford has reignited that and given me—not permission, but a platform to fully step into this voice of mine.”

After graduation, Brittany will be working at Deloitte’s DC office. After that, she hopes to run for office in North Carolina. “I really do want to enact change,” she said. “I love the state of North Carolina. I want to represent North Carolinians. I want to help create and shape a state where everyone can feel like they belong, and they can thrive in.”

Brittany Gabriel's Photo Highlights


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Graduation Stories & Details

We will be sharing graduation stories throughout the week leading up to graduation on Sanford's website, and on our social channels. Need the graduation details? Check out the official Graduation Page to find parking info, live streams and more. 

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