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Jordan Wilson MPP'24 leveraged his master's project and landed a role with San Francisco's mayor. 

Jordan Wilson MPP'24 is loudly and proudly a true San Franciscan, through and through.

When asked where he came from, where he’s going next, and why he is getting a master’s degree in public policy, the answer is always, resoundingly, “San Francisco.” Wilson jokes that friends laugh and roll their eyes whenever he mentions the Golden City-- he talks about it just that much. His passion is evident from the joy in his eyes, to the increase in his words per minute as he speaks about his favorite place; home, and the love he has for its people.

Read on to find out more about his path to and from San Francisco, and his reason to keep on going.

What inspired you to pursue a master’s degree in public policy?

I grew up around politics and policy without even knowing it. I grew up in a very politically active family—my mom being a teacher and dad being a union plumber—​with a very diverse group of family and friends around me and got to see various perspectives that policy has on individual people and their communities. I saw SF change very rapidly from a working-class community to a very gentrified city. That, and just my family in general very politically active and domestically and internationally.

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man with hand on chin
Jordan Wilson MPP'24

Then in high school, I was fortunate enough to have a mentor who saw me as someone who could benefit from summer job programs that the city put on for public school’s students. Summer internship with the mayor and human rights commission. From that I found myself in public policy, so I majored in that and found myself back in the mayor’s office. During COVID, I thought about it I ever wanted to transition or think about other policy areas that would have a greater impact on my community, now’s the time to go back to school. I thought about Law School, but stumbled across Duke’s program and really found my community here. After speaking to some professors here after applying, it was an easy decision.”

What was your favorite class at Sanford?

  • Terry Lee Allebaugh - Affordable housing course
  • Jay Pearson – Ethics course
  • Kerilyn Schewel - Migration course (something I never thought I would take but found fascinating)
  • Doug Brooks – National security course (I don’t have that background but since Duke is known for their National Security programs, I ended up really liking that course and becoming friends with folks that I otherwise likely would not have.)

What is one of your proudest accomplishments during your time at Sanford?

The Black Policy Conference – it’s the beauty of being proactive to see a need, and go for it. We were able to put it on so quickly, and it turned out to be a very good and insightful event. For us the BPC e-board, it feels like we made our mark at Duke, and hopefully that carries on past this year. I’m most proud about that.”

Any words of advice for future MPP students?

You’re at Duke. There are so many resources, and there’s the Duke name. Take advantage of what you want to get out of the program, be proactive, know “your why,” and stay true to your why. Ask yourself “How can I take advantage of the resources here to make that ‘why’ a reality.” There are resources here if you look and seek them out. I’ve built connections with professors and staff here who help me stay true to my “why” and figure out what I need to do to move forward.

What is your “why”?

“My ‘why’ is San Francisco – it’s that city. You’ll have to drag me out before I leave. My family has been there for 5 generations. I owe that city everything. I want to ensure working class folks can stay there. SF gave me a lot. Public schools gave me a lot. My community gave me a lot. And it’s killing me when I see the current community not getting what I got. That’s my why… it’s the city.”

What will you miss most about Duke/Sanford?

I knew this question was coming. I’ve thought hard about this. The easy answer is to say the people. I absolutely will miss them. That is first and foremost. I’m excited to graduate and go work, but I’m really sad I might never again be in the space with everyone. The staff… the professors… I think what makes Sanford unique and special is that you have everyone in one area. Everyone’s central to one specific space—you can build this sense of community with staff, faculty, undergrads, grads… figuring out what you want to do with the rest of your career. The way Sanford’s setup, everyone’s constantly communicating and interacting for good and for bad --it forces people to engage.

Do you have a favorite quote or motto?

My mom always had this quote written out on our white board or some type of paper in our household and I always think of it:

‘Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.’ – Marianne Williamson

What brings you joy?

People and food. I’m such a people-person. I know it’s a clique, but people really do bring me joy. I don’t know what it is, but I love talking and hearing people’s stories. If you’re in the policy realm, you have to appreciate people, or else why are you in this area? Everyone has a story. Everyone is impacted by policy.

What are your next steps after graduating? What is your dream job?

“I’m going back to work for the mayor in San Francisco! I was able to leverage my master’s project to get a role there. I’ll be working on various policy initiatives there, and implementing my Master’s Project, which aims to advance career technical education in public schools in San Francisco.

If money wasn’t an issue, I’d be a teacher and a coach. But right now, in terms of a dream job, I’d love to get to a point that I’d be able to scale up my master’s project – I’d be helping lead programming in a centralized high school in San Francisco and building out pipelines to employers for local public-school students.” 

All roads lead to San Francisco…

Jordan is a fifth-generation San Franciscan and received his B.A. in Public Policy from the University of Redlands in 2018. Prior to his time at the Sanford School, Jordan worked on various citywide initiatives as a Communications Aide for San Francisco Mayor London N. Breed, including the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, San Francisco’s 2021 Climate Action Plan, and the Dream Keeper Initiative, a comprehensive plan to reinvest $60 million annually into San Francisco’s diverse Black communities. Before joining Mayor Breed’s team, Jordan worked as a Project Manager for Lighthouse Public Affairs, a public affairs consulting firm in San Francisco. Jordan is a fellow scholar and current member of the Board of Directors for San Francisco Achievers, an organization that supports young Black men in the San Francisco Unified School District. Jordan will very willingly and happily tell you about all things related to San Francisco sports, politics, music, and where to grab the best burrito when in town.

Life at Sanford

Jordan Wilson MPP'24

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