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Getting accepted to two programs was a dream come true for Lauren Hubbard MPP/JD ’24 (UNC Law). Receiving a fellowship upon her acceptance was another reason to celebrate.

Hubbard received the Timothy M. J. Cullinan Fellowship. This endowment was established in 2007 in response to the Financial Aid Initiative challenge to provide whole or partial fellowships to graduate students pursuing a degree at Sanford. The donors, Matt Cullinan MPP ’90 and Anna Reilly MPP ’90, are both former members of the Sanford Board of Visitors, and Matt served as the chair of the board. The fund was established in honor of Matt’s father.

“I learned about the scholarship when I was accepted. I was very excited about the generosity of the scholarship. This opportunity made Duke stand out even more among the programs I was looking at,” Hubbard said.

After graduating from the University of Michigan with her bachelor’s degree in economics and a minor in law, justice and social change, Hubbard worked as a data and policy analyst for Education Trust-Midwest, a nonpartisan research, policy, and advocacy organization dedicated to closing opportunity and achievement gaps in Michigan’s public schools. Through her experiences at the U.S. Department of Education, the University of Michigan Federal Relations Office and the Washtenaw County Public Defender, she gained a passion for policy and legislation. Her work involved a lot of coalition building, she said, and she saw first hard the importance of building relationships to move policy forward.

“I really enjoyed working in education policy, but want to work more broadly across social policy issues as they are all interconnected. I also wanted to shift from data analysis more to the external relations and advocacy side,” she said. “Having an equity lens is important to me, because as policy changes are being made, the changes impact individual lives day to day,” she said.

That’s when she decided to pursue graduate school, to broaden her career opportunities. She began her studies at Sanford this fall, and will begin her law degree next fall. After graduation, she is looking forward to a career opportunity related to external relations, advocacy, and law.

“In the policy space, understanding law is very helpful. In my last job, one of my roles was to read and draft legislative language. Not having a law background, I didn’t know all of the nuances. I think between the two degrees, I will gain a lot of different skills helpful to my career,” she said.

Because she is a dual degree student, she said the fellowship has made a major difference to her.

“Financial aid is very helpful since I am pursuing two graduate degrees. It really eases a lot of financial stress. It allows me to focus on my schoolwork, so I don’t have to worry about a full-time job while I’m studying,” she said. “I thank the donors for the generosity. The support is making a difference to me and will help those in the future who receive it. It has opened doors, and it will be helpful to my long-term goals.”

She said her experience at Duke has been great, with client-based projects with a North Carolina state senator and local area nonprofits. Despite starting her program during the pandemic, she said her cohort has been able to meet for activities and studying and get to know one another. She has been able to explore Durham too – hiking spots and trails on Duke’s campus, as well as restaurants and breweries.

“Sanford has a really strong sense of community. Everyone in the program is ready to help one another, and our professors have met with us one on one to talk to us about our interests and internships,” she said.

She added that alumni connections through career panels and conversations have been beneficial too – and by providing fellowship opportunities.

“Duke has a strong alumni network that is really willing to help,” she said.