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Current events and the global pandemic illustrate the critical role public policy research and education play in addressing national and international challenges.

A $10 million award from The Duke Endowment will support Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy, a national leader in public policy education and research, by funding graduate fellowships, professorships and strategic investments in school priorities, Duke President Vincent E. Price announced today.

“We are grateful to The Duke Endowment for this generous support as the Sanford School continues to innovate in policy education and research,” said Price. “Sanford students, faculty, and staff are directly engaged in improving lives and communities in our region and around the world, demonstrating real leadership in the policy field.”

Judith Kelley, dean of the Sanford School, said the award acknowledges the importance of the school’s work in today’s environment and bolsters the future for public policy at Duke.

“The complex challenges of our world demand relevant policy more than ever, and universities must answer the call to serve society,” she said. “For almost five decades, Sanford has been a leader. We will use this award to continue to research the most pressing public policy issues and to prepare students for lives of leadership, civic engagement and public service.”

As Duke prepares to celebrate 50 years of public policy education and research in 2021-22, the award will provide educational and research support in three core areas: graduate fellowships, professorships and the school’s strategic priorities.

Enhancing Recruitment of Professional Students

Woman, smiling
Jasmine Masand MPP’21 received the David M. Rubenstein Public Service Fellowship, an endowed fellowship that provides vital support to students committed to public service in the Sanford School of Public Policy.

Half of the award will endow graduate fellowships to enhance recruitment and funding of professional students, with $3 million being invested in an existing endowment – The Duke Endowment Public Policy Fellowship Fund, established in 2010 – for the immediate support of professional students. The remaining $2 million will be available as a matching challenge to establish endowed graduate fellowships.

The funds for fellowships for professional students will lower the barriers to public service, Kelley said. “We want to ease the pathway so that students may be equipped for the future of public policy with less debt and to allow students the freedom and ability to continue to do good in the world in public service, nonprofits and other important ways. This award will make an immediate and long-term impact for our students, who are powerful agents of change in society.”

Connecting Emerging Research to Future Policy

Another $2.75 million will be available as a match to endow a new full professorship and a professorship of the practice to engage in and connect research to policymakers – which directly impacts the future of our world and our nation. Sanford currently has more than 60 primary faculty with expertise in policy analysis; social, health and environmental policy; and recent additions in areas including technology and cybersecurity. These experts ensure that Sanford students learn real-world lessons that prepare them for important policy roles after graduation.

“Hiring and supporting our faculty in key policy focus areas will create more opportunities for policy engagement and increase Sanford’s recognition and reputation,” Kelley said. “Our faculty is among the most research productive of any public policy school. With six members of National Academies, 14 distinguished professors, and a wide array of centers and programs, we have outstanding research and engagement expertise that The Duke Endowment’s support will help Sanford to build on.”

Supporting the School’s Strategic Priorities

The award will also provide $2.25 million in expendable funds to allow the Dean to make essential investments in the school’s strategic priorities which set the course for the next 50 years of Sanford. The school launched its strategic priorities in 2019, ramping up investments in health and technology policy and digital learning – priorities that have prepared the school to lead during the pandemic.

“Even before COVID-19, Sanford has been planning and preparing for public policy programs of the future and new ways to deliver our programs of excellence. The Duke Endowment support will allow our school to make our programs more flexible and affordable while broadening access to our programs and diversifying our student body,” Kelley said.​

“The Duke Endowment’s founder wanted his philanthropy to help Duke University hold ‘a place of real leadership in the educational world,’” said Minor Shaw, chair of the Endowment’s Board of Trustees. “With this grant, we continue our proud support of the university’s commitment to innovative research, civic engagement and academic excellence.”  

Based in Charlotte and established in 1924 by industrialist and philanthropist James B. Duke, The Duke Endowment is a private foundation that strengthens communities in North Carolina and South Carolina by nurturing children, promoting health, educating minds and enriching spirits. Since its founding, it has distributed more than $4 billion in grants. The Endowment shares a name with Duke University and Duke Energy, but all are separate organizations.

The Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke is among the nation’s leading public policy schools, offering undergraduate, master’s and doctoral-level degrees in public policy and international development policy. Launched in 1971 as the Institute of Policy Sciences and Public Affairs by Terry Sanford — president of Duke, former governor of North Carolina, and later a U.S. senator — it is one of the oldest and largest public policy programs in the nation. It became Duke’s newest school in 2009. Judith Kelley, an expert on international relations, including issues such as human trafficking and election monitoring, became the school’s dean on July 1, 2018; she is the first woman to hold that role. 

The Sanford School of Public Policy is a community of excellence committed to producing knowledge and leadership to truly transform policy challenges. The 60+ core faculty are working to improve lives and communities by researching the most pressing public policy issues and preparing students for lives of leadership, civic engagement and public service. Faculty generate knowledge at local, state, national and global scales. Sanford’s 8,000 alumni are making an impact worldwide. The community of more than 1,000 students pursues the Sanford approach of analysis + action. Learn more at

Resources about the Sanford School of Public Policy