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Judith Kelley, dean of the Sanford School of Public Policy, has decided to step down and return to the faculty at the end of the 2023-24 academic year. Kelley is the ITT/Terry Sanford Distinguished Professor of Public Policy and a Bass Fellow.

Manoj Mohanan, senior associate dean for faculty and research, has been appointed interim dean of the Sanford School, effective July 1, 2024. Mohanan, the Creed C. Black Professor and a professor of economics and research professor of global health, will serve a two-year term as interim dean.

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Judith Kelley

“I am grateful to Judith for her dedication to Sanford and her leadership over the last six years,” said Provost Alec D. Gallimore. “As dean, she has strengthened the school, building on Duke’s history of excellence and innovation in public policy while also guiding faculty, staff and students through a period of unprecedented challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic. I wish her well as she returns to her teaching and research in human rights, democracy and elections.”   

Since her appointment in 2018, Kelley transformed the school through new programs and innovations to bolster research, teaching and engagement while also leading it through the Covid-19 pandemic. She previously served as senior associate dean for five years.

Under Kelley, Sanford recruited over 20 outstanding faculty members, created a strong grant incentive policy, raised new funds for a research pilot funding program and created a director of research opportunities position to support the grant application process and the nomination of faculty for honors. Subsequently, research funding for the school increased, as did the prizes and honors won by the school’s faculty.

Kelley also worked to maintain the Sanford School’s reputation as a premier destination for public policy education. Sanford doubled the size of the school’s flagship Master of Public Policy (MPP) program and maintained its top rankings in social policy, health policy, environmental policy and policy analysis. The MPP program also added several new concentrations and joint degree programs. In addition, Kelley steered the Master of International Development Policy through the challenges of Covid-19. Under Kelley’s leadership, Sanford doubled its professional offerings by creating its first new master’s degree programs since the 1980s. The successful Master of National Security Policy degree is already in its second cohort, and the Executive Master of Public Affairs program will welcome its first cohort next June, focusing on leadership, management and ethics. The school also deepened the undergraduate experience, adding a new certificate program in health policy, the school’s first minor in media and journalism and a number of new experiential learning components, including undergraduate learning trips to Washington.

Kelley spearheaded the entry of Sanford into online and hybrid teaching, building its first full-fledged audio-visual recording studio to support both teaching and research innovations — especially the new hybrid degrees — and hiring the school’s first director of digital learning just in time to support the transition to online teaching during the pandemic.

Alumni engagement increased significantly during Kelley’s deanship. Fundraising more than doubled and the number of endowed graduate financial aid endowments increased from 17 to 30 while the number of endowed professorships rose from 14 to 22.

Supporting the faculty’s engagement with pressing policy challenges, Kelley oversaw the addition of technology policy as an important emerging area of expertise and raised two endowed faculty positions to build new strengths for Sanford and Duke in this area. Since its creation at Sanford, the technology policy lab has already been cited in connection with policy changes in Washington and educated government officials around the world.

In addition, Kelley appointed the school’s first associate dean of diversity, equity and inclusion and doubled the number of underrepresented faculty. Kelley, the first in her family to attend high school and a first-generation immigrant from Denmark, was the first woman to lead public policy at Duke since its establishment in 1972.