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Earlier this Fall, fourteen Sanford alumni from the Master of Public Policy (MPP) class of 1992 gathered on the Sanford lawn to reconnect and reminisce on the past thirty years.

With bagels and coffee in hand, the alums connected with current MPP and Public Policy Studies (PPS) students and exchanged stories about their Sanford experiences 30 years ago and today.  

Sanford, 30 years later 

In 1992 the Sanford School of Public Policy looked a lot different. It wasn’t even yet a “School” here at Duke. As one of the leading public policy programs in the country, the “Institute of Policy Sciences and Public Affairs” was still housed in the Old Chemistry Building on Duke’s West Campus. As one of Duke campus’s older buildings, the stories of “Old Chem” bonded students in their academic journey.  

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Alums stand in front of Old Chem
MPP'92 Alums visited "Old Chem" once more. 

Construction started on a new building for the institute (now the Sanford School) that same year, but for the Master of Public Policy class of ’92, the chemistry has always remained.  

Lives changed 

“This place has changed my life, professionally and personally,” said Melinda Haskins (MPP’92). For Haskins, her time at Sanford was a confluence of memorable events. She met her husband, Matt Haskins (MPP ’90), during her time studying in Old Chem, and they both have careers in policy today: Melinda is a Public Health Program Specialist for the National Institute of Health, and Matt is a Principal with PwC’s Washington National Tax Services office. Matt recalls driving down from Harvard Law School every weekend to spend time with Melinda as she finished her MPP. Decades later, they are proud parents of two Duke graduates.  

Sanford continues to shape public policy leaders 

That life-changing focus was pervasive throughout the day, as alums and current students connected over the MPP program, from the 48-hour memos to the state of political discourse in the classrooms. Alumni reminisced over the grueling memo assignments with Professor Charlie Clotfelter, who was also in attendance that morning. Antonio Butler (MPP ’23), Sanford MPP Student Council President, elaborated on new initiatives with diversity and the nature of navigating politically charged conversations today.  

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Three women smiling for camera in empty classroom.
Alums visited a classroom in "Old Chem".

For alums, those skills they learned from Sanford launched them into their lifelong careers. Garrick Francis, a Raleigh native, emphasized how the MPP degree set him and his colleagues up to take advantage of some fantastic opportunities. Francis had the unique honor of working under then-Senator Terry Sanford, and he is now the VP of Federal Affairs at the Alliance for Automotive Innovation. Through working with Sanford, Francis reflected that his work in the field of public policy is not for personal gain. “It’s for the people,” said Francis. 

Continuing community in the next generation 

The 1992 cohort was much smaller than what the MPP program has grown to today, but the community focus has remained throughout the years. Representing the current cohort in attendance were Camila Herrera (JD/MPP ’24), Juan David Merlo (MPP ’24), Keanu Valibia (MPP ’24), and Jessica On (PPS ’24). Olga Corrales (MPP ’92) connected with Herrera and Merlo over their Latinx identities and shared passion for ballroom and salsa dancing. Corrales emphasized to students that finding those personal passions are as important as their studies.  

“Thirty years ago, I was the only international student, and I often wondered if I was in the right place. After decades of intense time in international organizations, I gave myself a chance to return to my passion for music. My advice to current students is to keep your life balanced: do not disregard what brings you joy while building your career. I loved meeting Camila and Juan, Latin American students committed to public causes but not shy in sharing their passion for dance and artistic expression. I know they are in the right place here at Sanford,” said Corrales.   

Corrales found balance (and her future husband) during her studies as she met and married David Feingold (MPP ’92) while at Sanford, and both now live in Costa Rica. Feingold is the President of Boston Bagel in Costa Rica, and Corrales is a professor at the Universidad de Costa Rica, where she teaches Environmental Law, Policy, and Economics.  

Those were formative years in many ways, and I am very grateful for the lasting friendships born through policy discussion, disagreement, and development. 

Suzanne Sardina (MPP'92)

Walking together through the years 

The MPP class of 1992 will always be remembered as a tight-knit cohort. Much has changed for these graduates over the decades, but the lasting friendships that they forged have continued as they walk together through the public policy world.  

The cohort finished the day with a picture together on the iconic Meyer Bridge, a homecoming football game against UNC, and a stroll past the Old Chem one more time. Suzanne Sardina reflected on the bond that brought them together decades ago and again today. 

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Group of people standing on red bridge.
The group toured through the Sarah P. Duke Gardens and took a picture on the Meyer Bridge.  
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Crowd watching football game at Duke Stadium.
The alums attended the UNC vs Duke football game. 

“Our 30-year reunion was full of friendship, fun, and reminiscing about our two intense years together.  We recalled memos, case studies, professors, nights out (working or socializing), and the inevitable understanding that we all shared an outstanding experience at Duke.   

Those were formative years in many ways, and I am very grateful for the lasting friendships born through policy discussion, disagreement, and development.”   

 

MPP ’92 alums in attendance 

- Sheila Chavis 

- Andy Cook 

- Melissa Cook 

- Olga Corrales  

- David Feingold  

- Garrick Francis  

- Nancy Hamilton 

- Melinda Haskins  

- Adam Jones 

- Bob Malme  

- Cathy McLaughlin 

- Kelly Metcalf-Meese 

- Suzanne Sardina 

- Anna Tefft  

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This article was posted in the Sanford Alumni Memo, to stay informed about Sanford alumni events, news and profiles email Alex Dodds alexander.dodds@duke.edu to sign up. 

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