For the first time in fall 2024, students from any major at Duke can apply for Sanford’s 4+1 Accelerated Master of Public Policy track. Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy is known for solving the world’s problems through a combination of theoretical and practical curriculum. Applications are now open for any Duke undergraduate, with programming starting in fall 2024. This new opportunity reflects Sanford’s belief that a Master in Public Policy can enhance the career opportunities of any Duke student.
Under the 4+1 program, participating students will complete the entire 51 graduate credits required for the traditional two-year Master of Public Policy (MPP) degree during their senior year and their fifth year at Duke. This streamlined approach allows students to transition seamlessly from their undergraduate studies into advanced graduate coursework, fast-tracking their path to a master's degree.
Natalie Wong is one of Sanford’s current 4+1 students. In spring 2024, she will graduate with an undergraduate degree and a graduate degree from Duke in five years. With an interest in health policy innovation, she will be ready to step into a career in public policy with a master’s degree that will give her even greater access to her professional goals.
Wong, now in her final year of the program, shared her thoughts as she prepares to finish her second degree here at Sanford.
What intrigued you about the 4+1 program once you found out about it?
Completing a graduate degree at Duke would allow me to continue learning from and working with various professors and faculty members that I had already built relationships with during my undergraduate career.
Furthermore, the opportunity to complete a graduate degree in just one additional year rather than the usual two appealed to me. This also made sense financially, as I would pay for just one year of graduate school tuition. I also knew it would be easier to complete graduate school without taking a break after graduating from undergrad. The academic momentum that I had cultivated from being in school for the past 16 straight years would prepare me for the academic mindset that you need to be in to take classes compared to taking a hiatus in between.
While I had considered pursuing a graduate degree after graduating undergrad, I always envisioned doing it later in my career. I considered completing an MBA, Master of Public Administration, or a Master’s in Public Health to further my interest in healthcare policy and innovation. I hadn’t thought deeply about pursuing an MPP because I didn’t realize how applicable the degree is. After speaking to many Sanford alumni, I realized that an MPP can be valuable for a career in both the private and public sectors in various fields. I also learned that in addition to its broad versatility, it can also be tailored towards specific fields. As someone deeply interested in healthcare policy but unsure which sector I’d want to pursue in the future, the MPP was a compelling option.
What are your career plans after Duke, and how does the MPP program fit into them?
While my post-graduation plans are not yet set in stone, I hope to work in the healthcare policy industry. I would ideally end up in Washington, DC, where there is an extensive network of Sanford alumni.
In what ways do you feel the MPP program empowers you for your future career?
Graduating with an MPP significantly expands my career opportunities, especially as someone straight out of school with no full-time work experience. Since many careers in the policy field now prefer or require graduate degrees, graduating with an MPP opens up a wider range of opportunities to pursue.
The MPP program has enhanced my understanding of interdisciplinary policy areas. Through my coursework and classmates, I’ve learned about fields ranging from environmental policy, engineering, data privacy law, social innovation and entrepreneurship, child advocacy law, and more. Although I plan to work in the healthcare policy sector after graduation, this broader awareness of these fields will strengthen how I approach problems with diverse perspectives.
Apart from Public Policy majors, who else at Duke would find the program appealing?
The program can benefit any Duke student, both inside and outside of the Public Policy major. For Public Policy students, the MPP is a natural extension of Sanford’s undergraduate curriculum. The MPP allows Sanford undergraduates to apply what they’ve learned thus far to more real-world practical applications through client consulting projects and more experience-based coursework. For students from non-public policy backgrounds, the program offers an opportunity to learn about the underlying policy environment that impacts various issues. For example, a computer science major can understand how policies surrounding AI ethics and data privacy law will affect jobs in the tech sector. An aspiring environmental scientist can learn about the economic and political barriers to environmental change. From my experience, I’ve felt that the coursework and experiences provided through Sanford’s MPP program can complement students from any academic background.
How has your overall experience been in the 4+1 program, especially with balancing graduate classes alongside your undergraduate commitments?
I’ve loved my experience as a 4+1 student thus far. One of my favorite parts of the program has been connecting with people from different backgrounds and stages of life. I’ve had the privilege of connecting with and learning from people who are older than me, have had established careers in diverse fields, and have had major life milestones that I haven’t yet. I’ve learned so much from the friends I’ve made in my cohort and am truly grateful for the connections I’ve made from the MPP program.
During the first year of the 4+1 program, it was challenging at times to balance being a first-year graduate student and a college senior. I often found myself torn between spending time with my senior friends who were graduating and strengthening friendships with my new Sanford classmates. I also had to resist senioritis since most of my undergraduate friends were either underloading or part-timing for their last year, whereas I was taking a full load of graduate school courses.
Overall thoughts on the 4+1 program:
The Sanford community is like none other that I’ve been a part of before. Through my time at Duke thus far, I have yet to find a group of people as welcoming and inclusive as those I’ve met at Sanford. I knew that I would graduate from the 4+1 program with an extra degree, but I never expected to leave with a whole new group of lifelong friends and support system.
It has also been a fascinating experience to have experienced Duke from both a graduate and undergraduate perspective. While I’ve learned a lot academically through the 4+1, the life advice and insights I’ve gained from my cohort have been just as valuable.
Are you connected with any other schools at Duke as well (double major, minor, etc)? How does Sanford complement your learning with those others?
As a graduate student at Sanford, I’ve been able to take courses at other schools and departments. I’ve taken classes at Fuqua and the Population Health Sciences department. Furthermore, I’ve interacted with graduate students from various programs through my classes. For example, I’ve met economics PhD students through my Health Economics class, Science and Society students through a Cybersecurity and Health Policy course, and environmental science master’s students through other coursework. I’ve loved learning from students from various programs and seeing the differences and similarities in how we think about various issues.
It's Worth It
Kathryn Anderson learned about the 4+1 program during her freshman spring. Her TA was in the program and recommended it. Planning it out took some foresight, she says, but it's worth it. "Now, what is technically my senior year of undergrad, I’m taking first-year courses for an MPP degree. Taking master’s level classes is exciting. It is enriching to have people in the classroom who can draw on their own experiences actually working in the policy field." - Kathryn Anderson PPS’24 MPP’25