Skip to content

During the graduate ceremony, the Sanford School awarded degrees to 152 Master of Public Policy (MPP) graduates, 8 Master of National Security Policy (MNSP), 30 International Master of Environmental Policy (iMEP), 33 Master of International Development Policy (MIDP) degrees and 10 PhD degrees. In the undergraduate ceremony, 174 received their bachelor’s degrees majoring in public policy (PPS). 

The MNSP program was the first cohort of graduates for Sanford's newest program. Professor Tim Nichols introduced the MNSP graduates. 

Graduate Degree Ceremony

Judith Kelley speaking at graduate ceremony 2023
Sanford Dean Judith Kelley 

The graduate and professional programs ceremony was introduced by Sanford Dean Judith Kelley. She began her remarks by wishing the graduates and guests "tillykke", the Danish word for congratulations. Kelley, originally from Denmark, explained the origins of the word that translates to "to luck" in English, as she reminded the graduates to never forget the luck they each had in having access to education. 

Woman standing at podium addressing the crowd.
Noorin Nazari (MIDP'07)

The Distinguished Alumna Speaker was Noorin Nazari (MIDP'07) who spoke about power of education, particularly in areas of the world in which education is restricted to certain populations. Nazari recalled her personal experiences as a young woman in Afghanistan during the 1996 rise of the Taliban. 

“At a very personal level, I know policy is crucial – because of the absence of it living through civil war in Afghanistan. When I migrated to Canada, I knew that in order for society to be harmonious, that policy is important,” she said.

The pandemic has been another lesson in the importance of policy to create a better world, Nazari said.

“We have all experienced COVID – and we have all learned that our world is extremely unexpected and that policy is critical. There have been many other events that were unanticipated or that we did not connect to policy, like the changes over time to our daily lives due to climate change,” she said.

Since graduating from Duke, Nazari has worked internationally on governance, gender equality, education, and program management and evaluation projects. Nazari currently works for Global Affairs Canada.

“Being from a society where women do not have equal rights as men, where there is oppression, where I have lost family to conflict, I have lost years. But on the other hand, my experience gave me the tools, maturity, realizations and knowledge that I would not have had otherwise,” she said. “That experience is a landmark of my success. I was able to start from scratch and build on this with patience in my life.”

“I have had the ability to materialize what I learned in my MIDP professional studies at Duke. As a student, I had an opportunity to take pragmatic courses. More than 12 years later, I have been able to see where the skills were used. My degree benefited me to not only achieve dreams but to help others,” she said. “I was fortunate that my courses were taken with other international students; their perspectives enriched me.”

Nazari left the students with a challenge as they enter the world of public policy. 

"We can make the world a better place if we base our actions and our public policies on areas where we have our passion. If we find intersectionality in people's identities. If we have an inclusive approach to the policies that we develop." 

2023 Graduation

Watch Noorin Nazari's Address to the Graduates

2023 Richard Stubbing Award - David Schanzer

Dean Kelley hands plaque to David Schanzer at podium.
David Schanzer accepting the Stubbing Award

Professor David Schanzer was honored with the 2023 Richard Stubbing Teacher/Mentor Award. The award recognizes outstanding contributions to the graduate programs of the school and commitment to the personal and professional development of graduate students.  The winner is selected by the graduate students. Schanzer is a professor of the practice at the Duke Sanford School of Public Policy and director of the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security. He teaches courses, conducts research and engages in public dialogue on counterterrorism strategy, counterterrorism law and homeland security.

Dean Kelley presented this award with some kind words from one of Schanzer's students.

"Professor Schanzer goes above and beyond to challenge his students. He provides a tremendous amount of feedback and meets individually with each student (more than once) throughout the semester. His approach to memo writing has defined my time at Sanford. His class was the most intellectually stimulating course I have taken thus far. Additionally, I have always appreciated how deeply he cares about his students outside of the classroom as it has always been clear that he sees his students as more than just students." 

PhDs Awarded

10 students sit in front row with blue robes.

10 PhD candidates were recognized and hooded by their mentors or Sanford faculty. 

Harlan Downs-Tepper

Dissertation: “Risks and Rewards: Three Essays on Political Economy of Indian Democracy During Crises”

Advisors: Manoj Mohanan, Associate Professor of Public Policy and Erik Wibbels, Presidential Penn Compact Professor of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania

Catherine A Grodensky

Dissertation: “A Study of Plea Bargaining, Political Power, and Case Outcomes in Local Criminal Courts”

Advisor: Kristin Goss, Professor of Public Policy

Kelly Hunter

Dissertation: “The Political Economy of Gender in Global Health: How International Actors Shape Women’s Outcomes”

Advisors: Sarah Bermeo, Associate Professor of Public Policy and Livia Schubiger, Associate Professor of International Relations, University of Oxford

Claire Le Barbenchon

Dissertation: “Essays on Migration, Social Networks and Employment”

Advisor: M. Giovanna Merli, Professor of Public Policy

Jane Rachele Louise Leer

Dissertation: “Diversity & Inequality in Context: Schools, Neighborhoods, and Adolescent Development”

Advisors: Anna Gassman Pines, Professor of Public Policy and Sarah Gaither, Assistant Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience

Farrah Madanay

Dissertation: “Examining How Patients Judge Their Physicians in Online Physician Reviews”

Advisor: Peter Ubel, Madge and Dennis T. McLawhorn University Professor of Business, Public Policy and Medicine

Sarah Nolan

Dissertation: “Measuring Upward Mobility in Times of Change”

Advisor: Anirudh Krishna, Edgar T. Thompson Distinguished Professor of Public Policy

Sarah Petry

Dissertation: “Medicaid and the Life Course: An Intersectional Mixed-Methods Approach”

Advisor: Donald H. Taylor, Professor of Public Policy

Adam Walter Stanaland

Dissertation: “Fragile Masculinity: Operationalizing and Testing a Novel Model of Identity Fragility”

Advisors: Anna Gassman Pines, Professor of Public Policy and Sarah Gaither, Assistant Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience

Allison Stolte

Dissertation: “The Structural and Social Determinants of Intergenerational Health Inequities: How State Policy Contexts and Discrimination Shape Birth Outcomes”

Advisors: Scott M. Lynch, Professor of Sociology and M. Giovanna Merli, Professor of Public Policy

Undergraduate Degree Ceremony

Student Speaker - Gabrielle Battle

Woman stands at podium and delivers speech.
Gabrielle "Gaby" Battle inspires her classmates with a speech about "radical hope". 

Gabrielle "Gaby" Battle was the student speaker during the afternoon bachelor’s degree in public policy graduation ceremony. Battle comes from a family rooted in justice and advocacy for marginalized communities. Raised by her mother and grandmother, and close to her great-grandmothers, she says their intergenerational teachings, "not only made me feel empowered to be Black but also motivated to continue to advocate for our people." Gaby was Sanford's 2023 undergraduate student commencement speaker. She will be attending Harvard Law School.

Battle's speech focused on the idea of "radical hope", a term popularized by Jonathan Lear's 2006 book of the same title. Lear's philosophy promotes the idea of having hope and inspiration in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Battle challenged her classmates to push through adversity as they enter into the difficult arena of public policy. After expressing how radical hope had propelled herself and her classmates through a historically turbulent four years, Battle left her classmates with an enduring message. 

"After we leave the confines of Sanford and Rubenstein Hall, that is when it will be most important for us to lean on radical hope. The world will not necessarily accept our visions for the future. Like they did to Plenty Coups, they may tear us down and remind us of all of the reasons that our radical hope is no more than the stuff of fairytales. But Maya Angelou once said, “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”

Class of 2023, we must now lean on the foundations of who we are and what we have learned and dare to bring even just a spark of our radical hope into the world. To make it a reality. When you find yourself playing it safe, lean on radical hope and dream of more for yourself. When you find yourself with a seat at the table, lean on radical hope and make the table more equitable and just. Lead with a true and honest heart and never let others deter you from upholding your radical hope. And if we all just place a little bit of our radical hope into the world, I know that everyone will thank Sanford for producing the wonderful class of 2023."

Watch Gaby's Speech here. 

Terry Sanford Leadership Award Winner Quinn Smith


Quinn Smith is one of two winners of the top award for an undergraduate: the Terry Sanford Leadership Award. Quinn is an advocate for Native people on Duke’s campus and beyond. He is president of Duke’s Native American/Indigenous Student Alliance (NAISA) and has advocated for more support for Native students on Duke’s campus. He has completed numerous creative projects, like working with Duke Gardens to create audio documentaries of indigenous communities throughout the Carolinas describing their relationship with the land.  A Udall Scholar, he will be a Hart Leadership Fellow after graduation, working with Indigenous communities to advocate for indigenous land ownership.

Terry Sanford Award Winner Alex Hoffman


Alex Hoffman is one of two winners of the 2023 Terry Sanford Leadership Award. A Public Policy major with minors in History and Spanish, Alex did not see himself as a leader, but he has shaken up the status quo in numerous ways on campus. For example, he is a founding member of Duke Sexual Harassment and Assault Prevention and Education (SHAPE), a student advocacy organization working to eradicate sexual violence on campus. He is also involved in an effort called the Transformative Systems Project to work with faculty and staff to modernize the economics curriculum at Sanford. After graduation, he will be researching social services provisioning in Berlin, as a 2023-2024 Fulbright grant recipient. Afterwards he will get an advanced degree at Oxford. 

Undergraduate Awards

Fleishman Award Winner: Nicholas Camposano

Sanford Leadership Winners:  Alexander Hoffman and Quinn Smith, Jr. 

Best Honors Thesis:  Mary Monti

Duke Betsy Alden Award: Taylor Emerson

Schwarzman Scholarship: Cole Alexander Walker

The Rhodes Scholarship: Shreyas Hallur

Read more about Sanford's 2023 Undergraduate Award Winners. 

Tifft Teaching Award

Woman smiling
Mallory SoRelle received the 2023 Tifft Teaching and Mentoring Award. 

This year’s Susan E. Tifft Teaching and Mentoring Award was presented to Mallory SoRelle, assistant professor of public policy. The award is named for the late Susan Tifft, the Eugene C. Patterson Professor of the Practice of Communications and Journalism, and recognizes excellence in undergraduate teaching and commitment to the development of undergraduate students.

Her research and teaching explore how public policies are related to inequality in the United States. She focuses primarily on issues like consumer financial protection and access to civil justice that fundamentally shape the welfare of marginalized communities yet are often overlooked by scholars of the welfare state because they are not traditional redistributive programs.

SoRelle is the author of Democracy Declined: The Failed Politics of Consumer Financial Protection which explores the political response—by policymakers, public interest groups, and ordinary Americans—to one of the most consequential economic policy issues in the United States: consumer credit and financial regulation.

Details from the nomination include how Professor SoRelle has been a spectacular mentor and how she is able to treat students as an intellectual peer while still helping them grow. Additionally, her patience with learning and guiding students is what helps Professor SoRelle fulfill the Sanford School’s mission.