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The Sanford School and Jay Pearson, assistant professor of public policy, have been selected to receive two awards from the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration (NASPAA) in recognition of work, research, and teaching in the areas of diversity and social justice. The awards will be presented during the NASPAA annual conference Oct.10-13 in Atlanta, Ga.

The 2018 NASPAA Diversity Award honors the Sanford School for maintaining the highest standard in diversity through outstanding contributions in research, teaching and service.

The school’s nomination letter cited the work of its Committee on Diversity and Inclusion (CDI), created in 2015. The Sanford CDI consists of approximately 25 students, faculty and staff. Pearson and fellow faculty members Deondra Rose and Kate Whetten have been co-chairs, and Quinton Smith is the school’s Diversity and Inclusion Fellow.

“I’m awed and quite humbled at this award,” Smith said. “The CDI, in conjunction with our leadership at Sanford, has worked hard to make our school’s commitment to equity, inclusivity, and justice apparent at every level. This award is a wonderful recognition of those efforts.”

The CDI’s accomplishments including improved faculty recruitment procedures, resulting in three new minority hires, the school’s safe space, Brown Bag Discussion Group, racial equity and LQBTQ trainings, curriculum reviews, and the “all are welcome here” communications campaign, which included a video showing what the school’s faculty would look like without immigrants.


Jay Pearson - Social Justice Curriculum Award

Pearson was selected for the 2018 Social Justice Curriculum Award, which recognizes a faculty member who successfully incorporates social justice principles into the teaching of a core course. The award includes a prize of $1,000.

Man smiling with his hands clasped in front of him
Jay Pearson

The NASPAA Diversity and Social Equity Committee said in their letter to Pearson, “The committee was impressed by your ability to create an ethics course that explores how created identities and structural inequality related to gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomics, wealth, race, ethnicity, nationality and religion have driven policies that result in slavery, genocide, eugenics, discrimination and marginalization.”

Pearson noted that, given the increasing diversity of the U.S. population, “the value of curricula that directly address the history and contemporary impact of majority-minority identity relationships has never been greater.”  

“Courses that teach students which groups disproportionately reap the benefits of these arrangements, which groups disproportionately bear the burdens of them, and who has disproportionately influenced their development are essential to both national and international interests.”

Pearson created a new syllabus for the required public policy ethics course, “Policy Choice as Value Conflict.” The syllabus addresses historical oppression and identity-based supremacy, contrasted with the American ideals of meritocracy and egalitarianism. The course explores these conflicts through the writing of diverse and contemporary thinkers such as Ta-Nehisi Coates, bell hooks and Frederick Douglas, as well as through readings from the fields of sociology, anthropology, public health and psychology. The course is among the highest rated courses at the Sanford School.

Judith Kelley, dean of the Sanford School, praised the CDI for doing “a tremendous amount to lead in this area, and continuing to do so.”

“I am really grateful for all they’ve done and for the leadership Kelly Brownell also provided in this area while dean. I’m also thrilled that NASPAA recognized Pearson’s commitment and excellence in teaching through this award. His class and his relationships with his students are an authentic reflection of who he is as a human being, and that makes him an outstanding teacher.”

NASPAA is a membership organization of graduate education programs in public policy, public affairs, public administration, and public and nonprofit management and offers accreditation of master's degree programs in these fields. Its nearly 300 members are located across the U.S. and in 24 countries around the globe.

This video was produced as a part of a social media campaign which signaled to the community, "no matter who you are, no matter what your story is, you are welcome here."


Diversity and Inclusion Fellow Quinton Smith

Quinton Smith joined Sanford as the CDI Fellow in 2016. He organizes and facilitates the committee’s activities and forges connections between Sanford and support resources across Duke’s campus.

“We strive to make sure that 'diversity' and 'inclusion' are more than mere buzzwords and mandates," Smith said. "We want everyone who is a part of the Sanford community -- whether student, staff, or faculty -- to know that this is a place that acknowledges, values and celebrates its rich mélange of identities.”

Find out more about Sanford's diversity and inclusion efforts.