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Sanford students, both undergraduate and graduate, are always inspiring. They volunteer in the community, start organizations, earn awards and develop friendships that  last a lifetime. This class also persevered through the pandemic and students have witnessed on a global scale the importance of good public policy. Here are some of the stories of the Class of 2022.

Updated Stories!

We will be updating this post with new stories throughout graduation week. Need the details of graduation itself? Check out our 2022 Graduation page.


Olivia Reneau - a Winner of the 2022 Terry Sanford Leadership Award

This Terry Sanford Leadership Award is a premier award for undergraduates. Olivia Reneau has held leadership positions with Polis, the Center for Politics at Sanford. With a passion for racial justice and inclusion, Reneau is skilled at identifying unmet needs and bringing students together to meet them. She not only advocates for others, but empowers them. Professor Deondra Rose said that Olivia has “the kinds of magic that we associate with people like Terry Sanford."

2022 Graduation Stories

Shrey Majmudar - a Winner of the 2022 Terry Sanford Leadership Award

This Terry Sanford Leadership Award is named for the former Duke President, N.C. governor and U.S. senator Terry Sanford, who urged students to have outrageous ambitions and started the public policy program at Duke 50 years ago. It is presented annually to a graduating senior who demonstrates exceptional leadership. Majumdar held several positions with Duke Student Government, and served on various university leadership committees, including as student member of search committees for key university positions. 

2022 Graduation Stories


David Marshall MPP'22 returned to Sanford after dropping out 20 years ago to serve in the military after 9-11.

David Marshall MPP '22

David Marshall was sitting in an economics class for his MPP degree at Sanford on a warm September morning when someone came in and slid a note to the professor who turned on the TV. It was 2001, and Marshall and his classmates sat in shock, watching 9-11 play out on huge TV screens. 

At the time he was a reservist with the North Carolina Air National Guard and soon he was called up to active duty.  He finished his semester and dropped out of Duke, eventually serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and Djibouti.  Twenty years later, Marshall returned to pursue his degree.

2022 Graduation Stories


Isabel Shapiro, second from right, and her Sanford MPP classmates Yue Zou, James Spiers and Zach Sanna.

Isabel Shapiro MPP'22

Before coming to the Sanford School, Isabel Shapiro MPP’22 provided wraparound reentry services to men returning to Buffalo, NY from incarceration.

“I witnessed every day through my clients’ eyes the often harmful and costly practices involved in our criminal legal system. That experience inspired me to pursue a Master of Public Policy degree at Duke to gain the empirical research skills necessary to advance evidence-based solutions in the field,” she said.

After graduation, Shapiro hopes to take her passion for this kind of work to a higher level. “I was tired of helping my clients move forward, only to run into a wall. I now want to help break down those walls!” said Shapiro.

At Sanford, Shaipro honed her qualitative and quantitative research skills and deepened her knowledge of justice policy through research projects on topics ranging from jury pool formation procedures to law enforcement responses to behavioral health crises. She had a summer internship with North Carolina Justice Center’s Fair Chance Criminal Justice Project. She was also one of Sanford’s first graduate-level peer writing tutor and a member of the Sanford Graduate Student Council.

Shapiro realized that being a graduate student did not require her to sit on the sidelines and focus only on her studies. Shapiro published five op-eds in several local news outlets. She is a member of Decarcerate Now NC Coalition Coalition and provided operational support to a number of other North Carolina-based criminal legal organizations in her spare time.”

“I discovered that my connection with Duke granted me a new level of access and more opportunity to advocate for change. It has been a time of learning, network building and hands-on experience.”

Jonathan Liu MPP'22

Beautiful night, moon in distance, two men outside, mountains
Jonathan Liu with his dad in a scenic spot in Kyrgyzstan. 

Jonathan Liu came to Sanford the roundabout way: through Kyrgyzstan. He joined the Peace Corps out of college, and Kyrgyzstan was one of his choices for possible places to serve. He loved living with a host family, and working really hard on the family farm. He has treasured memories of hard work and butterflies, and a harsh yet gorgeous terrain.

Liu decided to focus on public policy around the time he was teaching a lesson to kids about climate change. He says during the lesson, he felt hypocritical because he knew carbon dioxide emissions from people in Kyrgyzstan pale when compared to emissions from the U.S.

“This was the first time I was like, ‘Wow, I’m in a position of power, and privilege, and there’s so much more I could be doing rather than coming here and giving them a message on climate change,’” he remembers.

Serge Bakire iMEP'22


Stop 1: China

Serge Bakire was living in China when he was accepted into Sanford's international Master of Environmental Policy program, which is also based in China (Duke Kunshan).


Stop 2: Congo and Rwanda

Serge left China due to the pandemic and studied at home in Rwanda. The upside? He also conducted research for his master's thesis in person in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


Stop 3: Durham, NC

Serge Bakire has finally spent a semester on Duke's campus! Even with a full itinerary, he says he's grateful and happy with his experience.

Woman, smiling, Duke Chapel doors in distance
Philile Shongwe

Philile Shongwe MIDP'22

While earning her Master of International Development Policy degree, Philile Shongwe launched an organization, Govuka, that advocates for healthy choices for young women in her home country, the Kingdom of Eswatini in Southern Africa. Shongwe says it’s common for girls in her country to become entangled in relationships with much older men, and that such relationships are not culturally frowned upon.  Girls in these relationships are known as “blessees” and according to Shongwe are five times more likely to be infected with HIV and to become pregnant when they have sex with older partners. 

“In my mother tongue, ‘govuka’ means to fiercely protect,” Shongwe says. “I am deeply concerned about how we prepare young women for their lives and futures. Sex Ed is hard to talk about. Where I come from, the impact of dating the wrong person can lead to a lifelong HIV infection, or unexpected pregnancy, either of which derails young women’s lives more so than in many other parts of the world.”

2022 Graduation Stories


Arya Patel interviewed Indian migrant workers for her honors thesis.

Arya Patel PPS'22

Arya Patel spent her childhood divided between India and North Carolina. Living in two cultures really helped shape her public policy perspective, she says. perspective was helpful for her honors thesis, in which she talked with female migrants in India about state relief and COVID-19. 

Patel conducted research in her hometown. As she talked to people, she says she experienced "a completely different version of the city. As I traveled via rickshaw between construction sites, informal housing, and campsites on the outskirts of town, my perception of my hometown expanded."

At first, she found it difficult to interview the migrant workers. They were more likely to be shy, and to stay away from strangers and not share personal experiences. But then Patel had an idea, and her project won Sanford's top award for an undergraduate thesis.


Daisy Lane PPS'22

Work by students such as Daisy Lane have boosted student turnout and helped make Duke's early voting site one of the most successful in the county.

Ready Daisy's story

2022 Graduation Stories


Hamza Mohamoud simultaneously completed his senior year and his first year of graduate school.

Hamza Mohamoud PPS'22 + First Year MPP

Hamza Mohamoud spent his final year at Duke in an unusual way. He was both a senior and a first-year master of public policy student, thanks to Sanford's 4+1 program.  

"As a 4+1 student, I get to stay at Duke where I have built connections with friends I love, good faculty relationships, and strong work habits," he says. "Best of all, I get to meet an entire cohort of experienced, unique, and kind graduate students. I personally love to learn about others: their life stories, job experiences, and passions, and the 4+1 program enables that!"

Hamza says his graduate courses were engaging and informational. "From Social Determinants of Health with Professor Jay Pearson to Globalization and Governance with Professor Sarah Bermeo, my professors and peers have exposed me to new ways of thinking. Post-graduation, I hope to research how climate change affects health outcomes among BIPOC individuals and subsequently work toward improving those health outcomes."

Christina Wang PPS'22


woman, smiling
Photo by Jackson Muraika | The Chronicle

Christina Wang is Duke University's first Chinese American student government president. Excerpt from Spectrum News:

In her final days at Duke, senior Christina Wang says she has always looked to her family for inspiration. Both of her parents immigrated to the United States from China in 1991.

"Their English wasn't very good when they came to the United States," Wang said. "So my mom did a lot of cleaning houses and learning English that way and stuff like that. They are both very hard workers and have been a big inspiration to me.”

She carries her heritage proudly in her role as Duke Student Government president, and she realizes that alone may inspire other incoming students. She reflects back on the reactions she got when she was first elected into the position.

2022 Graduation Stories

Master of International Development Policy - Alan Medina

Alan Medina, a native of Mexico, is a Master of International Development Policy fellow at the Sanford School specializing in Innovation & Entrepreneurship. "I keep telling my friends and family that Sanford is the best school in the world."

2022 Graduation Stories

Undergraduate - Ysanne Spence

Ysanne Spence PPS'22 plans to enact positive change in her home country, Jamaica.

2022 Graduation Stories

Master of Public Policy - Rhea Ninan

Rhea Ninan  MPP'22  is committed to using public policy to elevate the standard of life for all.

Narissa Jimenez-Petchumrus MEM/MPP’22

Narissa shared this update on LinkedIn:

Woman, smiling
Narissa Jiminez-Petchumrus

I wanted to take a moment and share a personal update that I'm particularly proud of. I'm so happy to announce that I have accepted an offer as a Public Utilities Regulatory Analyst at the California Public Utilities Commission.

I’ve had to sometimes pinch myself that I've come this far given my background. A few years ago I was financially struggling, working multiple jobs, sometimes while community organizing on the side. I worried about if I had "relevant" experience to make it into graduate school and never did I think I would actually get into Duke University.. I remember opening my acceptance letter on the floor of the call center I was working at during that time and couldn't believe what I read.

I started at Duke Sanford School of Public Policy in 2019 just before the COVID-19 pandemic. I also applied to Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment.

Personal experiences, like helping my family pack up the car after numerous wildfire seasons catalyzed for me the realization of the importance of decarbonizing. Also seeing farmworkers in the fields harvest food in ash-filled air without access to N-95 masks made me realize how important it is that any transition be equitable. (Equitable in the sense that not only do decision makers consider these communities, but also reduce barriers of entry for frontline communities to be decision makers.)

Pivoting from a purely qualitative background in political science to a dual-master's degree in public policy and environmental management tested my limits. However, I'm proud to say that this transgender, non-binary biracial person is about to graduate with one of two master's degrees in STEM!

I have so many people to be grateful for. I sincerely hope to not bring a folding chair, but to build a longer table and hopefully inspire people also from working class, diverse backgrounds that they too have what it takes to participate in the necessary energy transition and that their input is direly needed.


Jeremy Carballo Pineda PPS'22

As a first-generation, undocumented college student, one of Jeremy's proudest moments as a Duke student was being able to share a new narrative surrounding DACA and undocumented individuals. On August 4, 2021, Carballo Pineda wrote and published an opinion piece for IndyWeek titled “Forget Congress—the Supreme Court Should Uphold DACA for Economic Growth.”

Read Jeremy's story