How can we make a difference?

That's our guiding question. The community at Sanford is eager to work with practitioners and policy makers.

Lead & Serve

In the true spirit of our founder, Terry Sanford, our students are dedicated to leading and serving society. We aspire to create innovative solutions for challenging problems. Here are a few examples of initiatives that support our students in becoming leaders in their communities.


Democracy is not a spectator sport. Polis is dedicated to stimulating greater student interest and engagement in politics and to improving political processes in North Carolina, the United States and the world. The center offers leadership training with workshops like "Campaign Training for Women," and Political Participation Boot Camps. They also offer Policy Lab, a project-based course in which teams of students devise innovative solutions to the major political challenges of our time. 


The Hart Leadership Program is offered to all Duke University undergraduates, including public policy students. With guidance from innovative faculty, it challenges students to practice the art of leadership in public life. The program serves students through four channels:

  • Courses give students analytical frameworks for grappling with the problems facing our global community.
  • Immersion experiences outside the classroom help student see how policy works in the real world.
  • Writing and discussions challenge students to reflect critically on their experiences and make sense of them.
  • One-on-one mentoring helps students develop the skills, confidence and motivation to translate their learning into action.


The Sanford Board Leadership Initiative (SBLI) places Duke Masters in Public Policy students as non-voting members on local nonprofit leadership boards for one calendar year. This partnership offers nonprofits strategic support from graduate students with policy-specific knowledge and the opportunity for students to learn about nonprofit governance. A competitive application process determines which graduate students can participate each year. 


Sanford Board Leadership Initiative - Student Perspective

"Sanford Board Leadership Initiative was actually one of the reasons I wanted to come to Sanford. It was a really unique program among other MPP programs I was looking at. I wanted to learn about what a board does and get really deep into the details of nonprofit management. Working on the board was a wonderful experience and I loved it so much I wanted to stay. So now I’ve been approved as a full board member." - Allie Jaarsma, MPP'20

Terry Sanford Leadership Award

The Sanford School of Public Policy honors leadership with the Terry Sanford Leadership Award for undergraduates. The award is given to one or two students each year.

Meet the 2023 winner of the Terry Sanford Leadership Award.

Meet the 2023 winner of the Terry Sanford Leadership Award.