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Dean’s Message

Dean Kelley outside, graduation robes, talking with two graduating students.

Masked school administrators enter graduation
Zoom grid, variety of smiling people
Woman, smiling

Message from the Dean

Judith Kelley, an expert on international relations, including issues such as human trafficking and election monitoring, has been the school’s dean since July 1, 2018.

Throughout this pandemic challenge, the state of our school has remained strong. We are now entering the third year of our strategic plan, and we have made steady progress on our Strategic Priorities.

We are increasing our impact by reaching more students, researching and applying for more grants, and engaging more with policymakers and the media. And we are extremely thankful that our supporters are responding by investing even more in our mission.

This type of performance would be noteworthy under normal circumstances, but being able to succeed in the current pandemic environment is remarkable. Here are a few indicators of the remarkable achievements last year:

African American man in graduation robes holding Black Lives Matter sign
During the 2021 graduation we asked students “What do you stand for?”

— This fall, we have welcomed new faculty hires: Frank Bruni, Stephen Buckley, Andrew Nurkin, Jennifer Siegel, and Chris Sims. We also celebrated faculty who joined last year: Kate Bundorf, Mallory SoRelle and Sara Sutherland.

— We graduated more than 300 students in May 2021 from our academic programs – ranging from the PPS major, to our master’s programs, to PhD program.

— This fall 2021, we have recruited one of the largest incoming MPP classes (124), and a robust new MIDP class (25) and welcomed 13 PhD students. Our graduate and undergraduate population total is 629 amazing students in fall 2021. Here is info about our programs. 

— Career Services identified internship opportunities and helped students convert in-person experiences to remote experiences, sending students on career journeys.

— In November 2020, we celebrated a $10 million award from The Duke Endowment to support Sanford.

— The Sanford Annual Fund continues to break records, increasing year over year. Over the past three years, we have grown our Annual Fund by 64%, due to the hard work of our Alumni and Development Alumni Team.

— Our faculty submitted the largest amount of grant proposals since 2012.

US News rankings: #3 environmental policy, #6 public policy analysis, #6 social policy # 8 health policy

— Our US News rankings consistently rank among the best nationwide – #3 in environmental policy, #6 in public policy analysis, #6 in social policy and #8 in health policy.

— Sanford had strong policy engagement, with faculty members meeting with legislators, and with virtual events that attracted policy leaders and the public. Our faculty were in the media daily on policy issues that matter: democracy and our election, social policy, misinformation, and health – and many more topics. In fact, 10,677 media clips featured the Sanford school and faculty – a 65% increase from the year before. 

— An example of outreach, the Ways & Means podcast season “The ARC of Justice” was supported by the Duke Office for Faculty Advancement, thanks to funding from The Duke Endowment, Duke’s Forever Learning Institute and WUNC. The series aired on our NPR station WUNC this month. Our Communications team and faculty worked together to make this possible.

— Our virtual ‘Stand for’ speaker series, a partnership with our outstanding centers and communications team, reached a broad audience of almost 2,500 attendees. In addition, our Development and Alumni Relations team partnered with Duke Alumni to reach alumni through many additional events.

What is remarkable is that we did all of these things this past year, while also advancing our Strategic Priorities and mission.

 Here are specific ways we advanced our mission:

— We are working to develop a healthy, working engine for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). We held several town halls, and in the middle of the pandemic our community came together virtually to build a DEI collective action plan. In addition, we hired Spenser Darden as our Assistant Dean of Diversity and Inclusion, who joined Sanford in August 2021.

— We launched the Executive Master of National Security Policy mid-career program (MNSP). We announced the program and began recruiting students in June 2021. And we are recruiting more faculty to teach in this unique program.

— We are working to deepen the undergraduate experience through initiatives like Policy Lab and Democracy lab. We are working to extend CX-Lab to our undergraduates. In addition, we had several immersive experiences last winter break, including working with the Purpose Project.

— This year, we are celebrating 50 years of public policy at Duke. As we take off towards the next 50 years, we are continuing to move many priorities forward: recruiting for more faculty, advancing our DEI
goals, welcoming our first students into our new midcareer program in national security this summer, and much more.

Thank you for all of your support.


Judith Kelley, Dean