Duke Trustees Approve Creation of Sanford School

The Duke University Board of Trustees voted today to create the Sanford School of Public Policy, the university’s 10th school. The Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy’s growth, maturation, success and extraordinary promise prompted the change, officials said. The transition will take effect July 1.

“The birth of a new school is a signal moment in the history of any university,” said President Richard H. Brodhead. “The Sanford Institute has been key to bringing the intellectual breadth of Duke to bear on real-world issues. In its new role, the Sanford School is crucial to our mission of bringing knowledge to the service of society.”

Sanford Institute Building at Duke UniversityInaugural Dean Bruce Kuniholm, who has served as institute director since 2005, added, “As a school, we’ll enable the university to establish a broader, deeper engagement in public life while sustaining and enhancing undergraduate and graduate programs in public policy that have already earned national distinction.”

The Sanford Institute of Public Policy was ranked 10th among the nation’s schools of public policy in the most recent US News and World Report graduate school rankings. In addition, in the past two years, its faculty ranked first one year and second the other in research productivity among all U.S. public policy faculties, according to analyses published in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

The school’s strategic vision calls for building on its strengths in the areas of environment and energy policy, global governance and international development, health policy, and social policy. Through the institute’s center for international development, the school has developed partnerships with federal and regional governments in India and China. In partnership with Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, Sanford is developing plans for academic programs in India.

The school plans to expand its faculty and research efforts while keeping student enrollments about the same. Each year, Sanford awards degrees to about 185 undergraduate and 85 graduate students, making it one of the country’s largest public policy programs. Sanford’s graduate degrees include a Ph.D. in public policy, a master’s in public policy and a master’s in international development policy. It also offers joint professional degrees in law, business, medicine and environmental policy.

The Sanford School will not require incoming freshmen to submit a separate application for admission. As is the case now, Duke undergraduates who are part of the Trinity College of Arts and Sciences will simply be able to declare the public policy major, as they would any other major.

Trustees approved the transition even though the new school is still working to reach its initial fundraising goal. The institute has raised $36.1 million in new endowment since 2006, toward a goal of $40 million.

However, Provost Peter Lange and Kuniholm said the new school will be launched on fiscally strong footing. The institute’s current endowment of more than $100 million is among the largest of the nation’s public policy schools. The school also is pacing the expansion of its tenure-track faculty, which has grown by 50 percent in the last four years, to match available resources.

“We strongly believe this is the right time to move forward with the creation of the Sanford School,” said Lange, the university’s top academic officer. “Duke has achieved significant momentum in the field of public policy and we should capitalize on our forward movement. This opens a wonderful new chapter in the history of public policy studies at Duke.”

The transition has been fully supported by the Sanford Board of Visitors, the institute’s advisory board.

“Since 1972, Duke’s distinguished public policy faculty have been educating students who are well-prepared to lead efforts to improve society,” said Adam Abram, chair of the Sanford Board of Visitors. “Now, with the increased resources available to us as a school, we have the ability to expand our faculty and provide even greater resources to our talented students.”

Kuniholm guided the task force that recommended transforming the institute into a school and led fundraising efforts. A professor of public policy studies and history at Duke since 1975, Kuniholm had previously served as institute director and department chair from 1989 to 1994. During that time, he led planning and fundraising efforts for the construction and move to the Sanford building, which opened in 1994. The institute’s second building, Rubenstein Hall, opened in 2005.

The institute’s faculty include 11 professors who hold distinguished chairs and four who have been elected members of the National Academy of Sciences. They also include experienced professionals such as former U.S. ambassador to South Africa James Joseph and former Washington Post managing editor Philip Bennett.

Terry Sanford, the school’s namesake and founder, was governor of North Carolina from 1961 to 1965, providing progressive leadership on civil rights and education. He was president of Duke University from 1970 to 1985 and is widely credited with launching Duke’s transformation to a world-class research institution. He served in the U.S. Senate from 1987 to 1993, and then returned to teach at the policy institute he created. He died in 1998.