Sanford Adds Scholars and Practitioners to Faculty

The Sanford School added six new positions to its core faculty this year. The new faculty bring a mix of scholarship and real-world experience in policymaking positions that strengthen the school’s substantive expertise in  several policy areas.  

Three have been part of the Duke faculty and received new appointments with Sanford:  Manoj Mohanan, Jenni Owen and Phyllis PomerantzAssistant Professors Nicholas Carnes and Tana Johnson received their first faculty appointments. William Pizer, former deputy assistant secretary for environment and energy with the Obama administration, has held visiting professorships at Johns Hopkins University and Stanford University. (See story, Sanford Insights, April 2011, p. 2.) 

Nicholas Carnes’ research focuses on the effects of social class in American politics, in particular how class influences who gets heard and what policies are enacted.  A native of Kansas, Carnes was raised by his grandmother, who worked as a receptionist.  He worked at a variety of working-class jobs, including construction and retail stints at Cinnabons and Wal-Mart. He earned a BA in political science from the University of Tulsa and his masters and PhD in politics and social policy from Princeton University. The experience of moving from one world to another opened his eyes to the importance of social class divisions, he said.

“At Princeton, the program in social policy led me to question why some people get a raw deal and some don’t,” he said. “Why are there so few working class people in political office? How does this imbalance skew policy toward the interest of elites, especially economic issues?”

Carnes is a faculty affiliate of the Sanford School’s DeWitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy. He is conducting research into the factors that discourage working-class citizens from holding political office and the different ways politicians respond to citizens of different backgrounds.   

Tana Johnson was off teaching in Sanford’s summer graduate program in Global Policy and Governance in Geneva, Swtizerland, even before her office at Sanford was set up. She directed the environmental and sustainable development course, focusing on the climate change issues and actors on the international level.

“It was great to be in Geneva where so many of the organizations are, so students could be in touch with the people doing the work,” said Johnson.

Johnson studies the interactions between intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) and nations, especially the development of IGOs concerned with global environmental issues. Her graduate work at the University of Chicago included a case study of the International Panel on Climate Change, which was created by two nongovernmental organizations.

“Since it is a more recent organization, I could talk with the creators and staffers and the scientists who had pushed for it,” she said. While the IPCC is an offshoot of the United Nations, it has its own members, rules and character.

IGOs created by bureaucrats have significant differences from those created by nations, she says. They are more flexible, but also more difficult for states to control. She is tracking the creation of a new IGO panel on biological diversity, which the United Nations has recently approved and will be modeled on the IPCC.  

Manoj Mohanan, assistant professor of public policy, global health and economics, initially set out to practice medicine, earning bachelor’s degrees in medicine and surgery at the University of Mumbai.  Later he realized his real interest is in “how the sector was organized, and what really works in health care delivery.”

That interest took him to the Harvard University School of Public Health, where he earned a master of public health, a master of science and his doctorate in health policy with a focus on economics. During that time he also worked as a consultant for the World Bank on projects in India, Egypt and the United States and for the European Commission for Minority Initiatives in Kosovo.

“We don’t know much about quality of care in developing countries. We can’t use U.S. measures and the estimates we do have are bad,” he said. He is leading a large-scale evaluation of a health care program, the Bihar Evaluation of Social Franchising and Telemedicine, which received a $3 million grant from the Gates Foundation this summer. Data will be collected from more than 100,000 households over the next four years, focusing on the treatment of four diseases in 12 provinces in India.

Lecturer Jenni Owen came to Duke's Center for Child and Family Policy in 2003 “for the opportunity to address the disconnect between research, policy and practice."  As the Director of Policy Initiatives and Associate Director for Policy and Translation, she works to make research accessible to legislators and leaders, especially at the state level.

“State government is where much of the action is in the realm of social policy. North Carolina is an exciting state to be working in,” she said, while noting that networks of university centers are increasingly collaborating on research-to-policy efforts.

Owen has held a number of positions in state government, including senior policy advisor for human services under Gov. Jim Hunt.  She also worked for Gov. Mike Easley during his transition into office and was planning director for the James B. Hunt, Jr. Institute for Educational Leadership and Policy. 

Her work isn’t solely focused on North Carolina. She worked on Capitol Hill on the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee and then ran a career counseling program for homeless adults.  Focused on bridging the gap between sectors, she earned her MPA from the Harvard Kennedy School. 

In 2007, she traveled to Durban, South Africa on an Eisenhower Fellowship, focusing on strategies for poverty alleviation.  Recognizing opportunities for Duke students to learn from and contribute to some of the challenges she observed, she launched a DukeEngage program in Durban, South Africa, with nine students each of the past two summers. Owen serves on a number of boards and committees, including the state Indigent Defense Services Commission to which Governor Easley appointed her, and the Durham Cabinet of the Triangle United Way. 

Phyllis Pomerantz, professor of the practice of public policy, brings the experience and perspective of a 26-year career at the World Bank to her teaching of international development policy. Her interest in developing countries was sparked by her brother, who had been a doctor with the Peace Corps and married a Panamanian woman.  She traveled to Panama with her brother the next year. “It was the first time I had seen such extreme rural poverty,” she said.

She had taught briefly after earning her doctorate in international relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, but felt she needed practical experience. At the World Bank, she entered the Young Professional Track, with the intention of returning to teaching in a few years.

“Once you are involved with solving problems and working with such smart people, it’s hard to leave,” she said. She held a number of positions at the World Bank, including Division Chief for Environment and Agriculture Operations in Brazil, Peru and Venezuela, as well as Country Operations Manager and later Country Director for Mozambique and Zambia. Her final position was as the bank’s first Chief Learning Officer, responsible for staff learning programs and knowledge management.

 Pomerantz came to Duke in 2006 as a visiting professor at the Duke Center for International Development. She is researching aid effectiveness and designing a new course on governance, focused on the countries that have “moved up to middle income, but the governance hasn’t caught up to the change.”