Sanford School of Public Policy Graduation Ceremonies

A record number of undergraduates–182–received diplomas at the Sanford School of Public Policy’s graduation ceremonies on May 14.

Among the class of 2011 were 26 students who completed honors thesis research and graduated with distinction, exceeding last year’s record of 21 honors graduates. The school’s graduation events also recognized 43 Master of Public Policy graduates and 35 Master of International Development Policy graduates from 21 countries.

MPP and MIDP graduates 2011

(Above: MPP and MIDP class of 2011)

Noting that the Sanford School is one of the most diverse on campus, Dean Bruce Kuniholm said, “These young people are intent on making a difference in the world, from their own back yards to Guatemala, China, Cairo, and Washington. Terry Sanford founded the public policy program with the goal of creating graduates with not only ‘an abiding concern for justice’ but also ‘an intellectual sharpness’ and an ‘ability to think straight now and throughout life.’  They now have those skills, and I’m confident our graduates will find opportunities to use them to the benefit of us all.”

During the undergraduate ceremony, Alexander J. Reese was named winner of the Terry Sanford Leadership Award. He was recognized for a wide range of leadership activities in the Duke and Durham communities, including founding the Duke Civic Engagement Living Community (Ubuntu), the Duke Innovative Design Agency, and the Duke chapter of Students for Education Reform. As part of Hart Leadership Program’s Enterprising Leadership Initiative, Reese co-created Food for Thought, a nutrition education program for middle school students at Durham Nativity School. He also was executive vice president and policy chair for the Campus Council.

His nominator commented that, “Alex seems to understand that true leadership involves inspiring others to take risks and make change happen.”  After graduation, Reese plans to Join Teach for America in Baltimore public schools. Reese also earned the 2011 Betsy Alden Outstanding Service Leadership Award

Fleishman, ChapinSarah A. Chapin received the Joel Fleishman Distinguished Scholar Award for highest academic achievement in public policy studies. (Left: Joel Fleishman and Sarah A. Chapin)

Megan R. Cheney won the Best Honors Thesis Award for her research project titled, “Breakfast Breakdown: Examining Systematic Differences in Compliance with Nutrient Guidelines in the School Breakfast Program.”

Additional undergraduate public policy majors who completed honors theses and graduated with highest distinction or distinction in public policy are: Jonathan E. Amgott, Madison A. Burke, Kimberly D. Covington, Caroline E. Cowan , Sarra R. Demashkieh, Kevin D. Geck, Anne Marie Gordon, Varun A. Gumaste, Ryan Elizabeth Ingram, Alexander R. Klein, Ji-Hyeun Kwon, Christina B. Lee, Kyeongho  Lee, Craig J. Miller, Ogechi P. Nzewi, Bhumi K. Purohit, Lindsey A. Ricchi, Naima von Figueres Ritter, Anthony L. Sanderson, David P. Sarkisian, Samuel T. Savitz, Kevin Song, Jacquelyn S. Talpalar, Jessie H. Tang and Lauren A. Weinberger.

Madison Anne Burke was among the Duke graduates chosen for the William J. Griffith University Service award for outstanding service to the Duke community.

Burke, Reese, Chapin

(Above, left to right: Madison Burke, Alex Reese, and Megan Cheney)

The Susan E. Tifft Teaching and Mentoring Award was presented to Research Professor Elizabeth Vigdor. The award is named for the late Susan Tifft, the Eugene C. Patterson Professor of the Practice of Communications and Journalism from 1998-2009. Director of Undergraduate Studies Ken Rogerson said Vigdor has been teaching Public Policy 55 for a number of years.

“It is the school’s largest course and the first introduction that students get to the major. She consistently receives the highest praise from the students, even while they acknowledge that the course is challenging,” he said.

The graduate student ceremony featured alumnus speaker W. Stacy Rhodes MIDP, chief of staff for the Peace Corps.  Rhodes said, “Service isn’t just about period in your life.  Service is a mindset. It’s a mindset you might carry into government and politics, asking how you can best lift the lives of those you represent.  It’s a mindset you might carry into education, asking how many young people you can help develop into responsible and productive adults.  It's a mindset you might bring to a nonprofit you join, or even one that you create. If you let the call to service inhabit your imagination, it will guide you for the rest of your lives.”

Student speakers for the graduate programs were Waziona Ligomeka MIDP and Christopher Morris Schwinden MPP.

The MPP Outstanding Student Award went to Shailesh Rai. The award recognizes outstanding academic achievement and leadership.

Anna Gassman-Pines received the 2010 Richard A. Stubbing Graduate Teaching/Mentoring Award. This award recognizes outstanding contributions to the teaching mission of the graduate programs of the Sanford School, including the MPP, the MIDP, and the PhD programs. It also recognizes deep commitment to the intellectual, professional and personal development of graduate students.

Four graduating MPP students were finalists for Presidential Management Fellowships this year, and two accepted: Robert Peterson and Matt Tonkin. Ariel Hayes and Joel McFarland accepted other positions.

At the Duke commencement ceremony in Wallace Wade Stadium on Sunday, PPS major Mike Lefevre was the student speaker.