Q&A with Andrei Santalo PPS'13, President of the Public Policy Studies Majors Union

Andrei Santalo PPS'13 spoke with Sanford Communications Office Assistant Melissa Yeo PPS '13 about his experiences at Duke and as a public policy major. Santalo is President of the Public Policy Majors Union and an ex-officio member of the Sanford Board of Visitors.

Tell me about your background and what drew you to Duke.
I was born in West Palm Beach, and I now live in Miami. When I was looking at colleges, I knew I wanted to get out of Florida. I come from a huge athletic family, and I knew Duke was a great basketball school. I’d always known about Duke growing up, and I’d heard North Carolina was beautiful – and it isn’t too cold, which is important! Once I visited and saw the campus, the school and the people, I fell in love with Duke.

What led you to get involved with PPSMU?
I love Sanford and the public policy major. Although  sometimes it can seem divided, it’s really just diverse because the major is so big and people are all from different backgrounds. There’s no other major for me. I love the Sanford community and I knew that I wanted to help other students have the same experience I’ve had with the major.

What else are you involved with on campus?
I started off at Duke doing a lot of advocacy work with the Duke Center for Race Relations and Common Ground. During my sophomore year I interned with the Women’s Center and became the president of Men Acting for Change. Through the Hart Leadership Program’s “Changemaker Leadership” class with Professor Tony Brown, I helped start the Prevent Act Challenge Teach (PACT) program, which teaches students how they can help prevent gender violence on campus.

I’m also active in Sabrosura, Duke’s Latin dance troupe, and studied abroad in Barcelona my junior year. Right now, I’m primarily involved with Sanford. I work on the school’s Board of Visitors and I have a part-time job at the internship coordination office with Elise Goldwasser. I help students out with cover letters and resumés and hold information sessions for sophomores and juniors.

Tell me a little more about what you did this summer.
This summer, I worked for Google in Mountain View, Calif. I got to learn a lot about policy impacts in Internet privacy and online piracy laws. I also worked on a lot of benefits analysis, for instance, same-sex domestic partner benefits and how Google could best navigate those laws. Working for Google is like graduating from college and going to college. It’s a huge campus – there are 26 eateries with all-you-can-eat breakfasts, lunches and dinners. It was a blast.

What’s on the horizon for PPSMU?
Right now, we’re planning an election night party – that’s the primary thing on our agenda. We sent out a survey to public policy majors and are looking at the results of that to gauge what people want. We’re also working hard to help students with funding for their public policy internships. Public-sector internships are really tough for financial aid students, and the union wants to do as much as it can to ease that burden.