Sanford School Honors 277 Graduates

In graduation ceremonies on Saturday the Sanford School of Public Policy congratulated 277 new alumni, including the school’s first PhD graduate. Among the class of 2012 were 165 undergraduates, 63 Master of Public Policy (MPP) graduates and 48 Master of International Development Policy (MIDP) graduates from 23 countries.

PhD graduate Erin Hye-Won Kim, who entered the program in its inaugural year, 2007, has accepted a faculty position at Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore. She wrote her doctoral dissertation on “Public Support, Family Support and Life Satisfaction of the Elderly: Evidence form an Old-Age Pension in Korea.”

The undergraduate class of 2012 included two White House interns; one intern with the World Health Organization in Geneva; three top academic athletes of the year for Duke who have been awarded post-graduate scholarships; campus leaders including editor of the Chronicle and president of Duke Student Government; and four who will take a post-graduate year to teach in Asia.

Among a class where many distinguished themselves as leaders, Braveen Ragunanthan, described as a “ball of energy and goodwill,” won the Terry Sanford Leadership Award (Read related article. Photo above: Ferguson, Rogerson, Ragunanthan) For academic excellence, Neel Nitin Mehta, a double public policy/economics major, earned the Joel Fleishman Distinguished Scholar Award. Kate Ferguson won Best Honors Thesis for “Who Cleans Up? Examining Local County Governments’ Response to the British Petroleum Oil Spill.” Ken Rogerson, director of undergraduate studies, said Ferguson’s research showed that governments with collaborative leaders that demonstrated strong communication skills were more successful in mitigating the economic effects of the spill. Two seniors were selected to deliver remarks, Carolina Fairchild and Lauren Hendricks.

Fairchild recounted the difficulty in explaining public policy studies to parents and peers. She finally settled on describing it as a course of study that “taught us to think critically and write concisely ... and (provided) tools to transform our passions into real change.” She said as a journalist she will work to give people the information they need to make better decisions.

Hendricks gave her speech in the form of her final policy memo, beginning with an executive summary and enumerating four essential points: 1) discourse is necessary and healthy; 2) go with the flow; 3) surround yourself with motivated people; and 4) the public policy major calls graduates to take on great responsibility.

Hendricks said being action-oriented “differentiates us.” She learned the world will often give you “vague and frustrating instructions,” however you still need to find a way to succeed. She said her experiences at Duke and in the public policy program showed her that “a life without public service is not a life that I want.” She has accepted a Fulbright grant to teach in Mongolia next year.

Also honored was Professor of Public Policy James Hamilton, who received the Susan E. Tifft Undergraduate Teaching and Mentoring Award. His teaching exemplifies hands-on, integrated learning and students consistently rate his courses very highly, said Rogerson. Over the last 15 years, Hamilton has mentored 73 students though honors theses, master’s projects and independent studies.

During the graduate ceremony, Duke alumnus Michael Sorrell MPP’90/JD’94, president of Paul Quinn College in Dallas, gave the keynote address. He told the graduates their studies at Sanford had groomed them for a world that desperately needs their leadership and talents, that needs them to aspire to become “their truest best selves,” but that nonetheless will resist change. Quoting from Theodore Roosevelt’s 1910 speech, “Citizenship in A Republic” Sorrell urged the graduates to “accept the invitation to join the rest of the Sanford alums in the arena” where they risk failing “while daring greatly.”

Two MPP students were honored with the Outstanding Student Award for scholarship, leadership and service to the community: Sam Rauschenberg and Lindsay Zwiener.  MIDP graduate Eduardo da Costa of Brazil, a Rotary World Peace Fellow, was honored at a Friday ceremony with the Dennis A. Clements Award for Outstanding Service from Duke's Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies.

Nadia Rinquest, the school’s first MIDP fellow from South Africa, spoke on behalf of her classmates, while Matt Schuneman was chosen as the MPP student speaker. Rinquest emphasized the African philosophy of “ubuntu – a person is a person through people, through community.” She said throughout their work lives, graduates need to remember “to appreciate those around you” and “never give up.” Schuneman said the “public policy toolkit” equips them to be a force for positive change, but they need to use it judiciously. After two years, “we now have a better idea what we are up against,” he said.








Photo credit: first two photos-- Kevin Seifert; bottom photo--Donna Dyer