Sanford School Celebrates Record Number of Graduates

The Sanford School of Public Policy awarded degrees to 301 graduates on May 11, the largest ever for the school.  The class of 2013 included 203 undergraduates, 55 Master of Public Policy graduates, 38 Master of International Development Policy graduates from 16 countries and five PhD graduates.  Professor Bruce Kuniholm presided over the ceremonies for the last time as the founding dean of the Sanford School.   

Five PhD candidates received their doctorates and were hooded by their faculty advisors: Ashley Brown Burns and Dania V. Francis, advised by Professor William A. Darity, Jr.; Sarah Crittenden Fuller, advisor, Professor Helen F. Ladd; Maeve E. Gearing, advisor, Professor Philip J. Cook; and Wei He, hooded by Professor Sherman James and also advised by Professor M. Giovanni Merli. 

The undergraduate class of 2013 included 29 students who completed honors theses, several who held leadership positions at the Duke Chronicle, four who worked as campaign staff in the U.S. presidential elections, and two-thirds of a set of triplets – one of whom was co-manager of the Duke Farm and the other was head of Athletes United and a student manager for the Duke men’s basketball team.

This year, two students received the Terry Sanford Leadership Award: David Harding Jr. and Ian Harwood. (Left, Harding, right, Harwood) Harding, a Duke football player, organized and led a group of offensive linemen and a coach for a two-week service trip to Ethiopia. In nominating Harding, Coach David Cutcliffe said, “Whatever he commits to, he carries through and executes flawlessly.”

Harding handled the administrative tasks for the trip and organized all their activities abroad. The team dug two wells in villages near Lake Langano, working with the nonprofit Water for Life, International. They also volunteered at an AIDS orphanage and tried to teach local kids to play American football, although Harding admits, “that just turned into playing soccer with a football.”  Harding finished his undergraduate coursework in December and is now working on a master’s degree in political science. He will play on the football team again next season. 

Harwood began a movement to address gender violence by mobilizing bystanders and seeking ways to change the social norms on campus. He explored the problem through two internships, one at Duke Women’s Center’s Office of Gender Violence Prevention and Intervention and another at the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault, and in his honor thesis, “‘We Know It’ll Work:’ How Universities Select Sexual Violence Prevention Programs.”

“People that I knew had been sexually assaulted in a college setting, and I thought that was really messed up,” Harwood said. “I was really angry and I wanted to do something about it.” On campus, Harwood has been a trainer and facilitator with groups such as Men Acting for Change and the Greek Council leadership to teach fellow students about preventing sexual assault and harassment. Working with the campus administration, he developed a policy proposal for a Duke Sexual Violence Prevention Program.

Julia Quinn earned the Best Honors Thesis award for “Raising the Age of Juvenile Jurisdiction in North Carolina: Lessons from Connecticut.”  North Carolina is one of only two states that charges 16- and 17-year-olds as adults. She examined the effects of Connecticut raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction from 16 to 18. (Philip Cook, left, Quinn, right.)

The Joel Fleishman Distinguished Scholar Award for highest scholastic achievement in public policy was awarded to Jing Song Ng.  A native of Singapore, Ng will work there in the civil service, with a focus on culture, youth and community relations. (Fleishman, left, Ng, right)

Two undergraduate students gave remarks at the ceremony.  Corinne Merriman said that her coursework taught her that “research is of little use without a recommendation,” and to embrace “our agency as citizens.”  Sarah Nolan pointed out that it takes a “certain bravado” to major in public policy, because it implies that “the world is broken and I am the one to fix it.”

Also honored was Professor Judith Kelley, who received the Susan E. Tifft Teaching and Mentoring Award. Along with Ken Rogerson, Kelley has led eight cohorts of honors students through writing their theses. Students nominating her for the award said she is “freakishly available, responding within minutes, if not hours,” and “very demanding — but I forgive her.”

Rosemary Fernholz received the 2013 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.

At the graduate ceremony, alumna Mwila Chigaga MIDP 2006 gave the keynote address. A native of Zambia, Chigaga is the senior regional gender specialist for Africa for the International Labor Organization. Equal rights for women is her passion, she said, so her current job makes her feel she is “being paid to work for myself.”  She discussed the challenges and opportunities of working in Africa, saying, “Africa is not for everyone.” Chigaga urged the graduates to take a moment for reflection, to decide what is “what is really important for you,” before going onto the world stage, where Sanford has given them the skills “to write your own script.” 

The MIDP student speaker, Thupten Norbu, reflected his journey from a Tibetan school in the foothills of the Himalayas to Sanford, and the things he learned with and from his classmates, from celebrating new holidays such as Thanksgiving, to sharing new foods, Bollywood films and African dances and how to “work like robots.”  Norbu became an American citizen on March 8.

MPP student speaker Rachel Leven discussed learning through real-world experience how sometimes when the policy is put into play, one’s “proposal to end chicken pox ends up as a tax on puppies.”  Still, she pointed out how this class “never turned down a challenge,” creating new organizations such as Bridging Communities and Women in Public Policy, because they saw “something missing and responded by creating something new.” 

Jessica Issacs was honored as the outstanding MPP student at a separate ceremony on Friday, May 10, at the Nasher Museum.

Video of the ceremonies can be viewed on the school's YouTube channel.