The Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy's planned transition into a school has confused some students, who are uncertain about what the consequences will bring for both majors and non-majors.
Because Sanford is slated to become the Sanford School of Public Policy this fall-, the administration is seeking to reassure students that no significant changes will affect the undergraduate experience within the curriculum and that the transition will only enhance faculty-student interaction.
"Going to a school will allow us to have more faculty to teach the courses and to interact with students," said Ken Rogerson, director of undergraduate studies and a lecturer in public policy. "It should give us more resources to help students with internships and research opportunities."
Plans to make Sanford a school began circulating in Spring 2005. A task force reporting to Provost Peter Lange was favorable to the prospect, but administrators decided in Spring 2006 that the institute would need to raise $40 million by June 30, 2009 to be recognized as a school.
Sanford Director Bruce Kuniholm, a professor of public policy and history, said students should not be concerned about Sanford becoming a school like the Pratt School of Engineering, which has its own admissions process and bars non-majors from some classes.
The program does not intend to separate itself from the rest of Trinity College of Arts and Sciences and will continue its focus on interdisciplinary learning, he said.
"There apparently had been a lot of rumors about [the change]," Kuniholm said. "The charge to the task force was to ensure that the undergraduate major was in no way diminished, and in fact it will be enhanced."
He added that becoming a school would put the public policy program in a better position to raise money and be responsible for its own development. Sanford plans to double the size of the faculty to reach 42 in total.
The transformation effort has raised more than $27 million so far, Kuniholm said.
Though the program will have more faculty members, Rogerson said he did not anticipate a spike in the number of students declaring the public policy major, one of Duke's most popular.
Kuniholm said the misconceptions may have arisen from the complicated nature of the transition process. He added that he had to secure a commitment from the administration, the Academic Council and the Board of Trustees.
"It is really complicated and it takes some planning, you don't just become a school-bam, like a lightning bolt," he said.
Despite their confusion, students aware of the transition said they were not worried about the shift for Sanford.
"I don't think it is going to have a substantial impact on students," said junior Jason Pate. "Public policy does a pretty good job of keeping class sizes small compared to some of the Econ classes. You are not going to have a 500-person class in public policy."
Emily Loney, a second-year masters of public policy student, said she was pleased with the current Sanford community of students and faculty but wondered how the school would accommodate the large faculty increase.
"If they are going to expand and hire all these new faculty members, sometimes I wonder where they are going to put them all," she said.
Some freshmen considering the public policy major said they knew little about the effort to become a school but thought the transformation would bring Duke greater national recognition.
"The only way I can see it affecting anything would be increasing the Sanford Institute's standing in the eyes of potential employers," freshman Jonathan Amgott said.
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