Since its founding, Duke University has played a central role in the development of generations of student-citizens, providing access to educational credentials that open the doors to social, economic, and political opportunity. Moreover, many of Duke’s students, faculty, and staff members have actively engaged in political leadership, activism, and democracy work. As part of a larger investigation of Duke’s institutional history that grapples with the University’s relationship with slavery and its posture toward racial justice, this project examines how Duke has shaped the development of citizens/politically engaged people over time. It also considers the role that the University has played in shaping the political landscape in Durham and North Carolina.
Aanahita Ervin (MPP ‘24)
Aanahita is a first year Master of Public Policy student. She received her undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Oklahoma. At Sanford, she realized that issues like climate change, poverty, and criminal justice are inextricably linked. She is exploring how these systemic issues impact the outcomes of marginalized communities. Set to graduate in 2024, she hopes to work in local government and use her skills to serve underserved and minoritized populations.
Peyton Barish (MPP ‘24)
Peyton Barish is a Triangle native who spent his undergraduate years at N.C. State before coming to Duke and pursuing his Master's degree in Public Policy. He developed a passion for racial equity through mentorship work and founding a racial justice nonprofit in the summer of 2020. After class you can often find him running with his classmates Vizsla on one of the many trails around Duke.
Irene Biju ('26)
Irene Biju is a first-year student from the suburbs of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She intends to double major in public policy and computer science. She is very excited to be part of the Polis/PolicyLab Duke History Project Team to learn more about Duke's complex history, and she hopes to use this experience to further develop her research skills. Ever since Irene was a child, she has been interested in law, so she hopes to go to law school in the future. In her free time, Irene likes to play tennis, play the piano, and train her Border Collie.
Antonio Butler (MPP ‘23)
Antonio is a current second-year Master of Public Policy candidate at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy. He has previous work experiences in government consulting, policy research, education access advocacy, and community outreach. At Duke, Antonio’s studies have focused on increasing access to higher education and healthcare, food insecurity, and social policies intersection with race. Antonio is also the current Sanford MPP Student Council President and enjoys advocating for students’ voices in Sanford. Antonio looks forward to diving deep into the Polis/PolicyLab History Project, to learn about Duke’s role in shaping the political landscape in Durham and NC. In his spare time Antonio enjoys making music, hanging out with friends, and reading a good book while drinking tea.
Jocelyn Chin (Trinity ‘24)
"Greetings! I'm a Philosophy & PubPol Major with minors in Creative Writing and Education. Besides editing for the Chronicle and Duke Crux, I love coaching basketball with Coach2Inspire, racing with Club Run, and walking with my dog on a foggy morning."
Ian Hitchcock (MPP ‘24)
"Growing up in the mountains of rural Wyoming gave me a love of wild places and outdoor recreation, from hiking to kayaking. I love to read history and write poetry in my spare time. As an undergraduate, a central component of my work was studying environmental history, where I contributed original research to the history of early efforts to regulate environmental toxins such as lead. I have worked in climate and clean energy advocacy and am planning to focus on environmental policy at Sanford."
Eric Martinez (Political Science ‘24)
"My name is Eric Martinez and I am a political science major from Los Angeles, California. I joined this project to learn about Duke’s history and to become involved on campus after an extended leave from campus. After graduation, I will go to law school, after which I would like to be involved in First Amendment matters."
Ahliyah Sanford (MPP ‘23)
Ahliyah is a second-year Master of Public Policy candidate studying social policy at Duke’s Sanford School. She is passionate about understanding how mental health and poverty affects criminal justice and education outcomes – with a focus on race and ethnicity. While at Sanford, she led DEI and mental health initiatives to retain students with disabilities and students of color. In addition to being a research assistant, she runs a guaranteed income pilot in Durham for formerly justice-involved individuals and works to create a more inclusive environment at Duke as a graduate resident. In her spare time, she enjoys watching movies and playing with her adorable yorkie.
Riya Sharma (Trinity ‘26)
Riya Sharma is a first-year student from Seattle, Washington. She is interested in studying approaches to public policy through human-centered data— a passion she has explored through city-level organizing in education, climate, and carceral system policies in Greater Seattle. In her free time, she enjoys listening to music, cooking new foods, and watching football with her family.
Jaquell Sneed-Adams (MPP ‘23)
Jaquell Sneed-Adams is an MPP candidate at the Duke University Sanford School of Public Policy interested in social policy, especially as it relates to education and state and local government. After graduating from Harvard in 2014, she taught middle school math in her home region of Eastern North Carolina through the Teach for America program. In 2017, she moved to Boston, MA where she served as the Boston Program Director for Teen Empowerment, a local nonprofit which focuses on youth-led individual, community, and systems-level transformation. Directly prior to starting her MPP program at Sanford, she was the campaign manager for a Boston City Councilor At-Large who was running for re-election (they won!). In the rare moments that she’s not working or studying, you can find her enjoying a book, working on a puzzle, or planning her next trip!
Tri Truong ('23)
Tri Truong is a Public Policy and Computer Science double major with a certificate in Policy Journalism & Media Studies. He is originally from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. On campus, he is involved with The Chronicle, Duke Public Policy Major Union, and Small Town Records. During the summer of 2022, he researched principles of non-extractive community engagement, examining oral history and community partnerships in other contexts to inform his understanding of justice-oriented research. Tri had previously worked on the Bass Connections project called “Elections in a Pandemic,” where he helped analyze social media posts to understand the challenges of misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic. He has also worked for various Vietnamese governmental agencies, and his senior thesis examined the impact of U.S. - China Trade War on Vietnam’s politics and economy. He plans to attend Notre Dame Law School after graduation and will return to Vietnam to help improve the country's economic system.
Emma Zubak (PPS '25)
"I am a student at Duke University in the class of 2025, pursuing a double major in Public Policy and Asian and Middle Eastern Studies with a concentration in Chinese. At Duke University, I am one of 18 Alice M. Baldwin Scholars and will be serving as a Senator of Durham and Community Affairs for the second year starting in the fall. I am passionate about increasing government efficiency, promoting positive relations with China, and ensuring that women around the world have access to equitable opportunities."