Sanford Partnership with Hunt Institute Aims to Engage Policymakers, Students

July 19, 2016

 By Ajay Desai | July 12, 2016

The James B. Hunt Institute for Educational Leadership and Policy, one of the nation’s leading education policy think tanks, has partnered with the Sanford School of Public Policy to research issues in education, most notably early childhood education and development.

The partnership will provide The Hunt Institute with research from the Sanford School that will be used to shape future education policy. At the same time, it will allow Sanford faculty to work directly with policymakers through The Hunt Institute’s broad network of top education officials.

“We saw it as a terrific chance for us to engage with policymakers more directly,” said Kenneth Dodge, William McDougall professor of public policy studies and director of the Center for Child and Family Policy. “The Hunt Institute has been forging those relationships [with education policymakers] in a very bipartisan way across each of the 50 states. Duke University will also enhance the work of The Hunt Institute by providing substantive expertise on early child development and education policy. It will be a mutually beneficial relationship.”

Dodge, one of the creators of the partnership, noted that the last decade has brought forward significant discoveries in the areas of early child development, brain development, poverty and achievement gaps. The next step, according to Dodge, is to bring that science to policymakers.

“What we have become really good at over our 14 years is translating research into tools for policymakers,” said Judith Rizzo, executive director and CEO of The Hunt Institute.

One of the other significant outcomes that is expected from this collaboration is engaging Sanford students in education policy through internship opportunities with The Hunt Institute, Rizzo added. This partnership will also allow students to connect with elected officials and other students from across the country to discuss matters in education policy through initiatives such as the Hunt-Kean Leadership Fellows Program.

Former North Carolina governor Jim Hunt, for whom The Institute is named, expressed his high hopes for Sanford students to become the next leaders in education policy and to help reform North Carolina’s education system.

“I envision The Hunt Institute to continue to work with governors around America, with those people who are on the path to become governors and other top leaders, and to involve Duke students, undergraduate and graduate,” Hunt said. “We envision internships, opportunities for Duke students to get to know policymakers from their own home states and other states around the country, and for these students to learn not just about education policies, but how good, productive education policies are developed through the political process and what it takes to be great leaders for education.”

Hunt established North Carolina’s Smart Start program, which gained national recognition in the 1990s for promoting early childhood education.

“We know now that you have to start early,” he said.

Rizzo and Dodge said that The Hunt Institute and Sanford are planning a national summit on early childhood education that will engage governors and delegations from all 50 states in 2017.

“We are very fortunate and delighted for this relationship,” Dodge said. “If we at Duke were to go about creating a way to enhance our ability to engage policymakers directly, we would want to create an institute very much like The Hunt Institute. So we see this as just a terrific opportunity.”

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