Author: Colleen Cox (page 2 of 2)

Peter Feaver testifies on nuclear policy

On Tuesday, November 14th, Professor Peter Feaver testified in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, lending his expertise on Presidential “Authority to Order the Use of Nuclear Weapons.” It was the first time since 1967 that Congress had held a committee hearing to determine what legislative checks and balances exist around nuclear command and control – an increasingly salient topic given the President’s rhetoric on Twitter and other fora vis-à-vis North Korea.

With dual appointments in political science and public policy, Professor Feaver has researched and worked in American military strategy for over 30 years, including as Special Advisor for Strategic Planning and Institutional Reform on the National Security Council Staff at the White House (2005-2007). He currently serves as Director of the Triangle Institute for Security Studies and Director of Duke’s American Grand Strategy Program (AGS). Feaver joined former military commanders and Department of Defense officials on Tuesday to provide expert opinion and recommend next steps for updating the country’s nuclear policies.

In a succinct testimony followed by an open question and answer session, Feaver educated committee members on the complexities of our country’s nuclear strategy, past and present. He began by describing the importance of maintaining a credible nuclear deterrence component, then emphasized the need for more investments to keep our nuclear technology up to date. Next, Feaver indicated that the best reforms to nuclear command and control should involve maximizing deliberation time – leveraging the human element in decision-making to further mitigate risks. He ended with a plea to act now to review the nuclear command and control which “is likely…overdue for some major (and expensive) upgrades.”

Duke professors regularly testify before Congress to lend their expertise and share research-related findings to policymakers on a variety of issues. Feaver’s invitation to speak at Tuesday’s hearing is testament to the continuing role that academics play beyond the “ivory tower,” working together with policymakers to strengthen our country’s policies through better informed decision-making.

Duke’s Madhu Vulimiri talks Medicaid on WUNC

Duke’s engagement with the broader policy community is driven not only by faculty but also by students like Madhu Vulimiri, a second-year public policy candidate at Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy. Madhu recently joined two senior healthcare leaders in a conversation with Frank Stasio from North Carolina public radio to provide her expert opinion on best practices to improve the state’s healthcare system.

It’s a problem faced by healthcare systems around the nation: a small group of “super users” account for a disproportionate amount of Medicaid costs. Sometimes referred to as “frequent flyers,” these patients create huge expenses because they frequently visit hospitals instead of using preventative care, receiving sub-optimal treatment that doesn’t get to the root of their health problems. Such patients often suffer from other social determinants of health such as substance abuse or homelessness, and thus require a more holistic care environment – one that entails building relationships with social workers, community health workers, and building bridges to coordinate services across the healthcare system.

In North Carolina, such a holistic understanding of health is more salient than ever as the state is poised to move from a fee-for-service system to a managed care system. Instead of the state paying providers directly for volume of care, North Carolina will contract with private insurance companies to pay a fixed amount per month for a group of patients under a provider’s purview. Madhu worked last semester with a cross-disciplinary Bass Connections team to analyze models in other states, take a closer look at Medicaid reform proposals from the former and current governor’s office as well as the General Assembly, and provide actionable recommendations to the North Carolina policymakers and citizens on the question: “What is the best path forward for Medicaid in North Carolina?”.

On April 25th, 2017, Madhu and her Bass Connections team hosted a presentation and discussion in Raleigh for policymakers and citizens where they submitted a report detailing their findings. On that same day, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services requested public comments on Medicaid reform and the team submitted  a public comment highlighting recommendations from their full-length report.

Bass Connections is a university-wide initiative that brings together interdisciplinary groups of faculty, undergraduate and graduate students to apply “knowledge, research and skills in problem-solving, with engagement from community partners.” Projects span an array of policy topics from global health to energy and environment, drawing on the wealth of information and thought leadership at Duke to find solutions to some of the most vexing policy questions.

Want to learn more? Contact to find out what projects are in the pipeline!

Duke’s Brian Murray talks energy on CBS News

On a recent CBS segment “Where are jobs being created in clean energy?” Reena Ninan interviewed Duke Professor Brian Murray to get his expert opinion on the future of energy jobs.

Murray is director of the Environmental Economics Program at the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and interim director of the Duke University Energy Initiative. He has researched extensively on cap-and-trade programs as well as the effectiveness of renewable energy subsidies.

In the interview with Ninan, Professor Murray described a long term trend in the power sector away from coal and toward natural gas and renewable energy sources. He mentioned that the Trump administration’s proposed subsidies to the coal industry may decrease the pace of change but also highlighted the important contribution to job growth that solar energy has created…precisely in those states that helped put Trump into office. From 2016 to 2017, solar energy jobs increased by nearly 6,000% in Alabama, with notable increases in other Southern and Midwestern states including Mississippi, Montana, Idaho and Michigan. In fact, 8 of the 10 fastest growing U.S. solar markets are in “red” states.

When asked why solar energy is growing in “Trump states” Murray explained that it is, “mostly because that’s really where the sun is” – large swathes of open land and uninterrupted sun exposure in rural America provide the perfect environment for solar energy farms. According to Murray, wind and solar power combined created about half a million jobs last year alone.

Policy Caucus Update – October 2017

As part of an ongoing effort to stay informed and connected across the university, Policy Bridge convenes Duke faculty and administrators throughout the year to share updates on policy-related research efforts and identify synergies for future collaboration.

The most recent policy caucus took place on October 13, 2017. Attendees shared updates on the different policy-related efforts they are currently pursuing. The following is a list of attendees and updates on their work as it pertains to policy bridge’s mission:

  • Fritz Mayer, Director of POLIS
    • The Arnold Foundation funds policy labs around the country to produce data-driven policy solutions that are responsive to state governments. They are interested in working through Duke on statewide issues around early childhood education, health, and linking datasets. The Duke-based lab will likely include collaboration with UNC, NC State, and NC Central University.
    • Policy Bridge will be growing! Duke Provost Sally Kornbluth has requested additional investments in Policy Bridge and will be convening Deans across campus to nominate faculty members with interest. Will likely be recruiting an executive director (networking, research, and policy background required).
  • Doug Heron, Assistant VP, Duke Government Relations
    • Duke University and Duke Health are working on amendments to the STOP Act, passed earlier this year to address the opioid epidemic. Amendments will focus on supply side policies targeting prescribers that have potentially dangerous implications for drug users.
    • Duke’s Margolis Center has framed Medicaid expansion as a way to “cover additional lives in NC” and Prof. Don Taylor published a policy brief on the issue.
    • Margolis Fridays at Fuqua bridges business and health, providing a space to brainstorm ways to collaborate on potential research.
    • Lee Ferguson recently testified in front of the NC legislator on the chemical GenX in the state’s drinking water, yet another example in which Duke researchers are being leveraged to inform policy at the state level.
    • Duke LifePoint Healthcare continues to leverage telemedicine to bridge the urban-rural gap in health services.
  • Karen Kemp, Assistant Dean for Communications and Marketing, Sanford School
    • The Sanford school hosts a Ways and Means podcast that pairs personal stories with policy research and is hosted by journalist Emily Hanford. They received a grant from the Trent Memorial Foundation and will be addressing more international development topics, featuring research from Sanford professors.
    • Policy 360 podcast features a series of policy conversations hosted by Sanford’s Dean, Kelly Brownell.
  • Tim Profeta, Director, Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions
    • The North Carolina Leadership Forum aims to bridge political divides in state politics in order to find bipartisan solutions. This year’s focus is on how NC can best meet the future energy needs of its residents and businesses.
    • The Nicholas Institute offers Catalyst Grants, worth up to $20,000 each, for projects that leverage staff and faculty expertise on external engagement projects.
    • Robert Bonnie is currently conducting a study around Rural Attitudes of the Environment and Conservation, involving focus groups and interviews with rural North Carolinians.
  • Natalie Hengstebeck, Post-Doc Fellow at the Scholar Strategy Network


Duke – NC Government Opioid Strategy Meeting

On October 19th, Policy Bridge brought twenty state policy makers and Duke researchers together in the offices of Governor Roy Cooper to explore areas for collaboration related to the opioid crisis. The objectives of the meeting were:

  1. To help state officials better understand the range of resources at Duke upon which they can draw.
  2. To alert Duke researchers and clinicians to the issues facing policy makers in order to sharpen the relevance of current and future research, and improve clinical practice.
  3. To consider whether an ongoing interagency and cross-departmental conversation between Duke and NC State government would be valuable.

The Governor’s Policy Director, Jenni Owen, joined Professor Fritz Mayer to moderate a discussion covering a myriad of issues related to the opioid epidemic in North Carolina. The state-level government representatives in attendance included officials from the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Public Security, the Attorney General’s Office, and the Governor’s Office. On the Duke side were researchers representing both social science and hard science perspectives, including the Center for Child and Family Policy, the Health Data Science Center, Government Relations, the Institute for Brain Sciences, the Center for Health Policy and Inequalities Research, and the Duke Health System Opioid Safety Committee.

One primary topic of interest was the divergent views between health practitioners and law enforcement officers regarding the merits of, and best practices around, Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT).  Also of note were future legislative efforts by Duke Government Relations and Duke Health System Opioid Safety Committee to provide feedback on the policy implications of North Carolina’s Strengthen Opioid Misuse Prevention (STOP) Act, signed into law by Governor Cooper in late June 2017.

Policy Bridge has made the opioid crisis one of its signature policy areas of interest and will continue to convene meetings aimed at creating stronger networks of communication and collaboration between Duke’s cutting-edge researchers and state policymakers across the spectrum.

Policy Brief Workshop

Policy Bridge invites Duke faculty and researchers to participate in our policy brief workshop on November 14th with writing exercises led by Dean Storelli, the Duke Center for International Development’s writing and communications trainer. We will also be premiering our new brief template that can be easily used for policy brief writing beginners.

The focus of this workshop will be communicating technical expertise through a policy brief to a non-academic, policy audience. We will cover key elements of brief writing, writing style editing, and using the Policy Bridge brief template for an existing research paper. This workshop is open to all faculty and other researchers interested in learning how to better translate research into policy.

Please bring a policy brief idea and laptop with you to prepare to draft one section of your brief during the workshop.

When: Tuesday, November 14th from 11:30-1:30 pm

Where: Sanford School of Public Policy – Room 223

RSVP at while spots are open.

Lunch will be served.

Policy Careers for PhDs

On October 31st, 2017, Policy Bridge will join forces with the Duke Career Center to host a workshop for PhD candidates interested in policy careers. We will cover resume writing, job search tips, and policy career pathways for doctoral graduates. Career counselors Jennifer Levy and Dave McDonald will discuss strategies for leveraging doctoral expertise outside the academic world, from government to nonprofit and private sector options.

Following the workshop, there will be a panel discussion featuring four practitioners with state-level, national, and international experience:

  • Jennifer McGinnis works in the North Carolina General Assembly as a Staff Attorney and Senior Legislative Analyst.
  • Aubrey (Justin) Kirkpatrick worked as an economist at the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA) and is a current PhD Fellow at the Duke University Energy Initiative.
  • Doug Heron is Duke’s Assistant Vice President for Government Relations.
  • Arnold Chacon served as a career Foreign Service officer, most recently as the Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources at the State Department. He is currently Duke’s Diplomat in Residence.

When? October 31st from 2-3:30 pm

Where? Sanford School of Public Policy; Rhodes 223

Lunch will be served. Please RSVP here.

Former Charleston Mayor Speaks to Students

Former Mayor of Charleston, Joe Riley, joined a group of students last Friday in a discussion of the challenges and successes he dealt with over an impressive 40-year term leading the South Carolina city. From describing the innovative affordable housing he helped push forward at a time when monolith housing projects were the norm, to navigating the aftermath of the 2015 church shooting, he responded to an array of questions covering dynamic topics.

Mayor Riley talking with Duke students at the Sanford School of Public Policy

Whether the discussion focused on times of crisis or long term strategic planning, one current permeated the conversation: community as the cornerstone of any successful policy. Mayor Riley described his persistent focus on bringing together a variety of citizens and providing outlets for different voices to be heard. When it came to the atrocious hate crime perpetrated against a group of African American churchgoers in 2015, he described the prompt mobilization of his staff as vital to setting the tone for the community. Riley and his team organized an immediate gathering of the victims’ family and loved ones, and was present to deliver the news directly when details were first revealed. He participated in multiple vigils and community gatherings in the following days, crediting the city’s reaction of solidarity to a strong community, long in the making.

The evening before the student breakfast, Mayor Riley joined outgoing Durham Mayor Bill Bell in a public event with nearly 100 attendees focused on the challenges of urban revitalization. Riley spoke about the importance of revitalizing Charleston Place, a central business district that had experienced the same decline as many an urban center in the wake of suburban sprawl. In Durham, Mayor Bell cited the Durham Bulls Athletic Park and Bright Leaf Square as critical centers created during his term that brought life back to downtown Durham, drawing people for the restaurants, shopping and businesses.

(Left to Right) Professor Fritz Mayer, Former Mayor Joe Riley, and Durham Mayor Bill Bell

Former Mayor Riley remains busier than ever, working with a variety of governmental and non-governmental organizations to continue working on the types of progressive policies he implemented to revitalize Charleston. Among his most important projects is fundraising to commence construction on an African American history museum in Charleston.

Chief Diversity Officer Testifies before Congress

Bridging the gap between academics and policymakers, Duke’s Vice President of Institutional Equity & Chief Diversity Officer, Dr. Benjamin Reese, testified before Congress in September to discuss an increasingly salient issue in the wake of the Charlottesville protests: the fine line between protecting free speech and protecting against hate speech. Joining other prominent diversity leaders, Reese addressed members of the House of Representatives’ Education and the Workforce and Judiciary committees.

Alongside University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan, NAACP President of the Legal Defense and Educational Fund Sherrilyn Ifill, and Southern Poverty Law Center Executive Director Richard Cohen, Reese was called on for his expertise in the diversity and inclusion space.  Dr. Reese described the way that Duke deals with different types of speech, highlighting the defining features of hate speech, “In no way are we trying to curtail free-speech, but if someone defaces a building, there is something special, in a negative way if that defacement has an element of racism, sexism, homophobia” (Duke TODAY).

He also cited Duke’s Hate and Bias Task Force as an example of how an institution can conscientiously include those voices representing the opposition – the current group includes students who actively protested in a “tent city” for several weeks in front of the administration building.  Addressing the concept of “echo chambers” in liberal university environments, Reese provided examples of strategies that purposely bring together a variety of stakeholders – including, perhaps most importantly, those who oppose the current system. As Reese explained, “We have learned that some of the loudest voices of protest often bring with them insights and perspectives missing in our usual discourse and decison-making processes” (Duke TODAY).

A psychologist by training, Reese also teaches as an adjunct faculty member in the departments of Psychology and Community & Family Medicine. He has served as a consultant to educational institutions, non profit and for profit organizations, and health care organizations around the US and internationally. He was a founding member of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education with over 40 years of experience in organizational change, race relations and implicit bias, and conflict resolution.

Interested in learning more about diversity and inclusion efforts at Duke? Learn more about Duke’s Office for Institutional Equity here.

Global Value Chains Research Informs Policy

The Global Value Chain (GVC) Initiative at Duke’s Center for Globalization, Governance and Competitiveness is at the forefront of researching areas of opportunity and risk in an ever-more interconnected global economy. Led by Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center, Gary Gerreffi, the GVC Initiative publishes original research analyzing sector-specific economies to understand how value is created through the industrial process.

A value chain differs from a conventional supply chain by focusing not just on traditional inputs and outputs, but looking at where, how and by whom value is added as a product goes from development to production. While some products may be confined by geography, the vast majority are inextricably connected to other states, countries, or regions – creating complex networks that require a more sophisticated framework of analysis. The GVC Initiative uses GVC mapping and analysis to uncover areas for value creation and better inform policies for growth and development. From exposing weak points in Russia’s wheat value chain  to delving into the Tourism Value Chains in East Africa, the initiative conducts GVC research with real life policy implications.

Whether it be helping countries identify opportunities to enter new GVCs or mitigating potential risks, GVC analysis is a useful tool for policymakers who need to understand economic networks and the interactions of interrelated products and services. While much of the GVC work focuses on developing countries, uncovering opportunities for growth and recommending targeted action, the North Carolina in the Global Economy website provides an example of GVCs in our own state. Seven specific industries are featured with interactive maps and charts to understand how North Carolina ties into the global economy.

Want to learn more? Check out the GVC primer below or contact the GVC Initiative at:

Download the PDF file .


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