May 302017
 May 30, 2017

The Kenan Institute for Ethics and Parr Center for Ethics at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill recently announced the winners of the 2017 Moral Purpose Award, an annual contest to highlight the role a liberal arts education plays in students’ exploration of their personal and social purposes.

This year’s entries – submitted by undergraduates at Duke and UNC – addressed questions about how a student’s core beliefs or larger aims have been tested, transformed or confirmed at college, as well as lessons learned from defending or challenging ideas and social norms. Entries included essays of 500 to 800 words that considered the intellectual, emotional, and moral commitments that make for a full life.

Winners and essays included:


Grand prize:

  • Amulya Vadapalli, PPS ’19, Public Policy Studies – A Closed Mind

Honorable Mention:

  • Brian Wong, ’19,Political Science via a joint degree program with the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and the National University of Singapore – For Liberty, and Love of Learning

Vadapalli and Wong both received a $1,000 prize.

May 292017
 May 29, 2017

In the latest edition of the Kenan Institute for Ethics’ “Good Question” series, Valerie Ashby, Dean of Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, offers insight about how diversity plays a pivotal role on today’s college campus.

Ashby, who took on the role as Trinity’s Dean in 2015, she said she was lucky to inherit a diverse senior leadership team made up of Duke faculty and staff of different genders, race and ethnicities with backgrounds in everything from art to architecture and medicine. Weekly meetings with the group means “I never have to worry about whether or not we can find an answer to a complex problem,” she said, because of all the different ways the team approaches issues that face the university.

“At Duke, diversity is just who we are,” she said.

Read more of Ashby’s ideas on diversity and how it’s played an important role in her life in her Good Question profile.

May 252017
 May 25, 2017


The Rethinking Regulation Program at the Kenan Institute for Ethics (RR@KIE) at Duke University is seeking a Postdoctoral Fellow for a one-year term (with a possible renewal for a second year, upon mutual agreement of all parties and if funding is available).

RR@KIE fosters research, education, and policy engagement on the evolution, design, deliberation and performance of regulatory systems, across a wide array of policy areas. Linking diverse disciplinary approaches across the Duke campus and beyond, RR@KIE marshals multiple perspectives and methodologies to understand complex problems, confront ethical tradeoffs, and envision solutions.

The Postdoctoral Fellow will support the Rethinking Regulation Program in the following ways:
• Work with faculty director and executive committee to facilitate collaborative research among faculty and students in the Rethinking Regulation program by, e.g., organizing seminars, workshops, symposia, and other research and outreach activities.
• Work with faculty director and executive committee to identify priority research areas and seek external funding for these research areas.
• Assist the faculty in hosting visiting speakers from academia and policy.
• Assist with policy outreach by writing, editing, and/or reviewing policy briefs, blog posts, webpages, and similar publications.
• Work with graduate, professional and undergraduate students involved in Rethinking Regulation to help them organize activities and increase membership.
• Assist with Bass Connections course projects linked with Rethinking Regulation, such as on adaptive governance of emerging technologies, and decision making about complex risks.
• Conduct self-directed research on regulatory policy topics. Interest in ethical as well as legal, economic, political, cultural, and other aspects of regulation is highly desirable. Interest and ability to collaborate with others is highly desirable.

The candidate must have completed a graduate or professional degree, such as PhD, ScD, MD, JD, SJD, MBA, MPP, MEM, or similar.

Duke University is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer committed to providing employment opportunity without regard to an individual’s age, color, disability, genetic information, gender, gender expression, gender identity, national origin, race, religion, sexual orientation, or veteran status. Essential Physical Job Functions: Certain jobs at Duke University and Duke University Health System may include essential job functions that require specific physical and/or mental abilities. Additional information and provision for requests for reasonable accommodation will be provided by each hiring department.

To apply, send the following materials to a letter of interest and curriculum vita.

May 252017
 May 25, 2017

Experts from across research and industry fields within healthcare gathered May 22 at the Kenan Institute for Ethics for a special symposium, “Access to Medicines: Policy and Practice.”

Vishy Pingali, Kenan’s 2016-2017 George C. Lamb, Jr. Regulatory Fellow, presents during the “Access to Medicines” symposium.

Hosted by Kenan’s Rethinking Regulation program, about 25 scholars and entrepreneurs took part in discussing topics that addressed the role governments, nonprofits and private entities can play to ensure more people have the ability to care for illnesses – especially due to rising prices and lack of access in developing economies.

Conversation was built around results from the United Nations High Commission’s Special Panel on Access to Medicines, which found that countries must find new approaches to health technology and ensuring access so that all people can benefit from medical advancements.

The event was spearheaded by Kenan’s 2016-17 Lamb Regulatory Fellow, Vishy Pingali,and Julia Barnes-Weise, Executive Director of Global Healthcare Innovation Alliance Accelerator. Experts in attendance work in fields ranging from international intellectual property to public-private global health partnerships and ethics.

Deborah Drew, CEO of Drew Quality Group, Inc. talks about the non-profit organization that is looking to provide generic drugs.

According to Pingali, the group found three main issues emerged as a goal for our future work after hearing from economists, legal scholars, public policy experts and practitioners in medicine. Pingali, who presented research on how government regulation can increase access to medicines, was among a dozen speakers who offered insight on topics that ranged from intellectual property and innovation to policy.

“We need to develop business models for better incentivizing parties to make medicines more affordable and create new paradigms to consider healthcare holistically to answer bigger questions around affordable healthcare and pharmaceuticals,” he said. “We need to have robust public policy frameworks for policy making in this space.”

May 222017
 May 22, 2017

Nearly 40 students across five Kenan programs will explore critical ethical questions confronting communities locally and globally this summer, while also reporting back on their experiences. From North Carolina to China, use the map below to see where students are spending their time while participating in DukeEngage Dublin, Pathways of Change, Purpose Program, Kenan Refugee Project and as Kenan Summer Fellows.

For more information about these programs and others, visit the Kenan Student Engagement page.


May 202017
 May 20, 2017

The work of Edward J. Balleisen, Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies and a Senior Fellow at the Kenan Institute for Ethics, was recently included in a New York Times story, “From Wells Fargo to Fyre Festival, the Scam Economy Is Entering Its Baroque Phase,” for his new book on fraud.

The piece, written by author Carina Chocano, explores ideas of how “branding and ‘storytelling’ have replaced advertising and possibly even reality,” she writes. Chocano uses Balleisen’s “Fraud: An American History from Barnum to Madoff” as a source of context for the history of fraud in the U.S.

Read the Times piece here and learn more about Balleisen’s book here.

May 172017
 May 17, 2017

The Kenan Institute for Ethics has highlighted a trio of recently graduated seniors as part of its “Profiles in Purpose” series, which shares the stories of Kenan students and key touchstones on their journeys to meaningful life and work. Click the images below to learn more about each student and how their interests, studies and experiences have come together with the help of the Kenan Institute to create a positive impact on themselves and those around them.


In addition to recent graduates, learn more about rising senior Catherine Ward in this profile.

May 082017
 May 8, 2017

Used motor oil gets dumped into the ground in large quantities every year in Ghana. Photo courtesy of Bass Connections.

Studying the environmental and societal impacts of the disposal of motor oil in Ghana was at the center of a recently completed project supported by the Silver Family Kenan Institute for Ethics Fund in Support of Bass Connections.

The effort, which was led by faculty from Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering, School of Medicine and Kenan Institute, included six undergraduate and graduate students, as well as two community team members from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana.

During work abroad and on campus, students analyzed the health and wellness of Ghanaians who may be impacted by exposure to chemicals that include lead, chromium, iron and manganese. The results will provide a basis for an education and awareness campaign in Ghana to prevent health risks and ecosystem damage.

Learn more about the project and meet team members in a video on the Bass Connections website.

May 052017
 May 5, 2017

Kenan is now soliciting proposals for two new, year-long faculty fellow positions within the Duke Human Rights Center at the Kenan Institute for Ethics.

Two-page proposals should detail a new research project the fellow plans to pursue over the coming year. Proposals should also provide a timeline of activity, expected year end outcomes and a budget.

Faculty fellows will receive $7,500 each. Funds can be used for research expenses, to support research assistants, or for summer salary or course buyout. Fellows must be in residence throughout the academic year, are expected to participate in DHRC@KIE events and, where appropriate, provide intellectual leadership for the Center. Work may be collaborative or independent.

Preference is for fellows whose research focuses on international institutions, business and human rights, women’s rights or forced migration.

Proposals can be sent to and are due at noon May 8. Awards will be announced by May 12.

May 052017
 May 5, 2017

“What in the world are we doing here?”

Lily Doron remembers thinking those words after a near 15-hour travel day in July 2016 after she and classmate Olivia Johnson arrived in Athens, Greece. The Duke undergraduates were about to start a six-week project to travel the Balkan route, interacting with refugees in transit along a 1,500-mile trip that stretches across a collection of European countries.

Olivia Johnson, left, and Lily Doron, right, at the gallery opening of their “Seeking Refuge” capstone exhibit, on display in the Keohane-Kenan Gallery.

The answer was straight forward, but the reality of how the pair got to that starting point was still a bit incredible to them. With support from the Kenan Institute for Ethics to make the journey happen, the two then-rising seniors were about to begin a life-changing academic experience.

“We wanted to better understand the dehumanization of these people,” Doron said. “How does a person turn into a number?”

To find out, Doron and Johnson interviewed about 20 people in six countries during their trip, stopping between Greece and Germany to meet refugees from Mali, Afghanistan, Iraq and more. As one of their defining experiences at Duke, the time spent abroad acted as a source of inspiration for a senior capstone project, an audio-visual exhibit displayed in the Keohane-Kenan Gallery in West Duke. The project includes several recorded interviews and written stories of refugees like Amir, an Afghan translator who worked for the U.S. Army, but was denied a Special Immigration Visa to move to America. He fled his home country after being kidnapped and freed by the Taliban.

Both Doron and Johnson were inspired by participating in Kenan programs that focused on educating about migration and displaced people, including DukeImmerse, Focus and Bass Connections. Doron incorporated ethics classes into a personalized major that included documentary studies, while Johnson earned an Ethics Certificate. Both said Kenan faculty and staff – notably director Suzanne Shanahan – shaped their interests and they saw the opportunity for field research as a chance to put learning to practice.

“Everything felt connected,” Johnson said. “Our project felt like a culmination of all our work.”

A refugee walks back to Moria, a closed refugee camp on Lesvos. The image was one of many captured as part of the “Seeking Refuge” exhibit.

“Seeking Refuge: Stories of Resilience Along the Balkan Route” debuted in April, bringing to campus the voices and experiences from Doron and Johnson’s 2016 trip. The people they met during their research varied from connections made through local NGOs and random encounters while visiting cities in Serbia, Hungary, Macedonia and more.

“The community that we’ve fit into at Kenan has helped us personally and academically,” Doron said. “Developing trust and mutual respect to do this kind of senior project is a testament to how much time we spent at Kenan.”

Johnson said she felt the same way.

“The most incredible opportunities I’ve had at Duke have been at Kenan, whether here or abroad,” she said. “We were learning so much, but if we didn’t have Kenan’s support, we would have never been able to make this kind of project happen.”