May 052017
 May 5, 2017  Tagged with: ,  Comments Off on One-of-a-kind field research culminates seniors’ four years with Kenan

“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.”

May 012017
 May 1, 2017  Tagged with:  Comments Off on Kenan program connects students and refugees, gives senior new perspective

Michelle Khalid began volunteering with the Supporting Women’s Action program her first year at Duke and has remained a part during her four-year career, co-directing the program her junior and senior years.

Among all the lessons Michelle Khalid has learned during her time at Duke, one of the most important came from outside the classroom.

“Conversations have value,” said Khalid, a graduating senior.

Since first expanding her world view as a freshmen doing field research with refugees as part of a Kenan Institute for Ethics’ DukeImmerse program in Nepal and Jordan, Khalid has found personal and global perspective through the simple act of one-on-one interaction. Music, food and chatting – sometimes only through hand gestures and laughter – have created life-altering friendships through Kenan’s Supporting Women’s Action (SuWA) program, a program that empowers local refugee women through education, small business development, and community building.

“Sitting next to a random stranger who might not speak the same language was terrifying, but doing SuWA showed I don’t need a buffer,” Khalid said. “I don’t think I would have gotten as much out of Duke if I didn’t have SuWA.”

Khalid volunteered with the program her freshman and sophomore years, spurred on by interactions with refugees abroad through DukeImmerse and Bass Connections. She’s acted as co-director the past two years, organizing activities and building relationships with herself, other Duke students and almost 40 local refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan and more. The group celebrates holidays from across the world, shares food from different cultures and even uses music videos as a form of cultural exchange, all with the purpose of making global ideas and issues feel more tangible. Khalid said her involvement with the program, which has more than doubled in size since she became co-director, has helped create unique opportunities on campus where undergraduates gain perspective not readily available elsewhere. Connecting the Duke and refugee communities through Kenan moves an education beyond the classroom.

“I’ve found it’s a really unique way to have a positive impact on a community I spent so much time learning about,” Khalid said.

After graduation, Khalid plans to work with Venture for America, a fellowship program that connects recent graduates with companies in cities trying to build startup cultures outside of obvious spots like New York or Silicon Valley. She hopes to live and work in Detroit or Philadelphia, utilizing skills honed through Kenan.

“SuWA showed me how to put myself out there, start a conversation and see where it takes you,” she said. “I’ve seen how important building relationships and understanding can be through SuWA.”

Apr 202017
 April 20, 2017  Comments Off on Kenan students bring refugee stories to life with audiovisual exhibit

Inspired by their experiences through programming at the Kenan Institute for Ethics, two undergraduates have created a new art exhibit displayed in the Keohane-Kenan Gallery in West Duke Building.

The audiovisual exhibit was produced by undergraduates Lily Doron and Olivia Johnson, who spent six weeks traveling the Balkan route from Lesvos, Greece to Berlin, Germany to more fully understand the lived experiences of displaced people in transit. Narratives from refugees fleeing countries like Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan are included.

The exhibit is open to the public during regular business hours. While viewing the gallery, guests are encouraged to listen to stories told by refugees.

Work by Doron and Johnson is supported by the Kenan Refugee Project.

Apr 122017
 April 12, 2017  Comments Off on Kenan students share insight on refugee crisis in new op-ed

“Why are you doing this to us?”

This question, posed by a 5-year old girl currently living in Jordan, is at the core of a new op-ed written by a group of seven Duke undergraduates who participated in the Kenan Institute for Ethics’ DukeImmerse program, which combines classroom and field research to help students fully understand the causes and consequences of today’s refugee crisis.

The commentary, posted on the Huffington Post, provides insight into the lives of displaced people the students met during a monthlong trip to Jordan and how America’s travel ban impacts them. In their piece, the students argue that the U.S. should welcome more refugees into the country to provide a safe life that can help them achieve hopes and dreams for their families.

“We listened to teachers, lawyers, artists, police officers, and accountants,” they write. “We spent time with mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and children whose only hope of a future lies with the citizens of countries such as ours. As a nation, we must be kind and empathetic enough to welcome them in.”

Read the full op-ed on the Huffington Post.

Authors of the op-ed include Bryce Cracknell, Sara Evall, Sloan Talbot, Louden Richason, Isabella Arbelaez, Idalis French, and Josie Tarin.

Mar 072017
 March 7, 2017  Tagged with: ,  Comments Off on Entrepreneurship competition teaches students value of connecting with refugees

Sherry Feng, center, goes over a presentation for Sawiana Enterprises with team members Jason Wang, left, and Saheel Chodavadia, right. The trio was one of two Duke teams to compete at the Hult Prize competition in Boston March 2 to 5.

For Duke students Saheel Chodavadia and Julie Williams, a recent competition has further spurred interest to help refugees around the world after Kenan Institute for Ethics’ programs first got them thinking globally.

The pair were part of two Duke teams at the Hult Prize competition, a collegiate social entrepreneurship contest held March 2 to 5 in Boston. During their time at the event, Chodavadia and Williams networked with peers from a variety of different countries, heard from leaders of non-profit organizations and shared their own ideas for how technology has the potential to positively impact vulnerable populations.

The Hult Prize Foundation, which provides start-up funding for its contest, had teams present ideas to help “restore the rights and dignity of 10 million refugees by 2022.”

“Being surrounded by so much knowledge and so many creative solutions, it shows you that there are incredible people ready to do great things in the world,” said Williams, whose team, REconomy, built an app to better integrate resettled refugees into new economies.

REconomy’s idea came after Williams and teammate Sanjeev Dasgupta traveled to Jordan in 2016 with the Kenan Institute’s DukeImmerse program to work with refugees. Chodavadia, who has participated in Kenan’s Refugee Project and Focus and MASTERY programs, was part of Sawiana Enterprises, a team working to create an app to connect refugees to share skills, like cooking, and interests, like starting a business

While a team from Rutgers University won top prize at the competition, Williams and Chodavadia said the lasting impact from the trip will be the way they think about how they can help those in need elsewhere in the world. A big part of that, they said, is having more face-to-face time with refugee populations to understand what daily needs are like to better tailor solutions to help them.

“Based on what they say and what you learn, you can find a solution to empower them, not just help them,” Chodavadia said. “Whenever I do something at Duke, I want to do it because I see a problem. With refugees, I want to help them because they tell me what their problem is.”

Williams echoed the sentiment, noting that interactions she had with refugees through DukeImmerse taught her about the need for sustainable solutions, not just quick fixes.

“What can we provide,” she said, “so that people can provide for themselves.”

Despite not winning the Hult Prize competition, both the REconomy and Sawiana Enterpreises teams will continue to seek funding for their projects.

Mar 012017
 March 1, 2017  Tagged with:  Comments Off on Kenan programs inspire technology to help refugees

Julie Williams shared this image of children as part of a research journal from her 2016 DukeImmerse experience in Jordan.

Through a variety of unique opportunities and programming, the Kenan Institute for Ethics has inspired several undergraduate students participating in a national competition focused on helping refugees around the world.

From March 2 to 5, two teams in the Hult Prize competition, a leading collegiate social entrepreneurship contest, will have a distinct Kenan feel after experiences through DukeImmerse, MASTERY and others encouraged students to think globally. The Hult Prize Foundation, which provides start-up funding for its contest winners, has asked students to present on solutions to build “sustainable, scalable social enterprises that restore the rights and dignity of 10 million refugees by 2022.”

Kenan is funding the trip to Boston for REconomy, a team of four Duke students who have built an app that can help integrate resettled refugees into new economies. Inspiration for the app came from experiences through the Institute’s DukeImmerse program, which provided team members Julie Williams and Sanjeev Dasgupta the chance to work with refugees in Jordan in 2016. The goal of REconomy is to allow sellers to post goods and services with a price, location and contact information to formalize interactions among refugee settlements.

Kenan’s 2017 DukeImmerse team of students is currently testing the app to provide feedback.

Another Duke team in the Hult competition  has a Kenan connection through Saheel Chodavadia, who is part of Sawiana Enterprises, which is working to create an app to connect refugees to share skills, like cooking, and interests, like starting a business. Chodavadia has taken part in the Institute’s Focus program, Refugee Project, and has tutored local refugees through Kenan’s MASTERY program. This summer, he’ll participate in Kenan’s DukeEngage Dublin trip.

For more information about the teams and their projects, see this Duke Today story.

Nov 172016
 November 17, 2016  Comments Off on Institute Launches New Refugee Program Hub

KRP_Launch400_revThe Kenan Institute for Ethics launched the Kenan Refugee Project website with an event on December 2nd.

In addition to housing information about the Institute’s portfolio of refugee-related programming in one place, the site features easily accessible information about the status of refugees around the world; refugee oral histories, and archived editions of the weekly InFlux newsletter.

Click here to visit the new Kenan Refugee Project website.

Oct 202016
 October 20, 2016  Comments Off on Deadline to apply to DukeImmerse 2017, Oct. 25

Immerse 2016UpdateExplore the dynamics of the current crisis and the challenges it poses for refugees, host communities and international law. Work with refugees locally and internationally. 4 courses. 4 weeks in Jordan. A life-changing experience.

Courses listed in AMES, CULANTH, ETHICS, ICS, POLSCI, and SOCIOL. Codes include ALP, CCI, CZ, IE, QS, R, SS, AND W.

The deadline to apply to DukeImmerse: Deconstructing/Reconstructing the Refugee Experience is Tuesday, October 25th at 5pm.

Click here to download the application.

Please direct questions to Suzanne Shanahan.

Sep 272016
 September 27, 2016  Comments Off on KIE Campus Grant applications considered on a rolling basis

campus-grants-400The Campus Grants program allows members of the Duke community to incorporate ethics into their own work. Grants of up to $500 are available to all members of the Duke community—students, faculty, and staff—to support initiatives that promote ethical or moral reflection, deliberation, and dialogue at Duke and beyond.

We welcome diverse perspectives and submissions from organizations and individuals in all areas of the University and the Medical Center. Campus Grant funding provides support for speakers, workshops, meetings, curriculum development, publications, organizational collaborations, and other activities. Travel grants for attending conferences or other individual activities will not be awarded. 

To view previous awardees, visit the Campus Grants page.

For consideration, the application form must be completed and sent to

Download the form now: Word.

Jul 082016
 July 8, 2016  Comments Off on Alumna chronicles journey from Duke to a career in global development

Liz-Photo9-400Elizabeth Hoyler (’16, Economics and Global Health) has begun writing about her experiences working with Janalakshmi Financial Services, a microfinance organization in Bangalore, India. Over the course of the coming year, she will travel to Senegal and Thailand to work with Burmese migrants and refugees, in part with the organization Dreamlopments.

While at Duke, Hoyler worked with Bhutanese refugees in Nepal through the Kenan Institute for Ethics’ DukeImmerse: Uprooted/Rerouted program, followed by a KIE-sponsored internship with the World Food Programme outside Damak, Nepal. This past year, she was one of the student organizers of our Supporting Women’s Action (SuWA) refugee community partnership. She says of her experiences:

Kenan has formed me in more ways that I could probably know. I am so grateful for the opportunities, and the team that made it happen!