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.”

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.

Feb 162016
 
 February 16, 2016  Tagged with: ,  Comments Off on MASTERY and SuWA Open House, Sep. 16

Tutor-chat-outside-400The MASTERY and SuWA community partnerships with locally resettled refugees will be hosting an open house. The gathering provides an opportunity for Duke University students who will serve as tutors and the families with whom they will be working to get acquainted. Those interested in participating as tutors or community members who wish to participate are welcome to join.  There will be food and sweets for all, activities for the children, and handmade wares on sale by some of the women.

Friday, September 16, 2016
6:00pm-8:00pm
West Duke Building

Nov 132015
 
 November 13, 2015  Tagged with:  Comments Off on Kenan Distinguished Lecture with Michael Walzer, Apr. 13

Walzer-KDL-Poster-web-400Michael Walzer, one of America’s most influential political theorists, will speak on “What is the Responsibility to Protect? And What Does it Mean in the Syrian Case?” as the 2016 Kenan Distinguished Lecturer.

Walzer is a professor emeritus at the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) in Princeton, New Jersey, and has written about a wide variety of topics in political theory and moral philosophy, including political obligation, just and unjust war, nationalism and ethnicity, economic justice, and the welfare state. He has played a critical role in the revival of a practical, issue-focused ethics and in the development of a pluralist approach to political and moral life. His talk with examine the international moral obligation to intercede in Syria and the international security and human rights norm Responsibility to Protect.

The annual Kenan Distinguished Lecture in Ethics is a signature series of the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke that brings a distinguished speaker to campus to address moral issues of broad social and cultural significance. This event is free and open to the public, and will be followed by a reception.

This talk is co-sponsored by Duke Program in American Values and Institutions, Duke University Middle East Studies Center, Duke Islamic Studies Center, and Duke Council for European Studies.

Wednesday, April 13, 5:00 pm
Fredric Jameson Gallery, Friedl Building, East Campus
Parking on East Campus is free after 5:00pm.