Graduate Fellows


Kenan Graduate Fellows

Mercy DeMenno
Mercy Berman DeMenno is a third-year PhD student in Public Policy. Mercy’s research focuses on the politics of the regulatory policymaking process, at both the U.S. federal and international levels. Her specific research interests include stakeholder participation in rulemaking, regulatory and interest group strategy, and financial risk regulation. Mercy is a Graduate Scholar with the Rethinking Regulation Program at Duke’s Kenan Institute for Ethics and in that capacity engages in collaborative research on regulatory governance with a team of interdisciplinary scholars. She also leads the Rethinking Regulation Graduate Student Working Group and is a member of the Bass Connections Student Advisory Council. Before coming to Duke, Mercy worked as a policy analyst at Sandia National Laboratories, where she conducted complex systems modeling and analysis to inform federal policy. She also has professional experience with state and federal legislative policymaking and international economic development. Mercy holds a BA in Political Science and an MBA with a concentration in Policy Analysis, both from the University of New Mexico.

Bahar Emily Esmaili
Bahar Emily Esmaili is a pediatrician and graduate student with the Duke Initiative for Science & Society. After working with several humanitarian organizations in Asia and Africa, she returned stateside to obtain her M.A. in Bioethics and Science Policy at Duke, with a focus on global health ethics. Her research focuses on the unique challenges of delivering pediatric palliative care in Africa, namely Tanzania. More locally, she engages in issues around refugee and immigrant child health through her clinical work at a Federally Qualified Health Center in East Durham, where she actively experiences the needs, tensions, and dilemmas of this vulnerable population. Her work further explores these issues and their ethical implications, with the final aim of developing of sound, actionable policies.
Joseph Feldblum
Joseph T. Feldblum is a Ph.D candidate in the Department of Evolutionary Anthropology at Duke. He studies chimpanzee behavioral ecology, mostly in a wild population in Gombe National Park, Tanzania. His work focuses on male reproductive strategies, cooperation, and community structure. He is also interested in using insights from chimpanzee behavioral ecology to better understand the evolution of large-scale, complex cooperation and social structure in humans.
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LesLeigh Ford
LesLeigh D. Ford, a Dean’s Graduate Fellow at Duke, focuses her research on race, class, family structure and processes, mental health, and opportunity. LesLeigh’s most recent project examines the association between maternal mental health, social stressors, and children’s internalizing and externalizing behaviors. The study aims to determine whether different kinds of stressors, economic, familial, or social, are more consequential for maternal mental health and children’s internalizing and externalizing behaviors. LesLeigh holds a B.A. in English and Political Science from the University of Michigan and a M.Ed. in Education Policy and Management from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Prior to starting the doctoral program, LesLeigh was an elementary and middle school teacher in her hometown of Detroit, Michigan and a program manager for an education nonprofit in Boston.
Paul Henne
Paul M. Henne is a PhD candidate in philosophy. Before attending Duke, he received his MA from Arizona State University and his BA from Lake Forest College. His primary interests in philosophy are in experimental metaphysics and in moral philosophy and psychology–particularly topics related to absences, omissions, and nothingness (including imagination and fiction). He is, for instance, curious about the gap between our causal judgments about omissions and their relation to the world.

Ewan Kingston
Ewan Kingston is a third year PhD student in the philosophy program. His dissertation is in political theory and environmental ethics, and asks whether political liberalism has sufficient conceptual resources to respond adequately to global environmental crises. His other academic interests include non-western philosophy, philosophy of law, and applied ethics.
Justin Mitchell
Justin Mitchell is a third-year PhD student in the English Department at Duke University. His main areas of interest are the American novel, Ordinary Language Philosophy, and Western Marxism. His research explores how twentieth-century American novels depict the problem of ideology during the Cold War.
Alexandra Oprea
Alexandra Oprea is a 5th year PhD student in Political Science, with a focus on Normative Political Theory and Political Philosophy. Her research focuses on the politics of childhood, adolescence and youth. Her dissertation addresses the history of different conceptions of children’s political status in European political thought from the 17th through the 19th century. She has an enduring interest in the role of political humor in shaping political culture and appreciates your emails with jokes, puns and gags in different languages and cultures
Maria Ramos
Maria Cristina Ramos is a third-year PhD student in Sociology. Maria Cristina’s interests lie at the intersection of identity processes and morality. Her most recent work has explored how prosocial behaviors help restore the tarnished identities of those who engage in unethical actions. In specific, she has sought to understand what features of the situation enhance or undermine the restoring effect of prosociality on tarnished identities. Other academic interests include relational boundaries, friendship formation and social networks.
Daniel Ribeiro
Daniel L. Ribeiro is a fourth-year SJD student at Duke Law School. In his research, Daniel explores the intersection between public law, policy, and decision theory. Daniel’s dissertation investigates the evolution of impact assessment systems and, in particular, the recent adoption of ex post regulatory impact assessment by the US, UK, EU, and Australia. Daniel is one of the 2016 Duke Environmental Health Scholars and a Graduate Scholar with Rethinking Regulation at the Kenan Institute for Ethics, and a Fundação Estudar Scholar (Brazil). He is on leave from the Brazilian Ministério Público, where Daniel has worked since 2000 as an attorney overseeing state policy. During his career as an attorney, he has litigated high-profile cases, testified before the Brazilian Congress as a legal expert, and authored federal and state bills – predominantly of environmental law. He also worked as a legal intern at the Natural Resources Defense Council in California, working on legal and policy research. Daniel holds a BA in Law from UCAM (Rio de Janeiro) and an LL.M., cum laude, from Duke Law.
Ellen Song
Ellen Song is a PhD candidate in the English Department, where she studies contemporary American fiction and “post-race” aesthetics. In particular, she is interested in the ways in which contemporary novels make sense of the shifting social categories in the current moment, a period marked by tremendous flux not only along national boundaries, but among other identity markers, such as race and gender. In her work, she seeks to reconcile seemingly conflicting principles: that racial categories exist and order the lives of individuals and groups, but that these categories are nonetheless fluid. Her overriding questions are: How does narrative reproduce, manipulate, and understand existent racial structures? How might novels present us with generative possibilities for new types of social categorizations?
Juan Tellez
Juan Tellez is a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science, specializing in the study of security, peace, and conflict. He has two broad areas of research, the first focusing on understanding strategic interactions between civilians and armed actors in subnational conflicts and the second analyzing patterns of interstate conflict and cooperation. His dissertation work examines the role of misinformation and identity in the public polarization that typically takes root in subnational conflict negotiations.

Isak Tranvik
Isak Tranvik is a PhD student in the Department of Political Science, specializing in political theory. His research examines legitimate opposition in democratic political communities. More specifically, he explores the role of dissent, including but not limited to traditional forms of civil disobedience, in modern democracies. Isak is originally from Minneapolis and received his B.A. from St. Olaf College. Prior to enrolling at Duke, he taught middle school math in St. Louis and Quito, Ecuador.
Marvin Wickware
Marvin E. Wickware, Jr. is a fifth year PhD student in the Graduate Program in Religion. His work brings together Christian theologies and critical theories to look into love of the enemy in relation to U.S. American racial reconciliation. Primarily, he draws on liberation theologies and affect theory to explore the role feelings play in shaping and constraining notions of enemy, love, and the love of one’s enemy, particularly among Christians. Marvin received a BA in Philosophy from Duke University and an MDiv from Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York.