Kenan Purpose Program


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The Kenan Purpose Program helps students forge purposeful paths beyond graduation.

Open to Duke sophomores and juniors, the program combines rigorous reflection, insights on meaningful work, and opportunities for mentored, funded internships. You will understand your place in the world better, building a stronger sense of not only where to go from here but why.

If you are starting to think seriously about your life post-Duke and haven’t quite figured it all out yet, this is for you. If you think you know what’s next but want help focusing your plan, this is for you, too.

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Pursuit of Purpose Course

A one-credit interdisciplinary course designed to hone students’ personal sense of purpose, situate that ethos in the contemporary world of work, and provide practical steps for moving forward. In each seminar students will encounter enduring questions about what makes a life significant. The course then examines some of the broad social forces that structure professional and personal life, giving students purchase on what to expect as they move beyond the university. Finally, through guided reflection and practice, students will develop skills to better identify the work that they both love and matters beyond themselves.

The course, ETHICS 253S, carries Seminar, Ethical Inquiry, and Social Sciences course requirements.

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Mentored Summer Internships

Students who complete the Pursuit of Purpose course are eligible for continued support through fellowships that support career exploration via internships. Each summer internship cohort will regularly “meet” via group videoconference over the course of the summer to reflect and process as a group. Since financial concerns sometimes make it harder for students to explore paths of interest, fellows receive a $4,000 award. The program will curate some possible opportunities, but students are encouraged to find their own option.

Chris Caffrey is a rising junior and history major from Greensboro, North Carolina. Chris is very interested in social justice, and he is keen to discern the best way for him to make a difference. His interest in law took him to the Guilford County Public Defender’s Office last summer, and he will be back in a similar position this summer.

Miriam Levitin is a rising junior Psychology major from Manhasset, New York. Miriam is deeply involved with gender violence prevention work at Duke, and she is spending this summer in New York City working at Legal Momentum, a women’s legal advocacy nonprofit.

Arbre’ya Lewis is a rising junior from Florence, South Carolina whose Program II major is Visualizing Medicine: The Role of the Media in Healthcare Communications. After considering a pre-med track, she has determined that improving communications in medicine is the best way for her to improve healthcare in America. She will be interning with Largemouth PR in Raleigh, which specializes in healthcare public relations.

Ellen Mahoney is a rising senior majoring in History from Mansfield, Massachusetts. Ellen is considering a career in law, possibly focused on workplace issues impacting women. This summer she is interning at the Office of Public Interest Advising at Harvard Law School.

Snehan Sharma is a rising senior majoring in History from Grayson, Georgia. Snehan is driven to make societies more just and open. In past summers, he has explored the dynamics of integrating immigrants into a city in the Atlanta exurbs and worked for fairer housing in Durham. This summer, he will be working with the Massachusetts and Immigrant Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA) in Boston.

Alexandra Viqueira is a rising junior majoring in International Comparative Studies and Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, with an Arabic minor. Originally from Maplewood, New Jersey, Alex spent last summer in Jordan and has been committed to going back ever since. She will be interning with the Al-Hayat Center for Civil Society Development in Amman, Jordan this summer.

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Fall Symposium

Upon returning to campus, Summer Internship recipients will share their experiences with the Duke community at an event in the fall. Participants will reflect on their own journeys, share wisdom gained along the way, and help challenge the campus to think seriously about purpose.

To apply for space in one of the spring Pursuit of Purpose seminars click here, or for more information contact Christian Ferney.