Kenan Summer Fellows

What does it mean to live an ethical life?

Kenan Summer Fellows spend a summer exploring—in a variety of ways—the answers to the question: What does it mean to live an ethical life? How? Design a project at home or abroad; implement a community based intervention; compose a musical; volunteer with an NGO; write a play; or curate an art exhibit. As long as it provides a thoughtful, novel perspective of how to live an ethical life, it fits. Between five and six fellows will receive up to $5,000 and their faculty mentors will receive $500 to support their project.

Research Journals

You can read about the experiences of the Summer Fellows as their projects take shape. Read all of the 2012 research journals reflections from our 2013 Fellows, and the most recent posts from our 2014 Fellows.


QUESTIONS to explore might include, but are not limited to:

  • What is the place of integrity, sincerity, or steadfast truthfulness, in living an ethical life?
  • What are the qualities of character required to live an ethical life?
  • Does engaging in politics require compromising one’s ethical principles?
  • How do institutions nurture or impede people’s ability to lead more ethical lives?
  • What roles do or should normative principles play in shaping a specific public policy issue?
  • How should we define and balance our obligations of justice and care to fellow citizens, immigrants and refugees, human beings across the globe, and the injustices of the past?

Please contact Suzanne Shanahan with any questions.


  • Spend eight consecutive weeks between mid-May and mid-August, 2015 exclusively on the project.
  • Provide weekly updates, questions, and concerns to their faculty mentor.
  • Write weekly reflections on their experience that will be published on the KIE website.
  • Submit a five page final report critically examining their project.
  • Present their projects at a symposium in Fall 2015.


  • The Program is open to Duke undergraduates who are in their first or second year of study at the time of application; preference given to Ethics Certificate program students.
  • Student with ALL backgrounds, experience and interests are encouraged to apply. 

Application Information

  • Applicants must submit a three-page proposal  (12 point Times Roman maximum) outlining their summer project.  Proposals should include what they mean by living an ethical life, a detailed explanation of the project and how it addresses the issue of living an ethical life, the overall project significance, in what ways they are prepared for this project, dates of project and a detailed budget.
  • Proposals must include a cover page indicating the student’s graduation year and project title.
  • Applicants must have their faculty mentor write a one-page reference (maximum) indicating the faculty member’s willingness to mentor the project as well as the applicants preparedness and likelihood of successfully completing the project. This letter should also include a plan for interaction over the summer.
  • DEADLINE Applications are due February 13th at midnight.  Applications must be hand delivered to the front desk of the Kenan Institute (102 West Duke Building) with the faculty member’s letter in a sealed/signed envelope. No late applications or separate references accepted. 

2014 Summer Fellows

Lara Haft is a rising sophomore from Rockville, Maryland majoring in Political Science and Economics. She is interested in studying the intersections of race, gender, and wealth in American politics and enjoys writing and performing Spoken Word poetry.

Lara will be spending the summer crafting a portfolio of spoken-word poetry that explores the ethics of recounting stories of oppression, especially from a peripheral, advantaged perspective. She will spend time in Birmingham, Alabama and Cape Town, South Africa, interviewing of older women about their respective experiences before, during, and after the American Civil Rights Movement and the end of South African Apartheid. Her poetry will explore the themes of these conversations, as well as on the ethical challenges of sharing stories from an outsider’s position.

Caroline Horrow is a rising junior from Florida majoring in biomedical engineering, with a certificate in genome science & policy and a minor in global health. Her interests include Duke basketball, SNL, music, and crafting.

Caroline’s research focuses on the ethical training of service groups volunteering abroad. Her project will follow service groups in Uganda and explore how effectively they are trained, and how well that training translates into awareness and implementation.

Read about our past fellows:

2013 Summer Fellows

Christine Delp is a sophomore pursuing a major in Program II: Ethics and Visual Documentary Studies. She enjoys filmmaking, traveling, and coffee.

Christine’s project uses visual documentary methods to explore the effects of globalization on the indigenous Inuit population in Greenland. As climate change drastically alters the traditional cultural, economic, and environmental landscapes of Greenland, the Greenlandic people face crucial ethical decisions about the future of their nation, including whether to allow foreign mining industries to begin excavating potentially billions of dollars worth in minerals beneath the melting ice. Christine’s project will examine both the ethics of these issues and the ethical decision-making process of a population whose entire way of life is on the brink of radical change.

Cece Mercer is a sophomore from Ohio double majoring in Environmental Science and Public Policy. She is a Korean adoptee. Her favorite things to do include pie baking and studying outside while listening to Nat King Cole.

Cece will explore the evolving ethics of adoption in South Korea, its cultural basis, and the impact of Korean legislative attempts to eliminate international adoptions. More narrowly, she will focus on the ethics of a birth parent search in Korea and the implication birth parent-adoptee connections have on family dynamics.

2012 Summer Fellows

Seven Kenan Summer Fellows took part in the program’s inaugural season. They conducted research on three continents, examining everything from refugee communities in Boston to the ethics of vaccine development, and providing weekly updates throughout the summer on the Kenan Summer Fellows blog.

Sadhna Gupta (T’13): Politics and Religion in Refugee Resettlement in the US
Sadhna’s project developed from her experience with the 2012 Winter Forum. She examined how religion and politics affect the refugee resettlement process. Beginning with an analysis of the historical and political development of current US refugee resettlement policies that rely heavily on the work of faith-based organizations, she also examined what alternative models exist. She then turned her focus to the particular practices and viewpoints of resettlement organizations and refugees in the Boston area, and especially the relationship between Hindus and Christians at various points in the process. Her project addresses issues of responsibility, religious pluralism and tolerance, and the challenges of multi-culturalism. Faculty mentor: Katie Hyde (CDS/Education)

Mark Herzog (T’15): Ethical Duties in the Pharmaceutical Industry
Mark’s project was to map the ethical viewpoints and practices of various players in the pharmaceutical system regarding how incentives are currently used to create and distribute drugs, as well as other models (besides incentives) for encouraging the development and distribution of drugs. He particularly focused on a comparison between the approach and experiences of a not-for-profit vaccine developer in the RTP and the approach and experiences of the more common for-profit manufacturers. His project addresses issues of accountability, regulation, and social justice, and doesn’t expect to find any easy answers. Faculty mentor: Jason Cross (DGHI)

Gautam Joseph (T’13): Ethics of Humanitarian Aid in Cairo, Egypt
Gautam’s project developed from his experience participating in the 2012 Winter Forum. Through contacts he met at Winter Forum, Gautam has obtained an unpaid internship in Cairo, Egypt. Gautam’s project addressed two ethical issues. One raised a question that reflects on a general concern for how to determine what qualifies an undergraduate student to assist people in urgent need of effective and efficient assistance. The second ethical issue addressed by this project focused particularly on refugees and the ethical implications of the legal requirement that refugees tell and retell their stories to complete strangers in order to obtain resettlement. Faculty mentor: Catherine Admay (Sanford)

David Mayer (T’14): Grandfather’s Diary: Documenting a Life’s Search for Meaning
David’s project was to make a film investigating a diary written by his grandfather while living in Germany during WWII. He researched the diary by traveling to Germany and deepening his understanding of the life his grandfather recorded in his diaries before, during, and after his time spent in a German labor camp in the Harz Moutnains. David’s documentary project explored the ethical challenges faced by his grandfather and other family members during the Holocaust, but in the context of developing an understanding of how his grandfather defined an ethical life prior to as well as after the Holocaust. Faculty mentor: Gary Hawkins (CDS)

John McLean (T’13): Personal Computing and Christian Ethics
John explored the moral challenges of personal computing and social media use from a Christian perspective. How do ethically-minded Christian communities respond to rapid changes in technology? What would “a Christian ethic of personal computing” entail? John examined personal computing/mobile technology use in a variety of settings and forms, the potential constructive and destructive ways these technologies can be used, and how a Christian ethic can guide Christian communities in their responses to these possibilities. Faculty mentor: Adam Hollowell (Divinity/Public Policy)

Rosaria Nowhitney (T’15): Discovering Radical Hope at Kagoma Gate, Uganda
Rosie’s project took her to Uganda to explore the creation of a multi-ethnic/multi-national community by people who had all experienced violence either in Uganda or in their home countries of Rwanda, Sudan, the Congo, and Kenya. What does community mean in such a setting? What provides the foundation for trusting social relations among people who have a background of betrayal by close friends and neighbors? Currently living in extreme poverty and with few economic opportunities outside of work on a local sugar plantation, what, if anything, gives them a sense of purpose and hope for the future? Rosie draws on philosopher Jonathan Lear’s concept of “radical hope” to develop these questions. Faculty mentor: Suzanne Shanahan (KIE/Sociology)

Nyuol Tong (T’14): Leading an Ethical Life: The Moral Dilemmas of South Sudanese Americans
Nyuol’s project examined how South Sudanese Americans live an ethical life. How do they manage the tension between the ethical life defined by their Dinka heritage and the ethical life as defined by many Americans? For example, how to balance an ethic that would require sharing among one’s peers with an ethic that requires respect for private property? Nyuol’s project addressed ethical issues related to multiculturalism and moral development, as he is particularly interested in how South Sudanese American parents instruct their children in proper behavior. Faculty mentor: Charles Piot (Cultural Anthropology)