Oct 022017
 October 2, 2017  Posted by  Tagged with:

There are benefits to being a stranger, because you see things differently from people who have been in that space for a while. The more time you spend in that space, the less you see things from [an] outside [perspective].
– Duke President Vincent Price

Vincent Price on the Team Kenan Couch.

Duke President Vincent Price speaks with Duke students about the challenges being an individual within a community, on the Team Kenan Couch.

This past week, Team Kenan’s ongoing Couch program partnered with Me Too Monologues, an annual performance of Duke students’ “intimate, personal experiences and explore narratives [on the topic of identity,] that would otherwise be silenced on campus.” Team Kenan set up the Couch on the BC Plaza to engage in dialogue with more than 100 Duke students, faculty and staff, over three days about their experiences with and thoughts on individuality and group identity within Duke’s campus culture; how tensions between curation of identity and authenticity, active and passive identity markers, and cohesion and diversity shape our community.

While many students spoke about a pervasive sense of pressure to keep their heads down and blend in, whether it stems from cultural background… “It would be easier to not be a person of color at Duke. But I’m not sure I would change it, if I could,” or the impact of ‘Effortless Perfection’: “I don’t talk about my shit to other people because Duke is stressful enough…”

Although 92% percent of the students who took part in the Couch conversations said that they had altered their personality, at some point during their time at Duke, in order to fit in, some lamented how Duke undergraduates “define themselves mostly by what they’re planning on majoring in, or the groups they’re involved with” and how easy it is to reduce their peers to broad generalizations “I don’t want to reduce people to their organization or Greek affiliation, but it’s low-hanging fruit of what to talk about,” all of which reduce our ability to empathize with others and detrimentally impact our decision making. Two-thirds of students we asked, said they felt they had no control over how others perceive them.

Conversations included how communities and environments affect us in ways that we don’t recognize until we’ve left them, “I had always thought of myself as Indian and not Indian-American, until I came here and went abroad,” while another, reflecting on her new viewpoint on adulthood, worried, “I feel like I’m turning into my mother.”

After some time spent deep in conversation on the Couch with Team Kenan, one student, echoing President Price, affirmed that the difficulty balancing of perspectives is vital to navigating life, “I think to live a full and meaningful life, you need [to affirm your identity and fit in with others]… If you don’t do either well, college is the best place to practice both.”

Jun 202017
 June 20, 2017  Posted by

The Kenan Institute for Ethics has opened a new library space as a resource for the Duke community.

Found in 102 West Duke Building, the library features more than 900 works of fiction and non-fiction, including published selections from all faculty affiliated with Kenan, selections from staff Ethics Books Clubs from across campus, as well as other scholars and writers. The library is named in honor of Robert and Sara Pickus, the parents of Noah Pickus, who served as Kenan’s director from 2007 to 2017.

Students, faculty and staff are encouraged to come by the Institute and visit the library. Beginning in the fall semester, books can be checked out by Duke community members. A searchable list of books can be found on the library’s webpage.

Along with books written by faculty, the library also includes a collection of books published as the capstone project for Kenan’s Ethics Certificate Program. The most recent release, “Gross! Ethical Issues Surrounding Disgust,” included chapters written by nine students and co-edited by Professor Walter Sinnott-Armstrong and recent graduate Sophie Katz. Previous Ethics Certificate publications explored drugs and addiction, crime and punishment, war and terrorism, and moral and political disagreement.

Have an ethics-focused non-fiction or fiction book you’d like to recommend for the library? Email kie@duke.edu.



May 172017
 May 17, 2017  Posted by

The Kenan Institute for Ethics has highlighted a trio of recently graduated seniors as part of its “Profiles in Purpose” series, which shares the stories of Kenan students and key touchstones on their journeys to meaningful life and work. Click the images below to learn more about each student and how their interests, studies and experiences have come together with the help of the Kenan Institute to create a positive impact on themselves and those around them.


In addition to recent graduates, learn more about rising senior Catherine Ward in this profile.

Apr 112017
 April 11, 2017  Posted by  Tagged with:

The Kenan Institute for Ethics has now made it easier to explore complex ethical questions wherever you go.

In coordination with Team Kenan, the Institute has launched a new podcast, Audible Ethics. Hosted by Duke sophomore David Wohlever Sánchez, episodes will explore areas of science, politics, psychology and more, with help of scholars and thought leaders at Duke and beyond. The podcast is available now through iTunes.

In its first episode, Audible Ethics chats with Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, the Chauncey Stillman Professor in Practical Ethics in the Department of Philosophy and the Kenan Institute for Ethics, to talk about the future of artificial intelligence. Upcoming conversations include David Toole, a Senior Fellow with the Kenan Institute for Ethics and Senior Research Fellow at Duke Divinity School and Arts & Sciences, and Barry Lam, a Humanities-Writ Large Fellow visiting with Kenan as part of work with Sinnott-Armstrong.

In a recent recording, Wohlever Sánchez spoke with John Hood and Leslie Winner, two North Carolina political leaders visiting campus as Kenan Practitioners-in-Residence.

Get a behind-the-scenes look at Audible Ethics with Wohlever Sánchez in the video below and subscribe to the podcast here.

Apr 032017
 April 3, 2017  Posted by

From now through April 14, visitors to the West Duke Building are encouraged to take part in a unique art installation posted by Team Kenan and the Kenan Institute for Ethics. The “Make Your Mark” exhibit features a series of hanging canvases where students, faculty and staff can draw images and shapes as a way to explore the ethical and artistic expression of graffiti.

While early versions of American graffiti focused on “drinking, defecating and politicking,” during the 1950s 1960s, it became associated with a powerful youth subculture that rejected the values and laws on mainstream society, developing its own language, aesthetic, and cultural values. In their own way, Duke community members can explore these ideas through the temporary installation.

To get involved, ask for markers in Room 102.

On March 31, local artist Adair Jones kicked off the “Make Your Mark” exhibit with her own creation, seen in the timelapse video below.

Mar 092017
 March 9, 2017  Posted by

Bryce Cracknell, a junior who has participated in the Kenan Institute for Ethics’ DukeImmerse program, Pathways to Change and serves as a Kenan research assistant, recently traveled with several Duke classmates to Atlanta to take part in the Feb. 16 “Climate & Health Meeting” national conference to address climate change.

Cracknell, who is majoring in public policy with a concentration in race and poverty and a minor in environmental science and policy, has spent his three years at Duke researching aspects of sustainability and human rights. In addition to participating in Kenan programming, he has performed research with Catherine Coleman Flowers, director of the Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise and a practitioner-in-residents with the Duke Human Rights Center @ the Franklin Humanities Institute. Flowers acted as a panelist at the Climate and Health Meeting, and extended an invitation to Cracknell t attend.

At the conference, Cracknell spent the day meeting with policy makers and thought leaders in public service and higher education. “We heard a lot about how it’s important to make health a larger component of climate change,” he said. “Making humans the face of climate change instead of only polar bears and penguins.”

During his time at the conference, Cracknell had the chance to meet former vice president Al Gore, former president Jimmy Carter and hear from European Union leaders who presented on best practices of monitoring climate change and data collection.

The topics were of particular interest to Cracknell. In August 2015, he spent time as part of a team with Flowers in Lowndes County, Alabama, where he worked to conduct surveys with local community members about their access to wastewater infrastructure.

“We can look for ways to create policy solutions for rural communities around us with infrastructure, clean water, wastewater and even coal ash here in North Carolina,” he said.

Feb 142017
 February 14, 2017  Posted by  Tagged with:

What is Good Art? 2017The Kenan Institute for Ethics has extended the deadline for this year’s “What Is Good Art?” exhibition to allow students additional time to enter projects that explore how we should live, the role that art plays in our lives and its impact on how we see the world.

To allow for additional entries, Kenan has extended the submission deadline until 11:59 p.m. Feb. 21.

This year’s theme is “What Were You Thinking?” and is is open to all current Duke students. Selected artwork will  be displayed in the Keohane-Kenan gallery in the West Duke Building. Crash prizes are also available.

What Is Good Art? is sponsored by Team Kenan, the student branch of the Kenan Institute for Ethics. Submission guidelines, information about the prizes, and more can be found on the exhibition website.

Jan 232017
 January 23, 2017  Posted by  Tagged with: ,

wiga_gray_400-01Each spring, Team Kenan holds the WIGA competition around a different theme. Duke University students are encouraged to submit entries to compete for four prizes, and have their work displayed in a collective exhibition in the Keohane Kenan Gallery of the West Duke Building. A distinguished panel of experts in art and/or ethics convene to select pieces for display. All Duke students are invited to submit works in any medium for the spring contest and exhibition around the theme of “What Were You Thinking?.”

As always, the WIGA theme is intentionally broad and open to many interpretations.


  • First Prize: $500
  • Second Prize: $300
  • Third Prize: $100
  • Gallery Choice Prize: $100

How to submit:

  • Download the submission guidelines and submit with a digital photo or video of your work.
  • If you have any questions, please email dan.smith@duke.edu.
  • Submissions will be due on Tuesday, February 21st by 11:59:59pm EST. The exhibition opening and prize announcement will be scheduled for mid-March.
  • Submit your artwork!

Sep 072016
 September 7, 2016  Posted by

Team-Kenan-ColorUndergraduates, are you interested in joining the Kenan Institute for Ethics’ group of highly motivated students who want to plan and implement programming to increase ethical dialog across campus? Join Team Kenan and be part of the Institute’s larger community of students, faculty, and visiting practitioners, and get in on the ground floor of guerilla ethics like Ethics Couch, the WIGA art prize and exhibition, and more!

Those interested should contact Dan Smith, dan.smith@duke.edu.

Jul 082016
 July 8, 2016  Posted by

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!