Each year, 15 Kenan Graduate Fellows are selected to be part of an inter-disciplinary research community focused on significant normative questions. The fellows meet through the year in order to enhance everyone’s ability to contribute to debates involving ethical issues, and to do so in ways that engage scholars and others within and outside of their own academic disciplines. Professor Wayne Norman, who directs the Graduate Fellows program, notes that “This year’s Fellows will face a double challenge. They were all selected because they are tackling timely and complicated questions in their dissertations: political polarization, racial inequality, urban housing, incarceration, and sources of bias in moral reasoning from neuroscience and history — and they are doing all this in the midst of a global pandemic. Together we will try to piece together an academic community with Zoom, Slack, social distancing, pop-up session outdoors, and maybe even a little duct tape here and there!”
Some students, from disciplines such as philosophy, political theory, or theology, focus directly on fundamental ethical or political concepts and theories. Other fellows, from the sciences and social sciences, try to understand phenomena that are relevant to major, and often controversial, public policy debates. Still others attempt to resolve debates in their areas of research that seem to be sustained by long-standing disagreements over both empirical claims and ethical or ideological commitments.
Read more about the Kenan Graduate Fellowship.
Read the Kenan Graduate Fellows blogs.
Allison Raven is a PhD candidate in history focusing on the intersections of race and education in the twentieth century United States. Her dissertation, “Separate but Equitable: Race, Liberalism, and Abandoning Desegregation in Austin, Texas” examines the end of public school desegregation programs and the shift to frame education as “equitable” rather than “equal.” Allison holds a B.A. in History from Rice University and worked as a middle school teacher in Houston, Texas prior to beginning her graduate work at Duke.
Arvind is a Ph.D Candidate in Political Science at Duke University in the Political Behavior and Race and Ethnic Politics subfields. He received his B.A. in Political Science with honors and distinction from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is a co-author of the Oxford University Press Book Deadly Justice: A Statistical Portrait of the Death Penalty and his research also appears in the Duke Journal of Constitutional Law and Public Policy, and The Wake Forest Law Review. This work fits within his broader research agenda, where he study the politics of criminal justice in America, focusing on questions of racial inequality and institutional design using causal inference methods.
Elizabeth Brown is a fourth year Ph.D candidate in art history working under the advisement of Dr. Kristine Stiles, France Family Distinguished Professor of Art, Art History & Visual Studies. She studies contemporary art and visual culture in the United States. Her dissertation explores artist Theaster Gates’ social and architectural collaborations and interventions, particularly his non-profit ReBuild Foundation, established in 2010, which is an extension of his Chicago-based studio practice in all media.
She received her B.A. in Art History from Manhattanville College, New York. She completed her M.A. in Art History from Hunter College, New York. There she wrote her master’s thesis on the disorienting late eighties and early nineties installations of L.A.-based artist Mike Kelley (1954-2012) and New York-based artist Cady Noland, focusing on the contradictions and hypocrisies of American culture, which their art brought to light. Before entering the doctoral program at Duke, she held positions at the Guggenheim Museum and The Studio Museum in Harlem in New York.
Gabriella (Gabby) Levi is a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science with interests in both comparative politics and international relations. Her research concerns public attitudes toward various forms of political violence. Her dissertation focuses on how armed group violence against civilians, governance, and ideology shape civilian support for armed actors in civil conflict. She grew up in Massachusetts and has a bachelor's degree from Columbia University.
Hannah Read is a PhD candidate in Philosophy at Duke. Before Duke, she completed her MA in Philosophy at Tufts and her BA in Philosophy and Literary Studies at The New School. Her work falls primarily within moral philosophy and moral psychology. She has additional interests in social and political philosophy, feminist philosophy, and the philosophy of education. She is currently working on questions concerning the role of empathy and perspective taking in the moral life.
Jared is a PhD Candidate in Political Science studying the political dynamics of contemporary antiracist behavior. More specifically, his dissertation attempts to offer an empirical account of how antiracism operates under racial capitalism, focusing specifically on the ways in which the neoliberal order conditions antiracist behaviors among white Americans who classify themselves as “progressive” Democrats. In so doing, he attempts to situate the concept of antiracism in political economic, rather than attitudinal terms. Jared received his BA in Political Science from Louisiana State University, and his MA in Elections and Campaign Management from Fordham University.
Jasmine Smith is a Ph.D. candidate in political science. Her dissertation focuses on Black political behavior and political polarization. In her work she tries to add more nuance to Black voting behavior by explaining how Black voters decide between candidates in Democratic primary elections. She holds a BA in political science from Indiana University. Her work, “Linked Fate Over Time and Across Generations” has been featured in Politics, Groups and Identities.
Jessica Covil is a PhD Candidate in English at Duke, pursuing graduate certificates in African & African American Studies and Gender, Sexuality, & Feminist Studies. Her work explores myth, motherhood, and feminist praxis in contemporary works--especially those that center care and create more just ways of being through poetic "openings." A poet herself, she enjoys reading at local open mics, and her poems have been published in SWWIM Every Day, What Rough Beast, Whale Road Review, Rise Up Review, The Maynard, and One Hand Clapping.
Kevin Kiley is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Sociology with interests in culture, quantitative methods, and social theory. His research focuses on developing tools to measure culture and adjudicating theories of attitude and behavior change over the life course. In particular, he studies the social and cultural forces that lead to attitude stability over time, as well as how attitudes relate to each other. He has an MA from the University of Chicago and a BA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Leon Li is a fourth-year graduate student in Psychology and Neuroscience working in the Tomasello Lab. Before attending Duke, Leon completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Maryland, where he conducted research on language and moral development. For his dissertation research at Duke, he is excited to continue investigating these two topics as well as their intersections, such as how people construct and enact forms of morality using language or how children engage in moral reasoning with other people.
Meghan Woolley is a Ph.D. candidate in the History Department at Duke University. Her research examines the role of emotions in the early Common Law in twelfth- and thirteenth-century England. Her dissertation explores how cultural norms about emotions shaped how people navigated legal cases, reflecting on the relationship between law and social practice. She is also interested in the ethical implications of how society values (or devalues) emotions. Meghan received a B.A .from Hamilton College and an M.Litt. from the University of St Andrews.
Sarah Jobe teaches, studies, and ministers at the intersection of prisons, Practical Theology, and Biblical Studies. She is particularly interested in the theologies that emerge from within incarcerated life and the theologies that support mass incarceration from the outside. Utilizing Christian theology, black feminist theory, collaborative ethnography, biblical studies, clinical psychology, trauma studies, gender studies, and queer theory, Jobe seeks bodied forms of thinking that have the power to fuel just and liberating practices. As an ordained Baptist minister, Jobe serves as a chaplain at North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women. She also works with Duke Divinity School's Prison Studies Program. Her work appears in Religions, The Journal of Reformed Theology, Teaching Theology and Religion, Sojourners, and Christian Century, and she is the author of Creating with God: The Holy, Confusing Blessedness of Pregnancy. Her current dissertation project is entitled (Ad)ministering God's Yes in a World of No: A Practical Theology of Prison Chaplaincy.
Somia Youssef is a PhD candidate in political science, with research interests in comparative political theory and philosophy, the history of political thought, and contemporary democratic theory. Her academic work examines asymmetrical power relationships between political actors, focusing on the ethical and political challenges of bridging theory and practice. How can individuals and groups live and work together meaningfully under actual conditions of uncertainty? Her dissertation seeks to understand group dynamics in Ibn Khaldun’s political theory. Somia grew up in North Carolina after immigrating with her family from Egypt. She holds a BA in political science and a BA in foreign languages, Arabic language and culture, from North Carolina State University.
Tara Jean Weese
Tara Jean Weese is currently a Ph.D. student in the Duke University Philosophy department and a J.D.-L.L.M. (International and Comparative Law) student at Duke Law. Tara's research interests are primarily in political and legal philosophy. More specifically, she is interested in victims' issues and victims' rights, the role of the adversarial system in determining the role of victims, victims of human rights abuses and international criminal law, and feminist philosophy pertaining to sexual assault. She also has an interest in restorative justice, reparations, and nonconventional methods of dispute resolution for serious harms.