Kenan Moral Purpose Award Benner

What role does a liberal arts education play in creating a full life? Duke senior Kimberly Perez and UNC-Chapel Hill senior Adesh Ranganna provide answers in their Kenan Moral Purpose Award-winning essays, given to the best student papers on the topic from the two schools. In her essay, “Knowledge is Power,” Perez reflected on how her coursework at Duke led her to both dig deeper into and reconsider questions of faith and religious belonging. Ranganna used his essay, “What Ignorance Reveals,” to explore how studying Rawls’ philosophy of justice changed his perspective on what makes public health interventions just and fair.

Kimberly Perez, T’19 (Major in International Comparative Studies with Minors in Chemistry and Global Health), “Knowledge is Power

Adesh Ranganna, UNC ’19 (Majors in Nutrition and Public Policy with a Minor in Chemistry), “What Ignorance Reveals

The annual Kenan Moral Purpose Award is given for the best undergraduate student essay on the role a liberal arts education plays in students’ exploration of the personal and social purposes by which to orient their future and the intellectual, emotional, and moral commitments that make for a full life. Established in honor of the Institute’s 15th anniversary at Duke and subsequently expanded, the award represents a partnership with the Parr Center for Ethics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, with one winner selected from each school. 


2018 Award Winners

The winners of the 2018 Kenan Moral Purpose Award essay competition are Catherine Ward (Duke) and Keegan Barnes (UNC). Catherine (T’18) is a resident of New Bern and will graduate with an English major, an Education minor, and a certificate in Ethics & Society. Keegan (’19) is a Durham native double-majoring in Physics and Philosophy.
“Duke has given me opportunities to see the world and study oppression occurring at home and abroad…We need to take the time, after problematizing everything, to build things back up.”  — Catherine Ward, Duke ’18
“If we were both settled in our views, why spend the time engaging at all? …I pieced together why I found such meaning in these discussions. Usually, they weren’t centered on what, but how… Morality, which we both took so seriously, was somewhat of a bridge between our two very different world views.”  — Keegan Barnes, UNC ’19
Read their 2018 winning essays:
Catherine Ward (Duke ’18): “Building It Back Up” and Keegan Barnes (UNC ’19): “Plastic Pitchfork

Meet the 2019 Kenan Summer Fellows


Kenan Summer Fellows

Congratulations to the 2019 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? A Summer Fellow might 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 exhibition. Summer experiences can and do provide a thoughtful, novel perspective of how to live an ethical life.

Read the Kenan Summer Fellows blogs


Noah Breuss-Burgess

Noah Breuss-Burgess Kenan Summer Fellow


Noah is a first-year undergraduate from London, currently undecided but interested in majoring in ICS and Religious Studies, with a certificate in Documentary Studies. I am an active member in my campus ministry, Every Nation Campus, a keen participant in Crux Conversations, and write for FORM Magazine. He will explore what it means to live the Christian ethical life, and specifically how the Christian notion of absolute Truth interacts with an increasingly secular world – i.e. how do Christians approach their responsibility to share Truth with others? He will explore this question through engaging with the core beliefs, practices and experiences of various Christian communities in North Carolina and London, UK.



Alex Johnson

Alex Johnson Kenan Summer Fellow

Alex is a sophomore studying Public Policy and French. She loves reading and baby goats. She is researching best practices for reporters to ethically interview vulnerable populations. She will be coming up with guidelines for these practices and interviewing refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo to show that ethical reporting can also be interesting. 


Anna Kasradze

Anna Kasradze Kenan Summer Fellow

Anna Kasradze is a Georgian-American sophomore from Houston, Texas. She studies literature and Russian, and is especially interested in literature’s construction and deconstruction of the mentally ill subject. Her project explores how works by Nikolai Gogol and Daniil Kharms subvert the psychiatric case history and propose alternative paradigms for madness. She hopes to better understand how Russian literature engaged with the ethics of psychiatric practice in Tsarist Russia and the advent of psychoanalysis. Her faculty mentor is Carol Apollonio and her project is based in Moscow, Russia.

Lucas Lynn

Lucas Lynnn Kenan Summer Fellow

Lucas is a Trinity freshman from Wetumpka, Alabama pursuing a Program II major consisting of cultural anthropology, statistical science, and mechanical engineering geared towards mixed-methods problem solving. On campus, he is a member of Air Force ROTC, marching band, basketball pep band, and Spire Fellows. He will be staying at and conducting miniature ethnographies of three homeless communities and six tiny-home homeless communities across the United States. Through interviews and observations, he will examine the successes and pitfalls of these communities while he tries to define what home truly is for American homeless communities.

Taylor Plett

Taylor Plett Kenan Summer Fellow

Taylor is a rising junior from southern California studying English, documentary, and public policy. At Duke, she focuses on impactful storytelling through a variety of artistic mediums, with particular emphasis on communicating the human stories at the heart of environmental issues. Her project will take her to Stockholm, Brussels, and Zurich, where she’ll interview the young activists of the school strikes for climate change as modeled by Greta Thunberg. Beyond investigating the why and how of these large-scale, student-led strikes spreading across borders, Taylor hopes to illustrate the distinct experience of being an aware but politically powerless child facing the apocalyptic outcomes of the climate crisis.

Audrey Vila

Audrey Vila Kenan Summer Fellow

Audrey is a rising junior studying Public Policy and History. She is originally from Seattle, and she loves to travel and explore places around the globe to learn about other cultures. Her project is a comparative study of Durham, Seattle, and Brooklyn to engage with community members affected by gentrification and displacement while analyzing policy within the greater context of local racial history. She seeks to find and help preserve the displaced community strength and culture that is often overlooked in the primary narrative of gentrification. Through interviews, community members are given the opportunities to share their stories, ones that have too often been silenced and ignored, and the interactions with policymakers, activists, and journalists are an effort to promote change through the lived experience of those closest to the issues.

Facing the Anthropocene Farm Fellow, Summer 2019: Call for Applications

For the 2019 summer term, we are offering two fellowships in collaboration with the Duke Campus Farm. The fellowships are open to Duke graduate students from any school or division.

The Farm Fellows will work alongside farm faculty, staff, and interns and will engage in archival and/or field research. In some capacity, projects must engage the farm site or, where appropriate, the surrounding region. This engagement is open to any number of (inter)disciplinary approaches. For example, fellows may focus on the Farm’s history and the history of the surrounding area, native cultivation of the land, enslaved labor at and around the site, the nineteenth-century tobacco boom, environmental justice and land justice, sustainable agriculture past or present, food systems, the question of what sort of historical memory must inform future land use, etc.

Fellows will receive a stipend of $5000. They are expected to attend a dinner with other fellows early in the summer term, to publish a piece on their research on the project website and on the Duke Campus Farm website, and to give a 15 minute presentation in the 2019 fall term on how their work at the Farm has affected their research projects at Duke.

To apply, please send a 1-2 page c.v. and a completed application (see questions below) to saskia.cornes@duke.edu (subject line “Anthropocene Farm Fellows”), no later than April 8, 2019.

For further information and to see the work of past fellows, click here or contact mari.jorstad@duke.edu.

Application: Facing the Anthropocene Farm Fellow, Summer 2019
Your Name:
Your Department/Program:
Which year will you be entering in Fall 2019?:
Please answer the following questions in a short paragraph:

  1. What is the topic of your current research project? How does this fellowship relate to or further your current or future research?
  2. What experience do you have in archival and field research?
  3. Describe how your project will put this particular landscape in conversation with Anthropocene concerns. How might you use the Farm or its surrounds as a text, archive or pedagogy?
  4. How will you make use of the farm site or its surrounds in your project?
  5. What do you hope to get out of this fellowship?

Facing the Anthropocene Graduate Research Grant: Call for Submissions

For the 2019 summer term, we are offering three research grants, open to Duke doctoral students who seek to incorporate the anthropocene into their research. The ideal candidate is pre- or early dissertation stage.

Grant recipients will receive a stipend of $6000. They are expected to attend a dinner with other fellows early in the summer term, to publish a piece on how the anthropocene influences their research on the project website, and to give a 15 minutes presentation in the 2019 fall term on how investigations of anthropocene themes have affected their work and future research plans.

To apply, please send a 1-2 page c.v. and a completed application form to mari.jorstad@duke.edu (subject line “Anthropocene Graduate Research Grant”), no later than March 20, 2019.

For further information and to apply, email mari.jorstad@duke.edu.

Application: Facing the Anthropocene Graduate Research Grant, Summer 2019

Your Name:
Your Department/Program:
Which year will you be entering in Fall 2019?:
Please answer the following questions in a sentence or short paragraph:

  1. What is the topic of your current research project? How do you imagine incorporating the anthropocene?
  2. In your opinion, in what ways (if any) does the anthropocene push your particular discipline to rethink key questions and methodologies?

Opportunity to join Bass Connections’ project examining sexual misconduct on campus!

Sexual misconduct is disturbingly common in society, specifically relevant on university campuses throughout the country.  While there are many educational and training programs, it appears that they fail to make a difference in reducing sexual misconduct. 

Little research has attempted to systematically examine these trainings and interventions, leaving us with scant knowledge as to which training method and/or other forms of interventions may be effective in addressing this issue.

This Bass Connections project is a part of a larger endeavor to examine these questions and systematically test effective ways of intervening to prevent sexual harassment and assault on campus.

During the spring semester we will focus on collecting data to assist us in better understanding the causes and processes involved in sexual misconduct at Duke and will work to design a variety of interventions and conduct small scale testing of them.

This Bass Connections project will be continuing next year, focusing on larger scale implementation based on the results of the work during the Spring semester.

We are looking for students from different disciplines, who are interested in the issue and have some research background (preferably in social science). Preference will be given to students who will be able to continue to the next academic year (2019-2020).

This can be taken as a course for credit (research independent study) and meets weekly on Wednesday between 6-8pm.

More information can be found on the project’s webpage:

Please send your CV and a short paragraph explaining your interest in the project to Moran Anisman-Razin: moran.anisman.razin@duke.edu.

Deadline for applications: Sunday 1/13

Walter Sinnott-Armstrong: What we can do to Reduce Polarization and Extremism

Chauncey Stillman Professor of Practical Ethics Walter Sinnott-Armstrong recently penned an essay in Aeon. Following up on some of the points he put forward in his most recent book Think Again: How to Reason and Argue, he talks about how easy it is to develop extremist points of views and hide in echo chambers and provides four steps in combating political polarization.