Grad Engage Fellows Announced

The Purpose Project at Duke is pleased to announce the inaugural cohort of the GradEngage Fellowship, which will provide an opportunity for Duke graduate and professional students to deepen a partnership with a North Carolina community or organization of their choosing during the winter break and spring semester.

The GradEngage fellows represent a wide range of departments and professional schools at Duke, and through their funded work, fellows will be able to explore the purpose of their graduate studies by making connections between pressing social issues and communities and organizations on the ground.

Unique Whitehurst, a Master of Science in Nursing student, said the fellowship will provide her with direct support in her mission to improve statistically projected negative health outcomes in underserved communities.

“A huge a barrier the Durham community faces in achieving optimal health is a lack of access to healthcare resources and poor health literacy,” she said. “My project addresses both of these facts, and with the help of GradEngage, I will be able to expand efforts aimed at eradicating these barriers.”

Throughout the course of the winter and spring, fellows will serve 100 hours virtually and will submit reflections about their work and experience over the course of the project.


Funded by a grant from The Duke Endowment, The Purpose Project at Duke is a multi-year, campus-wide initiative focused on integrating a focus on character, purpose, and vocation into undergraduate, graduate, and professional education. The initiative is hosted by the Kenan Institute for Ethics in collaboration with the Divinity School and the Office of Undergraduate Education.

Duke University Joseph Shatzmiller Fellowship in Jewish Studies

The Shatzmiller Graduate Fellows honor Emeritus Smart Professor Joseph Shatzmiller, who taught at Duke University from 1994 to 2010. Among his many publications, he is best known for Shylock Reconsidered: Jews, Moneylending, and Medieval Society and Jews, Medicine, and Medieval Society. Fellowships offer advanced graduate students the opportunity to engage with prominent national and international scholars in Jewish Studies visiting the seminar and to connect with the Jewish Studies faculty active in the seminar. Fellows receive a research stipend and a seminar session devoted to their work. The Shatzmiller Fellows are funded by the Duke Center for Jewish Studies.

Announcing the 20|20 Scholars

“It is one thing to say you want to do something and another to act on it,” said Allison Falls, a first-year student who said the work of the Black Lives Movement and the COVID-19 pandemic exposed long-established racial injustices that solidified her desire to work in the healthcare field. Falls is one of 16 first and second-year students selected for the 2020 Scholars Fellowship, a new year-long program sponsored by The Purpose Project at Duke that explores and engages the challenges of racial justice work that the events of 2020 have cast in such sharp relief.

Throughout the course of the year, the 16 scholars will participate in an 8-week intensive preparatory seminar series to gain foundational insights into the landscape of racial justice and into students’ location within that space; immerse themselves in a community-based project for racial justice through Duke Engage; and will participate in a fall course that builds upon and expands the spring and summer experiences to critically reimagine the future of work for racial justice.

“We are thrilled to launch this new fellowship and to work with students who are eager to think critically about race and its impact on the world in which we live,” said A.J. Walton, associate director of The Purpose Project, who co-directs the program with Ada Gregory, the associate director of the Kenan Institute for Ethics. “In engaging with each other and with practitioners and organizations doing racial justice work, we believe students’ sense of purpose and possibilities will deepen and, in that, will lead them to work towards a different kind of future, while at Duke and long after.”


Funded by a grant from The Duke Endowment, The Purpose Project at Duke is a multi-year, campus-wide initiative focused on integrating a focus on character, purpose, and vocation into undergraduate, graduate, and professional education. The initiative is hosted by the Kenan Institute for Ethics in collaboration with the Divinity School and the Office of Undergraduate Education.

Meet Team Kenan!

Team Kenan is a part of the Institute’s social and intellectual community, creating spaces for students, faculty, and Institute staff to think and talk about ethics outside of the classroom in fun and engaging ways. TK programs serve as a complement to the Institute’s curricular offerings, giving students who are interested in ethics additional opportunities to chat, think, and challenge one another and the wider Duke community. The team, made up of a diverse cross-section of Duke students, engages the Duke community through interviewing and informal conversations. Students conduct in-depth interviews with Duke students, faculty, and staff, as well as community members, on topics relevant to this time. They also host bi-weekly conversations for Duke students on topics like electoral politics, virtual learning, and relationships during COVID. Meant to inspire moments of connection, the TK team brings ethical inquiry to Duke students wherever they might be.

We welcome our new (and returning) members of the team!


Announcing the Religions and Public Life Fellows 2020


Twelve graduate and professional students from Duke and UNC were selected to be a part of this year’s student working group. The theme this year is Immigration and Religion. Program Director, Malachi Hacohen notes, “At a time when borders are closing and walls are being erected, an interdisciplinary graduate student group is responding with a model of collaboration for our world.

Bringing together students from Divinity to Business to Trinity and campus wide support from the Kenan Institute, Jewish Studies, Duke Islamic Studies Center, and the Duke University Middle East Studies Center graduate students studying divergent regions of the globe will be explore the relationship between immigration and religion, seeking religious paths to the reconstruction of human life.” Over the course of the academic year, in monthly meetings the cohort will discuss and develop their respective projects. Their work will be shared on the Religions and Public Life website at the conclusion of the fellowship.

Previous years’ themes include “Church and State” (2019-20), “Pain and Joy: Polemics and Praise in Religious Communities” (2018-19), and “Minorities and Diasporas” (2017-18).

The Purpose Project at Duke Announces Race and the Professions Fellows

The Purpose Project at Duke has announced the inaugural cohort of the Race and the Professions Fellowship, a year-long program that will explore the challenges of racial inequities and the work of antiracism in the professions, the broader community, and the world.  

More than 200 graduate and professional students applied to the fellowship. The 28 fellows represent eight schools, eight Trinity departments, and three interdisciplinary programs. 

In a series of online sessions, fellows will engage with scholars, activists, artists, and practitioners working on issues of race. During the summer, fellows can pursue an optional, funded project that aligns with the vision of the fellowship. 

“In creating the fellowship, we wanted to bring together a diverse group of graduate and professional students who are eager to think collaboratively and work through matters of race in the context of the professions into which they’ll step when they leave Duke, said A.J. Walton, associate director of The Purpose Project. “Our hope is that the fellowship will provide fellows with insight and imagination in ways that reframe what they believe is possible in dismantling racialized systems.” 

Funded by a grant from The Duke Endowment, The Purpose Project at Duke is a multi-year, campus-wide initiative focused on integrating a focus on character, purpose, and vocation into undergraduate, graduate, and professional education. The initiative is hosted by the Kenan Institute for Ethics in collaboration with the Divinity School and the Office of Undergraduate Education

Meet the fellows