Moments of Rising to the Moment

In this first installment of a new series, Qintian Zhang (Trinity ’22), current Team Kenan student and alum of Project Change and the Ethics, Leadership & Global Citizenship FOCUS cluster, discusses her work on campus in response to the widespread disruptions caused by COVID-19. Zhang’s perspective on the moment is informed by her longer relationship with what is now a pandemic: she is from Wenzhou in Zhejiang province, among the hardest hit Chinese provinces outside of Hubei. Unable to go home, she is working with multiple partners across the Duke community to respond to the situation here. Qintian has become involved with mutual aid and community building efforts among several different communities on campus.
Contact her at qintian.zhang@duke.edu to connect. 

Kenan First-Year’s Perspective on Leaving Home

Cover for Lana Gesinksy's Chronicle ArticleIn the wake of university closures and the transition to online learning, millions of seniors have lost their final, precious moments in the place they’ve called home for the past four years. The systemic symptoms of this pandemic do not affect everyone equally, but one thing is certain: they affect everyone. Lana Gesinsky, a Trinity first-year and member of the Ethics, Leadership & Global Citizenship Focus Group here at Kenan, gives a voice to the countless new students who lost their home as soon as they had found it. 

I knew I loved Duke before we couldn’t return. But I was too “in it” to truly understand. When I received the email we wouldn’t be coming back to campus, I felt my heart had been ripped out of my body. I felt like I was losing a part of myself. I replayed all the moments I had and thought how I wouldn’t be able to hug my friends for potentially six months. All the goodbyes and people I didn’t get to tell how important they were to me. I had found myself at Duke. 


Read Lana’s Letter to the Chronicle 


A Reflection on the Time We’ve Lost from a LaunchLab Tutor, DukeEngage Guide

Picture of Stephanie Mayle

In a guest column for the Chronicle, Stephanie Mayle T’20, a LaunchLab Tutor of four years and DukeEngage Guide and Preceptor, reflected on the moment that her and thousands of others had the closure of their college experience ripped away by the pandemic. 

The time of COVID-19 is a time of loss. The loss of life, of profit, of stability, of peace of mind. For me, the loss of two months that I expected to be some of the most meaningful in my life. The community that grew me into a person so different from the 18-year-old that walked into it years before is suddenly scattered. While we, the class of 2020, will have infinite responses to answer where we were when senior year was canceled, there is one that is unanimous and sadly fitting: we were apart.

Read the full Chronicle article

Kenan Fellows Discuss Scrupulosity on Ethics Podcast

A lettered diagram of the human brain

Is it possible to be too good? Is it possible that thinking about morality could cause clinical levels of emotional and mental distress? On this episode of the Examining Ethics podcast, Christiane Wisehart talks to Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Chauncey Stillman Professor of Practical Ethics at Kenan, and Jesse Summers, Kenan Senior Fellow, to explore a disorder known as Scrupulosity. People with Scrupulosity are obsessive about morality, checking and re-checking to make sure they haven’t done something wrong.  Together, they explore the philosophical implications of these obsessions with moral behavior. Christiane also talks to Dr. Laura Crosskey, who treats patients with Scrupulosity.

You can listen to and learn more about the podcast here, on Apple Podcasts, or on your preferred podcast streaming platform.

You can also read more about Walter and Jesse’s research and their book Clean Hands here.

Senior Fellow Norman Wirzba on Community in the Divinity School

Our Fellows at the Kenan Institute of Ethics not only show incredible variety in their interests and specialities, but also reach a wide array of departments and schools within the university. Norman Wirzba, Kenan Senior Fellow and Gilbert T. Rowe Distinguished Professor of Christian Theology, pursues research and teaching interests at the intersections of theology, philosophy, ecology, and agrarian and environmental studies.  In the video above, he seeks to remove a degree of abstraction felt by many students in the world of theology. Wirzba, rather than talking at his students, aims to foster community in Duke’s Divinity School and beyond, believing that any seminary student can learn so much more alongside the rest of Duke’s incredible schools.

Read more about Professor Wirzba here.

Meet the Restorative Justice Fellows


This fall Kenan will launch the Restorative Justice Fellows program in which undergraduates will offer restorative practices to student clubs, organizations, and social groups to help them intentionally build community and resolve conflict in ways that preserve relationships and make room for amends. Restorative Justice is an ethical framework based on the fundamental premise that people are happier, more cooperative, more productive and more likely to make positive changes when they work with others in authority to address concerns. The restorative practices model provides a guiding philosophy to foster community that proactively develops positive relationships, creates shared values, and manages conflict through social discipline that restores relationships by acknowledging and repairing harms. In so doing, social wellbeing, belonging and civic participation increases while misbehavior, harassment and violence decreases—such outcomes have been well documented in K-12 and criminal justice settings and suggest similar results would be seen in other settings like university campuses.

The Fellows:


Kate Evans



Kate is a junior from Chatham, New Jersey. She is majoring in public policy with minors in history and sociology. She also volunteers as a Launch Lab mentor at Kenan. Kate is interested in restorative justice because it focuses on addressing harm rather than ineffective punishment. Last summer, Kate conducted research on the juvenile justice system in New Jersey, so she is especially interested in the power of restorative justice in juvenile justice spaces. She is excited to help spread restorative justice on campus and build stronger communities!

Ale Gomez


Ale is a junior from Miami, FL. She is studying Public Policy and Education with plans to teach after graduation (in Durham hopefully!) before doing a master’s in education policy. She’s interested in restorative justice work because she’s used it in classroom settings – such as this summer while teaching at StudentU, Durham based education nonprofit – and can attest to the fact that it changes the dynamic in the community and the relationships that are fostered. She believes restorative frameworks acknowledge people’s agency and freedom, strives to create authentic, inclusive communities, and repairs harm in a way where multiple perspectives are involved. She hopes it continues to spread into more classrooms so that we aren’t tearing down our students, but building up supportive, understanding communities of learners.

Zachary Horowitz



Zachary is a Sophomore from Los Angeles, CA studying Environmental Sciences and Policy and Neuroscience. On campus, he is a volunteer for the Duke Puppy Kindergarten, a Duke tour guide, and participates in various activities through Jewish Life at Duke. Zach is interested in how RJ can be used in Duke policy guidelines in addressing harm scenarios on campus, as well as spreading the process throughout Duke in order to create a more diverse RJ community.

Ali Hurst



Ali is a sophomore from Dallas, TX. She is studying Biology and African American Studies, with hopes of attending law school and working in criminal justice reform. Through her work with Kenan, she hopes to assist many factions of the Duke community in community building and promote unity on campus. As a part of the RJ committee on the Sexual Assault Prevention Team on campus, she is also working to incorporate RJ practices to address harm within the Greek community. When she isn’t doing schoolwork or participating in campus organizations, Ali likes to read, hike, and listen to music.

Chris Klasson



Chris is a junior from Rome, GA. He is a history major and chemistry minor following the pre-health track. He is interested in the ways that the humanities can be included in spaces they are traditionally not addressed, such as medicine. He already uses restorative justice for community building in his organizations, and looks forward to exploring ways it can be introduced into student groups’ policy for addressing harms caused by members. 

Arya Patel


Arya is a Sophomore from Charlotte, North Carolina studying Public Policy and Economics. She has participated in various Kenan programs including the Focus Program, the Kenan Refugee Project and Project Change. She is particularly interested in Restorative Justice because of the power it has to strengthen communities and its humanistic approach. Arya is interested in the impacts of development programs for third world countries dealing with economic, social and cultural changes. Outside of school, Arya enjoys reading historical fiction, painting, and hanging out with friends.

Audrey Vila


Audrey is a junior from Seattle, WA. She is majoring in Public Policy with minors in history and political science, and she is interest in both domestic policy and international human rights. On campus, she is involved with the Community Empowerment Fund addressing housing instability in Durham. She hopes to use Restorative Justice to create more community within the groups she is involved with and on campus as a whole. As a trained RJ facilitator, she has seen the powerful presence RJ has within community and hopes to increase its use at duke. She also is interested in how restorative justice can be used within the US criminal justice system.