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.
Alexander Gunn is a third-year medical student at Duke University School of Medicine. Before enrolling in medical school, he completed his Master of Biomedical Science at Duke University and his Bachelor of Arts in Cultural Anthropology at Northwestern University. He previously worked at the Margolis Center on the Global Health Policy team, specializing in financing drug development for neglected diseases and scouting interventions for high cost, high need patients. He has also collaborated with and consulted for the World Health Organization, FHI 360, and multiple nongovernmental organizations. Alexander is keenly interested in alternative payment models, patient-reported outcomes, place-based health, and the intersection between global climate change and human health.
Andrew Carlins is a Master of Management Studies student at Fuqua from Oceanside, New York. His research interests involve the intersection of immigration, economic integration, and religion. During the GradEngage Fellowship, Andrew will work with the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and Beth El Synagogue in Durham to explore ethics and the pursuit of purpose during COVID-19 across three generations. Andrew has a B.S from Duke where he studied Economics, History, and Jewish Studies and graduated with honors and distinction.
Anjali Boyd is a Dean's Graduate Fellow and a Marine Science and Conservation Ph.D. student in the Nicholas School of the Environment. She received her B.S. in Marine Science (Biology Track) from Eckerd College. Her graduate research focuses on integrating mutualistic and positive interaction into restoration practices to restore disturbed and degraded coastal marine systems globally. Anjali is a #DurhamNative, a Durham Public Schools graduate and the newly elected Durham County Soil & Water Conservation District Supervisor. Through her partnership with iNviTechnology (iNviTECH), she works to increase underrepresented minority participation in STEM fields.
Arianna Farmer is a second-year Master of Public Policy candidate. She studied global health and social policy as an undergraduate at Northwestern University. Arianna is interested in implementing policy changes to increase equitable health outcomes at the state and local levels, particularly in underserved communities. She hopes to better understand health disparities in rural communities and develop innovative models to address those disparities.
Arthi Kozhumam is a first-year Master’s of Science in Global Health candidate from Austin, TX on an Accelerated track and a senior undergraduate at Duke University studying Global Health and Biology. At Duke, she is a research assistant for the Global Emergency Medicine Innovation and Implementation (GEMINI) Lab at Duke’s Department of Surgery and Duke Global Health Institute. Her research interests lie in strengthening health systems, analyzing and improving access to care, the health of children and at-risk populations, and One Health.
Ayan Felix is an MFA in Dance student currently researching how physical and social improvisational practices interact in spaces that affirm Blackness and gender fluidity. Their most resourced practice is site-responsive using improvisational styles based in modern/post-modern dance, physical theater, house, and majorette training which they learned over years of experience in Texas, Pennsylvania, and now North Carolina. As such, experimentation in ephemeral movements leaks into their arts organizing work. Ayan’s research relies on multi-disciplinary collaboration to choreograph worlds that blur the line of audience-participant, performance-practice, and artist-organizer. By approaching dance performance capaciously as a type of social movement, Ayan seeks to understand how to produce performance spaces that are accessible yet not necessarily material. They are in their second year at Duke.
Brittany J. Green is a North Carolina-based composer, creative, and educator. Described as “cinematic in the best sense” and “searing” (Chicago Classical Review), Brittany’s music is centered around facilitating collaborative, intimate musical spaces that ignite visceral responses. The intersection between sound, movement, and text serves as the focal point of these musical spaces, often questioning and redefining the relationships between these three elements. Her research and creative interests include mapping aural gestures to gestural recognition technology and exploring virtual reality platforms as a tool for experiencing immersive, intimate musical moments. Her music has been featured at the Society of Composers National Conference, New York City Electronic Music Festival, and SPLICE Institute. Brittany has been commissioned by the JACK Quartet, Mind on Fire, Margins Guitar Collective, and Kate Alexandra. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D in Music Composition as a Deans Graduate Fellow at Duke University.
Courtney Crumpler is a second-year student in the MFA in Dance. Her research situates protest performance, political organizing, and popular education as embodied praxes. Courtney is excited to deepen her work with the multiracial and cross-class progressive movement Durham for All, moving toward a vision for a Durham with homes, education, economy, sanctuary and democracy for all alongside some of the most inspiring and talented organizers she knows.
Darwin Perry is a third-year graduate student at Duke Divinity School. His research meets at the intersection of race, religion, and penal reform. More specifically he is interested in exploring the consequences of incarceration for BIPOC and the role of religious institution in providing frameworks and models for engaging populations disproportionately impacted by America’s carceral system. Prior to joining Duke Divinity School, Darwin studied Philosophy and African American studies at Grand Valley State University.
Emily Goins is a third year medical student interested in Ob/Gyn and Emergency Medicine. She grew up in Nigeria, Mexico, and the United States, and holds a BA degree in Neuroscience and Computer Science from Middlebury College. This year, in addition to working on quality improvement projects in the field of gynecologic oncology, she is on the leadership team for the Fremont People’s Community Health Clinic. This is a student-run, free clinic for underinsured and underserved patients in Fremont, NC. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused all clinic operations to come to a halt, and the Fremont community is suffering from the lack of healthcare access. Through this fellowship, she will be starting up a Telehealth format for the clinic, which will allow patient care to resume.
Hiwot Zewdie is currently a 2nd year master's student pursuing a Global Health degree from Duke Global Health Institute and a Geospatial Analysis certificate from the Nicholas School of the Environment. Her interests include elucidating the mechanisms by which neighborhoods foster health and applying this evidence to develop placed-based interventions that serve to mitigate current and future health inequities. Hiwot's academic research explores these questions in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Miami, FL, and Durham, NC, including a Bass Connection Student Award assessing park equity and health. She received a B.Sc. in Cell & Molecular Biology and a B.A. in Psychology from the University of South Florida.
James Wahlberg earned a BS from the University of Wisconsin and an MA from Duke's Liberal Studies Program. As an Advanced Studies Fellow in the Liberal Studies Program, James continues the work of his master's project, Story As Biology, which combines his training and experience as a biologist with humanistic analysis to explore how the uses of story and storytelling arise from and influence our biological and cultural selves. He is learning Homeric Greek to enable reading some of our oldest stories in their nearest original form. He also works with Friends of Geer Cemetery to uncover and tell the stories of members of the Durham community whose lives and deaths have been minimized by structures of systemic racism.
Karnika Singh is a second year PhD student in Biomedical Engineering at the BIG IDEAS Lab at Duke. She hails from India and graduated with an Integrated Masters in Biomedical Engineering from Indian Institute of Information Technology-Allahabad, where she was awarded the institute silver medal for her academic achievements. Her current research is focused on using machine learning tools to analyze digital health data, such as data from wearable devices. Her aim is to discover signs in the body’s physiological signals that can indicate a potential health concern, well before the appearance of obvious symptoms. She believes this research field has the potential to transform the way we look at healthcare, shifting the focus from treatment to prevention of ill health.
Larisa 'Risa' Gearhart-Serna is a native New Mexican, and has a B.S. in Biology and a B.A. in Environmental Studies from Mills College in Oakland, CA. Her dissertation research is a fusion of environmental toxicology and molecular cancer biology. As a fifth year PhD candidate in both the Nicholas School of the Environment's Integrated Toxicology and Environmental Health Program and the Duke University School of Medicine Department of Pathology, she is particularly interested in how exposures to environmental toxicants such as endocrine disrupting chemicals can exacerbate progression and treatment resistance in breast tumors. She also enjoys working on technology transfer and health disparities research.
TJ Bryant is a first year Master of Divinity Student at Duke Divinity School where he is in the Thriving Communities Fellowship. He holds a Dual-Degree from Carson-Newman University in Sociology and Religion. He enjoys Theological reflection on various topics including: Race, Social Inequality, Community Development and Community Organizing.
Unique Whitehurst is from Long Beach, CA. She is a member of the Duke University School of Nursing’s MSN-NP class of 2023 specializing in psychiatry and mental health. Unique is a recent December 2020 graduate of Duke’s ABSN program where she was recognized as an executive board member for DUSON’s Active Minds organization, an inductee of Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society, and the selected student speaker and exemplar of excellence at the annual Commitment to Excellence Ceremony. Unique is a current member of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association and serves as a graduate student research leader at Duke. Her research interests center around improving health outcomes for minority populations. Her current research efforts involve collaborating with community partners to decrease the burden of hypertension in African American males here in the Durham County area.
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.