What does it mean to live an ethical life?

Kenan Summer Fellows spend a summer exploring—in a variety of ways—the answers to that question. Between five and six fellows receive funds to support a project with spans eight consecutive weeks between mid-May and mid-August, 2022. A 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. Fellows will gather as a cohort periodically (see schedule below) to reflect on the ethical questions raised in their work and any practical difficulties they encounter over the course of the fellowship.

Application Information


Status: Duke undergraduates who are rising sophomores, juniors, or seniors, and who are enrolled in classes at Duke’s Durham campus for spring 2022. Priority given to rising sophomores and juniors.

Discipline: Students with ALL backgrounds, experience and interests are encouraged to apply. Priority given to Ethics & Society Certificate students.

No conflicts/combining with other funding: Participation in this program must not conflict with other departmental or external funding sources. Students may not combine KSF funds with any other Duke funds, such as other fellowships.

Participation of Faculty Mentor: Applicants must indicate in their application that a Duke faculty member has agreed to serve as their mentor for the fellowship. Kenan Institute staff will reach out to the faculty mentors of selected applicants to confirm their agreement to participate.



-8 consecutive weeks of full-time work (amounting to 300 hours) on proposed project over the course of Duke’s summer break and concluded by the first day of classes

-Faculty mentor check-ins, as agreed on with faculty mentor. A minimum of four check-ins is required

-Attendance to the following events (exact dates TBD based on fellows’ project timelines):

  • February/March: Orientation/in-person IRB training
  • May/June/July: 2-3 Zoom workshops over the course of the summer
  • September: In-person debrief and presentations

-Completion of short readings/assignments in preparation for each workshop

-Three reflection blog posts: blogs will be workshopped with KIE advisor. Fellows will write at least two drafts of each blog before they are published on the KIE website

-Final presentation at debrief gathering in September

-Final budget report accounting for how KSF funds were used



$5,000 to support a project with spans eight consecutive weeks between mid-May and mid-August, 2022. Fellows’ faculty mentors will receive $500 each to their research funds for their participation.



Applicants must submit a 2-3 page proposal (12 point Times New Roman maximum, single spaced, 1 inch margins) outlining their summer project. Proposals should include:

-A cover page indicating:

  • project title
  • your name
  • your graduation year
  • name of faculty advisor

-Your definition of what it means to live an ethical life

-A detailed explanation of the project and how it addresses the issue of living an ethical life

-Description of overall project significance

-Explanation of how you are prepared for this project

-Project dates and week-by-week schedule

-The plan you and your faculty mentor have agreed on for how/when you will meet (minimum of four times): e.g. weekly phone calls or zoom check-ins

-A detailed budget accounting for how you will use the $5000 (see sample):


UPDATE: Application deadline for 2022 extended to February 23rd, 5pm. Applications now open to rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Applications must be emailed to kali.wagner@duke.edu. No late applications accepted.

Questions? Contact: kali.wagner@duke.edu

Past Questions Have Included:

  • What is the place of integrity, sincerity, or steadfast truthfulness, in living an ethical life?
  • What are the qualities of character required to live an ethical life?
  • Does engaging in politics require compromising one’s ethical principles?
  • How do institutions nurture or impede people’s ability to lead more ethical lives?
  • What roles do or should normative principles play in shaping a specific public policy issue?
  • How should we define and balance our obligations of justice and care to fellow citizens, immigrants and refugees, human beings across the globe, and the injustices of the past?​

Meet the 2021 Kenan Summer Fellows.

Check out the Kenan Summer Fellows blogs.


Read Taylor Plett’s 2019 blog on young activists of the school strikes for climate change as modeled by Greta Thunberg.


Read Alex Johnson’s 2019 blog on researching best practices for reporters to ethically interview vulnerable populations.


Read Noah Bruess-Burgess’ 2019 blog on exploring what it means to live the Christian ethical life.


Read Anna Kasradze’s 2019 blog about Russian literature and the ethics of accessing others’ subjective experiences.


Read Lucas Lynn’s 2019 blog about defining what home truly is for American homeless communities.