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. Fellows receive funds to support a project which spans eight consecutive weeks. Projects must begin by June 7  and conclude by August 9. Fellows will gather as a cohort periodically for workshops led by the faculty director, and reflect on the ethical questions raised in their projects and any practical difficulties they encounter over the course of the fellowship.

Application Information


Status: Duke undergraduates who are in their first or second year of study at the time of application, and who are enrolled in classes at Duke’s Durham campus for Spring 2024.

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

Combining with other funding: Students may combine KSF funds with other Duke funds, such as other fellowships, but must indicate the source of those funds on the application, as well as whether those other funds are applied for or approved.

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 (amounting to 300 hours) on proposed project. Project must begin no later than June 7 and must conclude by August 9. Exceptions will be considered for minor timeline adjustments, please indicate any expected need for adjustment in your application.

-Attendance to the following events (exact dates TBD):

  • Spring: Orientation, in-person IRB training
  • June:  Zoom group workshop
  • July: Zoom group workshop
  • August:  Zoom group workshop
  • First week of September: In-person debrief and presentations

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

-Three reflection essays: Essays will be workshopped with KIE advisor and faculty director. Fellows will write at least two drafts of each essay.

-Project presentation at debrief gathering in September

-Final budget report accounting for how KSF funds were used

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


Up to $5,000 to support a project with spans eight consecutive weeks during the summer of 2024. Fellows’ faculty mentors will receive $500 each to their research funds for their participation.


Applicants must submit a 2-3 page proposal (single-spaced) outlining their summer project. Proposals should include:

-A cover page indicating:

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

– The main question your project will ask

-A detailed explanation of your project, and how it addresses 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 funding (see sample):

Send applications via email to: jesse.summers@duke.edu

Email subject should read: KSF 2024 APPLICATION


Applications are due by midnight on March 1, 2024.  

Final decisions will be communicated by March 18, 2024.

Questions? Contact: jesse.summers@duke.edu

Past Questions Have Included:

  • What is the place of integrity, sincerity, or steadfast truthfulness, in living an ethical life?
  • Ethical journalism – what does it mean to ethically tell others’ stories?
  • What are the qualities of character required to live an ethical life?
  • Does engaging in politics require compromising one’s ethical principles?
  • What does ethical outdoor recreation look like?
  • How do institutions nurture or impede people’s ability to lead more ethical lives?
  • 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?

2023 Kenan Summer Fellows


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.