What does it mean to live an ethical life?

Kenan Summer Fellows spend a summer exploring—in a variety of ways—the answers to the question: What does it mean to live an ethical life? A Summer 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. Summer experiences can and do provide a thoughtful, novel perspective of how to live an ethical life.

Between five and six fellows receive up to a $5,000 stipend and their faculty mentors will receive $500 to support their project.

Meet the 2020 Kenan Summer Fellows.

Check out the Kenan Summer Fellows blogs.

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?​

Application Deadline:  February 17th, 5pm


  • The Program is open to Duke undergraduates who are in their first or second year of study at the time of application; preference given to Ethics & Society Certificate students.
  • Student with ALL backgrounds, experience and interests are encouraged to apply.

Application Information

  • Applicants must submit a three-page proposal (12 point Times Roman maximum, single spaced, 1 in. margins) outlining their summer project.  Proposals should include what they mean by living an ethical life, a detailed explanation of the project and how it addresses the issue of living an ethical life, the overall project significance, in what ways they are prepared for this project, dates of project.
  • Proposals must include a cover page indicating the student’s graduation year and project title.
  • Applicants must list the name of a faculty member that will serve as their mentor for the project. This should be agreed upon before the application is submitted, as well as a plan for interaction throughout the course of the summer (e.g. weekly phone calls or Zoom check-ins).
  • DEADLINE: Applications are due February 17th, 2021 at 5pm.  Applications must emailed to kie@duke.edu. No late applications accepted.
  • A final decision will be made by February 19th, 2021.
  • Accepted applicants will receive a stipend of $5000 for their work. Note: In Summer 2021, University funds cannot be used for travel.
  • If you are conducting research, you are required to go through the Campus IRB. We encourage you to start this process as soon as possible to avoid any delays in receiving your funds should you receive the fellowship.

Please contact Suzanne Shanahan with any questions.


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.