Global Migration

The Global Migration program at the Kenan Institute for Ethics is a multidisciplinary collaboration between faculty, students, and practitioners exploring the empirical and normative consequences of human migration.

"No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark." Warsan Shire

More than 3% of the world’s population lives outside the country of their birth. While many have migrated for work or family, more than 25% (or 68 million) of these individuals have been forcibly displaced due to war, persecution, or natural disaster. In 2017, 16.2 million people were newly displaced—that’s 44,500 people each day or one person every two seconds.

The Global Migration program is dedicated to increasing both scholarly and public understanding surrounding causes and consequences of human migration through collaborative research, public advocacy, and community-based programming.


The Kenan Refugee Project (KRP) is a community-based research and advocacy project at Duke University’s Kenan Institute for Ethics. Since 2010, KRP has collaborated with refugee communities across the globe to collect and share their stories. With the goal of understanding the drivers and dynamics of contemporary displacement and forced migration, as well as a commitment to refugee well-being, a team of faculty and students have conducted life story interviews of refugees in Egypt, Nepal, and Jordan, as well as in our local community of Durham, North Carolina. As the “refugee crisis” permeates political discourse and media headlines, we look beyond the facts and figures in an effort to understand the human implications of mass displacement.

For more information, contact Suzanne Shanahan.

Launch Lab

Launch Lab  is a weekly mentoring program for refugee youth ages 4th to 8th grade. Each Tuesday night, more than 100 young people from Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iran, Iraq, Mexico, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Vietnam come to the Kenan Institute to work with Duke students on honing their language skills, striving for academic success, and building community. Each evening includes a mix of outdoor time, homework time, and group-projects time.

Transportation is provided.

To participate, contact Grace Egan. Duke students interested in getting involved should register for Ethics 215: Resettling Refugees.


SuWA is a collaboration between students at the Kenan Institute and about 80 women from the locally resettled refugee community. Each Tuesday night, Duke women and refugee women from Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iran, Iraq, Mexico, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Vietnam work together to build better lives for themselves and their families. The adjustment to life after resettlement in Durham can be challenging for refugee women in particular: cultural and linguistic barriers are daily frustrations, and the obstacles to accessing quality health care, education, and employment can be daunting. SuWA works to empower refugee women through education (ELL, GED, TOEFL, and Citizenship Test Prep), small business development, and community-building in order to meet these challenges. The support, care, and mutual advocacy developed through the program inspired the name “SuWA”—an Iraqi Arabic term for “togetherness” whose English transliteration is also the acronym for Supporting Women’s Action.


Transportation and childcare are provided.

Art therapy is also available at SuWA in collaboration with the Art Therapy Institute of North Carolina.

To participate, contact Hannah Palczuk. Duke students interested in getting involved should register for Ethics 215: Resettling Refugees.

Citizenship Lab

The Citizenship Lab brings together about 25 Duke students with about 50 high-school-age refugees twice weekly to inspire community change through individual and collective action. In the lab, citizenship is formal participation (e.g. voting and jury duty) and it is also creative community problem-solving. The lab offers refugee youth guided opportunities to enact a different kind of citizenship: to learn citizenship by doing it. Borrowing techniques from Character Lab “grit” programs, the lab promotes resilience and develops social capital to enable active, empowered, and effective citizenship skills.


The Citizenship Lab has three core goals: academic excellence, leadership, and robust citizenship. This year the team is working to achieve these goals and cultivate active citizenship through four projects. First, a team of refugees and Duke students is working with the Durham City Manager’s Office, Go Triangle, the Durham City Council, and a set of local business to ensure better bus stop safety and amenities (e.g. shelters, seats, trash bins) in areas where refugees depend on public transportation. Second, another team is working with Durham Public Schools to ensure that students’ rights to native language accommodation under Title Six are being met. Third, a team is working with students and administrators at Riverside High School, where the National Honor Society is piloting a mentoring program that pairs a Riverside student originally from Durham with a newcomer student at Riverside. Next fall this program is set to expand to two other Durham high schools. And fourth, a team is working with a set of Durham parents who are mentoring newcomer youth through the transition to college, a process which is quite alien to most refugee students. Through these projects, refugee youth practice the everyday skills of citizenship by taking ownership of their own trajectories and the trajectories of their communities.

For more information or to participate, contact Suzanne Shanahan or Bill Tobin.

Art Exploration Summer Camp: August 13-17

In collaboration with the Art Therapy Institute of North Carolina, the Kenan Institute runs a weeklong summer art camp for refugee youth ages 4 to 14. Through a mix of visual arts, music, and movement, students gain confidence, practice mindfulness, and boost their self-esteem in preparation for the school year ahead.


For more information, contact Tra Tran.

DukeEngage Dublin Letters Home

Weekly reflections on students’ DukeEngage experiences in Dublin.


SuWa Nasher banner

Read about SuWa’s visit to the Nasher here

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Read about the Kenan Refugee Project team in Kigali here


Meet the Citizenship Lab grad that joined the Kenan Refugee Project here

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One Summer in Damak: Glimpses of Life in a Bhutanese Refugee Camp

Watch a multi-media version of a Fall 2011 photo exhibition on display at the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University.



Learn how a weeklong art-therapy summer camp at the Kenan Institute for Ethics helps local refugee children reduce stress and gain confidence.


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KIE’s SuWA (Supporting Women’s Action) community partnership unites Duke University students and local refugee women to promote empowerment, education, and enterprise.