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.

View the DukeImmerse 2019 Magazine here.

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 O’Connor. 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 at the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University is a community-based collaboration focused on understanding, explaining, and responding to the challenges of global migration in Durham and beyond. Duke undergraduates and faculty and newcomer high school students, college students, and their families come together to build a neighborhood. This neighborhood promotes active and analytical citizenship that makes community change irresistible.

The Mission of the lab is to challenge high school and college newcomers and Duke undergraduates to collaboratively address the most vexing migration-related challenges in Durham and beyond.


Citizenship Lab Podcast: Making Sense of High School in Durham

How does a newcomer to the U.S. figure out high school? What are the challenges that young adult refugees face? How do they overcome these challenges? How does the school district shape this process? To answer these questions and more, our team talks to four newcomers about their experiences in Durham Public Schools, from their arrival to graduation.

Student Research for Community Change, a book on a new community problem solving method inspired at Kenan and refined in the Lab

Moral Purpose and Newcomer Youth: Cultivating Resilience Through Active Citizenship, an overview of the community problem solving method

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.