The Purpose Project at Duke has announced the inaugural cohort of the Race and the Professions Fellows hip , a year-lon g program that will explore the challenges of racial inequities and the work of antiracism in the professions , the broader community , and the world.
More than 200 graduate and professional students applied to the fellowship . The 28 fellows represent eight schools, eight Trinity departments, and three interdisciplinary programs .
In a series of online sessions , f ellows will engage with scholars, activists, artists, and practitioners working on issues of rac e . During the summer, fellows can pursue an optional, funded project that aligns with the vision of the fellowship.
“In creating the f ellowship , we wanted to bring together a diverse group of graduate an d professional students who are eager to think collaboratively and work through matters of race in the context of the professions into which they ’ll step when they leave Duke , ” said A.J. Walton, a ssociate d irector of The Purpose Project . “Our hop e is that the fellowship will provide fellows with insight and imagination in ways that reframe what they believe is possible in dismantling racialized systems .”
Funded by a grant from The Duke Endowment, The Purpose Project at Duke is a multi-year, campus-wide initiative focused on integrating a focus on character , purpose, and vocation into undergraduate, graduate, and professional education. The initiative is hosted by the Kenan Institute for Ethics in collaboration wit h the Divinity School and the Office of Undergraduate Education Meet the fellows
Alejandro is a second-year Mechanical Engineering and Material Science MS student with an emphasis in Aerospace Engineering. His research interests are in Fluid Mechanics, Structural Dynamics, Vibrations, and Energy Harvesting. He is a TA for both a Leadership and Management course and Business Ethics course. He has a BS in Astrophysics and Physics from the University of Georgia.
Alma Solis is second year Ph.D. student in the Evolutionary Anthropology department in Dr. Charles L. Nunn’s laboratory. Her research focuses on understanding how anthropogenic changes in land use, in northeastern Madagascar, impact infectious disease ecology, while also addressing health disparities by investigating disease exposure risk mediated by occupation. Her research interests are evolutionary medicine, infectious diseases, One Health, global health, and addressing health disparities. She is a Ford Foundation Fellow who hope to continue to advocate and promote diversity and inclusion in academia.
Alyssa Reyes is originally from Los Angeles, CA. She graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in Media Studies, and earned a Master’s in Special Education from CUNY Hunter College. After 5 years of teaching math and special education in NYC’s Brooklyn and Harlem neighborhoods, she is thrilled to pursue her passion for social justice at Duke Law School.
Amanda Farrell is a fourth-year medical student who is passionate about women’s health, health equity, and global health. She is originally from the West Indies but moved to New York when she was nine. An aspiring OB-GYN, she is especially interested in how racial disparities affect outcomes in women’s health.
Amnazo Muhirwa is third-year PhD student in the School of Nursing. Her research interests fall at the intersection of race/ethnicity, gender and health. She is committed to conducting research that elucidates the mechanisms in which chronic stress becomes biologically embedded and impact the health of African American women.
Ayanna Jessica Crystal Legros
Ayanna Jessica Crystal Legros is completing a Ph.D. in the Department of History at Duke University. Her research focuses on the importance of sound cultures and radio in the lived experiences of Haitians based in the metropoles of Port-au-Prince and New York City during the Duvalier regimes (father and son). She has lived and worked in the Dominican Republic, Spain, Bolivia, and Colombia in the non-profit sector around issues of education, land rights, and racial justice. Through this fellowship, she hopes to gain more clarity about global and local justices issues and has grown tremendously throughout her time in Durham, North Carolina. When she is not conducting research, she is thinking about art history and working on her garden. She is excited to participate in this fellowship and learn from a collective of students across a diverse range of disciplines and fields of study across campus.
Brandee Newkirk is PhD student at Duke University in the Art, Art History and Visual Studies Department. Her research focuses primarily on modern and contemporary African American art with a focus on social justice. She earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Arizona where she worked with the university’s Black Student Union. She is also currently a member of her department’s Anti-Racism Task Force.
Crystal E. Peoples
Crystal E. Peoples is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Sociology at Duke University. Her research focuses on trends and consequences of racial and gender inequality in higher education, with a particular interest in the role of social networks in perpetuating these inequalities. She has published work in The American Behavioral Scientist, The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology, and The International Journal of Contemporary Mathematical Sciences. She completed a B.S. in Mathematics from Longwood University in 2012 and an M.S. in Sociology with graduate minors in Mathematics and Statistics from Iowa State University in 2015.
Darwin Perry is a third-year graduate student at Duke Divinity School. His research interest lies at the intersection between race, religion, and penal reform. Prior to joining Duke Divinity School, Darwin studied Philosophy and African American studies at Grand Valley State University.
Elana Horwitz is a third year medical student interested in Internal Medicine and Psychiatry. She grew up in Chapel Hill and attended University of Michigan as an undergrad. Her goal is to provide healthcare for underserved and misunderstood patients and continue working in the global health sphere, specifically in Latin America. She also plans to continue her passion outside of the clinic to address the social drivers of health as it pertains to environmental justice and food security.
Georgina Fierro Keene
Georgina Fierro Keene, PA-C, MHS, grew up in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, across the border from El Paso, Texas. She came to Durham to attend the Duke Physician Assistant Program and stayed in the area after marrying one of her classmates (Mike). Georgina has worked in women’s health locally for over two decades, most recently in the Division of Maternal Fetal Medicine at Duke. She did her undergraduate studies at Stanford University and received a Master of Health Science from Duke. While in Divinity School, Georgina is continuing in her role as Clinical Services Director at Pregnancy Support Services of Durham and Chapel Hill, a local Christian nonprofit.
Hadley Reid is in her fourth year at Duke completing her MD and a Master’s in clinical research with the Duke Clinical Research Training Program (CRTP). She is originally from Chapel Hill, but did her undergrad at Stanford University before working at a non-profit in Seattle and ultimately returning home to the Triangle for medical school. Her research centers on examining the patient-provider interaction and its differential effect on health outcomes in non-Hispanic Black and White patients with Type II Diabetes. She is one of the founders and current leaders of Duke Med for Social Justice (DMSJ) and also serves as a student facilitator for the Cultural Determinants of Health and Health Disparities Course for first year medical students.
Hengming Li is a first year ECE Ph.D. student working with Professor Maiken Mikkelsen on nanophotonic devices for quantum information. He received his joint undergraduate-master’s degree from Appalachian State University, and worked with Professor Francois Amet on solid state physics research. One fun fact about the research: a rainbow plot in a paper they submitted to Nature Physics ended up on the magazine’s cover page this summer. As a member of the LGBTQ community, he was overjoyed when he received the news.
He got to enjoy a lot of outdoor activities like skiing, snowboarding, archery, and hiking during his time at Appstate. He also enjoys learning and creating music, as well as experimenting with cooking and baking in his free time. He was a founding member of a student inclusive excellence group at Appstate; so he hopes to gain more knowledge about inclusion, diversity, and racial justice, as well as to connect with other passionate people on the topics via this fellowship opportunity.
Ife Michelle Presswood
Ife Michelle Presswood (Charlotte, NC) is an MFA student in the Embodied Interdisciplinary Praxis in Dance Program. Her research, centered at the intersection of Dance, Race and Humanities, aims to investigate the performance of the embodied identities/realities of Black Women Artists and how these embodiments are expressed using art. Through the lens of dance, she analyzes inner and inter corporeality’s of Black Women Artists through choreographic works and curated methodology in order to demonstrate and vivify the need for effective safe spaces (contextualized through misogynoir) and its accompanying attributes: i.e. resources, opportunities, safety/empathy, care and quality training, that allows for valuing, vivification, fluidity and self-autonomy of Black Woman and their artistry.
Jack Brooks is a 5th-year PhD candidate in clinical psychology. She researches strategies for improving the effectiveness of digital health interventions, in order to improve access to healthcare and reduce health disparities.
Jacquie is a 2nd year Masters of Public Policy student at the Sanford School of Public Policy. She has 9 years of experience working as a community organizer on climate, environmental, and energy policy. She graduated from Eckerd College in 2010 with a degree in Environmental Studies. She’s worked to organize young people around climate change at the Southern Energy Network, mobilized voters for local, state, and federal elections while working at the NC Sierra Club, and most recently on energy policy and poverty at the NC Justice Center. Jacquie hopes to pursue a concentration in social policy while at Sanford.
Jake Silver is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Cultural Anthropology. His dissertation project examines the atmospheric and extraplanetary scales of Israel’s occupation, lifting attention upward to the ways colonial and anticolonial conflicts extend vertically into outer space through domains such as astronomy, astrophysics, science fiction, meteorology, and space travel. For the past two years, he has conducted ethnographic work largely with Palestinian astronomers attending to the ways that something as seemingly simple as the sky is a site of powerful political struggle and (possible) transformation. His prior and current work is motivated by antiracist and anticolonial convictions, and he is passionate about the political potential of anthropological thinking when its methodology and pedagogy is rooted in solidarity and social justice.
Jasmine Young is a first-year student in the MS in Interdisciplinary Data Science Program. She is originally from Wilmington, North Carolina and graduated in the spring from Princeton University with an Operations Research & Financial Engineering degree. She is passionate about applying data science methods to racial and social issues.
Jason Lee was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area and will be entering his first year of the Daytime MBA program at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business. He previously worked in the industries of sales compensation and public accounting.
Khanh Vien (She/her/hers) is a queer Vietnamese-Cantonese American PhD graduate student in biology. She was born in Vietnam, to parents who were Vietnamese boat people, then moved to East Oakland in California at the age of two. Khanh is a first generation PhD student, poet, activist, community builder, and prolific mentor. At Duke, she established her program’s inaugural Diversity and Inclusion committee, presented and curated a workshop for the national oSTEM (a LGBTQ in STEM professions group) conference, as well as pushing for diversity and inclusion while being on the program’s recruitment committee. Khanh's research revolves around understanding how the brain shapes itself and what cues are required to organize neural circuits. She uses the fly olfactory system to understand how multi-level combinatorial codes that mold the brain and affects olfactory function. She hopes to one day uncover the mechanism behind the teratological effects of Agent Orange and mitigate the number of casualties.
Malcolm Smith Fraser
Malcolm Smith Fraser is a proud Jamaican American in his first year of the SSRI’s data science MS program. While originally from the DMV, he now calls the Seattle area home. He received his BS in biomedical engineering from California Polytechnic in San Luis Obispo in 2019. Recently, he was part of a team of consultants doing very exciting work around racial equity in the city of Fresno, California, and he looks forward to building on and sharing what he learned as a Race and the Professions Fellow.
Ofelia Lopez is a PhD student in the Romance Studies department. Her research focuses on the relationship among race, blackness and literary discourse. Ofelia´s doctoral dissertation, After of the Skin: Representations of Race in Post-independent Cuban Literature, addresses the ways in which race is named and problematized in Cuban literary texts of the Republic, the Revolution and the Special Period. She is also interested in the intersectional relations among history, gender and subalternity.
Raymond L. Allen
Raymond Allen (he/him/his) is an Indigenous American scientist who grew up on his tribe’s reservation in Northern Wisconsin, and is a PhD candidate in the Duke Biology Department. Ray’s research focus is on early embryo development, and is minoring in Science & Society. Outside of lab, he is heavily involved in inclusion, diversity, equity, and anti-racism (IDEA) in STEM as a BioCoRE Scholar, through Duke’s SACNAS chapter, and the Biology graduate student IDEA committee. Feel free to follow his Instagram (@ray.l.allen) or Twitter (@Ray_L_Allen) to see his posts on science outreach, and Native & LGBTQIA+ topics!
Siri Russell is a first-year student in the weekend executive MBA program. Her formal educational background includes an undergraduate degree in Sociology and a master's degree in Community & Economic Development. Siri's commitment to equity is demonstrated by her professional experience which includes her current role as the director of equity and inclusion for Albemarle County, VA where she leads efforts to ensure equity is centered in program and service delivery. She also serves on multiple nonprofit and community task force geared towards promoting social and financial resiliency.
Sonia is a second-year dual degree student i.e. MEM/MBA. She is interested in a career focused on building sustainable business models, managing ESG risks as well as crafting climate mitigation and adaptation strategies for private sector organizations. Prior to school, she worked as a financial risk consultant at KPMG serving clients majorly in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Taimur Kouser is a first year Masters student in the Bioethics & Science Policy program. He graduated in May 2020 from Harvard University with a joint degree in neuroscience and philosophy and a language citation in Modern Standard Arabic. Taimur is passionate about the intersections of a variety of fields including medicine, law, ethics, philosophy, and more. He cares deeply about the Muslim community and wants to explore the issues that they face and their roots in more depth and learn how to effectively educate others about them. He is especially eager to address issues through a sociocultural, instead of political, lens. He is looking forward to a year of learning, community building, and growth.
Unique Whitehurst is from Long Beach, CA. She is a member of the Duke University School of Nursing’s ABSN class of 2020 and MSN class of 2023. Upon accepting admission to DUSON, Unique was selected as a Health Equity Academy II Scholar which involves promoting diversity in nursing and leadership. Prior to coming here to Duke, she graduated with honors from South Carolina State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology and chemistry. After matriculating from my undergraduate institution, she held positions in the psychiatric/mental health setting at Del Amo Behavioral Health Facility and in the emergency medicine setting at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. Supplementary to my primary work in these settings, she was heavily involved with community youth populations through endeavors which included teaching in a STEM pipeline program hosted by the Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science. Currently, she is a member of the “Closing the Gap on Hypertension” Bass Connections Project team, mentor in the Women and Math Mentoring program, executive board member of DUSON’s Active Minds organization, member of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association, and volunteer for the VA Healthcare System.
Vani Yadav is an international graduate student from India in the Duke Medical Physics program. Vani is interested in advancement of medical imaging technology and works in the Magnetic Resonance engineering laboratory in the Duke-UNC Brain Imaging and Analysis Center. Her research involves developing RF/shimming coils for pre-clinical small animal imaging. She hopes to work in the field of MR engineering and neuroimaging in the long term. Apart from cool physics applications to healthcare, Vani is passionate about gender and social equality.