Kenan Summer Fellows

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? How? 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 exhibit. As long as it provides a thoughtful, novel perspective of how to live an ethical life, it fits. Between five and six fellows will receive up to $5,000 and their faculty mentors will receive $500 to support their project.

QUESTIONS to explore might include, but are not limited to:

  • 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?

Please contact Suzanne Shanahan with any questions.


  • Spend eight consecutive weeks between mid-May and mid-August 2019 exclusively on the project.
  • Provide weekly updates, questions, and concerns to your faculty mentor.
  • Write weekly reflections on your experience that will be published on the KIE website.
  • Submit a five-page final report critically examining their project.
  • Present project at a symposium in Fall 2019.


  • 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, one-inch margins) outlining their summer project. Students’ proposals should include what they mean by living an ethical life, a detailed explanation of their proposed project and how it addresses the issue of living an ethical life, the project’s overall significance, in what ways they are prepared for this project, dates of project, and a detailed budget. Here is a sample proposal outline.
  • Proposals must include a cover page indicating the student’s graduation year and project title.
  • Applicants must have their faculty mentor write a one-page reference (maximum) indicating the faculty member’s willingness to mentor the project as well as the applicants preparedness and likelihood of successfully completing the project. This letter should also include a plan for interaction over the summer (e.g. weekly phone calls or check-ins via Skype).
  • DEADLINE:  Applications are due February 7th, 2019 at midnight. Applications must be hand delivered to the front desk of the Kenan Institute (102 West Duke Building) with the faculty member’s letter in a sealed/signed envelope. No late applications or separate references will be accepted. 
  • Note that funds from KSF cannot be combined with any other Duke summer research or fellowship resources.
  • 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.


Meet the 2018 Kenan Summer Fellows:

Henock Asaye is a rising junior from Las Vegas, Nevada, double majoring in Public Policy and Global Health with an interest in health disparities. He is the founder of Oasis Medical Relief, an organization that collects extra medical supplies from American hospitals and pharmaceutical companies and distributes them to low-budget hospitals in Ethiopia. His project will examine the availability of medical supplies and medical professionals in the urban and rural areas of that country. By taking this twofold approach, Henock will be able to see the ethical discrepancies in both doctor-patient treatment and access to supply, and will work with the Ethiopian Ministry of Health to determine how to improve future distribution methods. His faculty mentor is Manoj Mohanan.

John Benhart is a Trinity junior from Pittsburgh studying Computer Science. His project seeks to analyze definitions of community in small to medium-sized towns across the United States, focusing on how citizens in these areas view responsibility to outsiders, including migrants, minorities, and other “foreign” groups. John will spend the summer biking around the U.S., conducting informal interviews with community members in designated towns. He is excited to use the medium of biking to study these issues, as he feels that cycling provides a holistic picture of the geography and heart of an area. His faculty mentor is Suzanne Shanahan.

Kinza Khan is a Trinity sophomore from Pakistan, studying Political Science on the premedical track. For her project, Kinza will attempt to use an education-based intervention model to reduce the symptoms of common metabolic diseases such as hypertension in Pakistan. Her preventive health care program will screen individuals for hypertension, refer patients to an endocrinology unit for free treatment, and conduct “living well” workshops so that those affected may learn how to reduce their symptoms on their own. As a pilot project, her work intends to serve as a small fix in the wide array of issues pertaining to healthcare inequalities in Pakistan, and show that scalability of such a model is possible. Kinza aims to open up a conversation about the ethical responsibility of individuals when faced with morally troubling situations, as well as prove that a preventive medicine model is an effective approach.

Andrea Kolarova is a Trinity sophomore from Asheville studying environmental sciences and biology. She is studying all species of hummingbirds to determine the variables that put certain species at risk of extinction; her summer project is a continuation of research she conducted throughout last summer and her sophomore year. Andrea’s research will require establishing hummingbirds as either generalist or specialist feeders using detailed reports of observed interactions between specific hummingbird and plant species. She will do meta-analysis of existing data as well as offer her own report. The ultimate aim of her project is to inform conservationists on how to best protect the most vulnerable hummingbird species. Her faculty mentor is Stuart Pimm.

Alizeh Sheikh is a Trinity freshman from Atlanta studying evolutionary anthropology, English, and Spanish. Her project addresses how legal status, specifically in the context of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), is related to identity formation. She will partner with immigration law firms and nonprofits in Atlanta, Georgia, and Durham, North Carolina, to interview and distribute surveys to young adult clients. Surveys will consist of anxiety and depression diagnostic tests as well as the Objective Measure of Ego Identity Status scale, which analyzes identity formation as it relates to a crisis period in which identity exploration is initiated and an eventual commitment to values, beliefs, and standards is achieved. While past studies of immigrant experiences have focused on cultural differences to explain immigrant maladjustment, Alizeh’s study will explore the psychology of immigrants by elucidating how governmental determination of legal status affects immigrant experience. Her faculty mentor is Robert Thompson.

Nick Turecky is a Trinity rising sophomore from Clayton, North Carolina, intending to study Computer Science. The goal of Nick’s project is to address the ethics of political party loyalty and how it informs people’s values and their perceptions of what is deemed ethical or unethical. He will do research through data collection via surveys and interviews, and also be involved in a film project; both his data and film will be useful for prospective or current service learning students. Nick’s project aims to present ways to find truth and impartiality in politics and to appropriately navigate political conversations, as well as to help people be reflective and introspective about the ethics of personal political bias. His faculty mentor is David Malone.

For more information about past projects and Kenan’s previous Fellows, visit the Summer Fellows archive.