Duke TeachHouse Recognized as Successful Model Supporting North Carolina Public Education

Woman displays children's drawings and cards on the wall of her classroom.
TeachHouse alumna Brianna Tuscani (2018–2020) currently teaches English at Jordan High School, Durham Public Schools, where she was named the school’s 2021 Beginning Teacher of the Year. (Photo: Courtesy of Duke TeachHouse)

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction has selected Duke TeachHouse for inclusion in its Promising Practices Clearinghouse, a resource for the state’s teachers, administrators, district personnel and other education advocates.

Front page of TeachHouse brief.Launched in 2015 and part of the Program in Education within the Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, Duke TeachHouse is a first-of-its-kind peer living and learning community for early career teachers, all graduates of Duke’s teacher preparation programs. TeachHouse cultivates and supports teacher peer networks; leadership skills; equity-based, culturally affirming, high impact practices; school innovation; and teacher health and well-being.

In 2021, TeachHouse expanded to two houses on 9th Street located across the street from a Durham Public Schools elementary school. At the same time, TeachHouse expanded its virtual professional learning community through the annual TeachHouse UnConference, a new virtual model that amplifies teachers’ power, autonomy and voice by allowing teachers to determine discussion topics, facilitate conversations and document actions to solve problems.

Jan Riggsbee, professor of the practice in education, is the cofounder and director of TeachHouse. “Universities have a responsibility not only to graduate highly qualified teachers,” she said, “but to then also continue to support them in their early career years, and as importantly, support the communities they serve. TeachHouse is an innovative model that is positioned to take a lead in efforts to transform the landscape and practices to recruit, cultivate and retain early career teacher-leaders in NC and beyond.”

“As a first-year teacher, you can kind of feel like you’re on your own a little bit. There are not many places where teachers can go and be themselves and have a place of growth … It’s been a great experience.” –Michele Saunders

“We’ve had the community dinners where we’re interacting with different leaders [and] we got to interact with all levels of the school system. It was truly incredible.” –Brianna Tuscani

“TeachHouse has done an incredible job of providing resources in different ways so that I can grow and use them in whatever ways I deem fit for my classroom.” –Savannah Windham

“I’ve grown in my own self advocacy, I’ve grown in my own self awareness as a professional, I’ve grown in ways of being intentional about my work. It has helped me to learn to relax and have fun in teaching.” –Corey Bray

Brianna Rochelle and Alejandra Gomez.

This school year, two first-year teachers and first-year TeachHouse fellows were named 2022 Beginning Teacher of the Year for their home schools: Alejandra Gomez at Brogden Middle School, and Brianna Rochelle at Club Boulevard Humanities Magnet Elementary School, both in the Durham Public Schools system.

The TeachHouse model is rooted in purpose and place. New teachers live, learn and engage in the communities they serve, and in so doing, become grounded in the history, stories, assets and culture that shape the lives of their students. Read the Promising Practices Clearinghouse brief and visit the the Duke TeachHouse website.

Student Team Grants Available for Research Projects Starting This Summer

Deadline: March 5, 2022

Are you and a group of fellow students excited about testing a new idea or exploring a compelling research question? Do you want to extend work that you started through a course, extra-curricular activity, or Bass Connections, DukeEngage, Data+ or Story+ project?

Bass Connections and the Undergraduate Research Support Office are pleased to introduce a new research grant available for students involved in collaborative team-based research projects. This research award will provide funds of up to $5,000 to support collaborative research projects involving two or more students. Calls for proposals will be issued in January of each year and funds will be awarded for a period of one year. Five to eight awards will be issued each year.

Projects can address a broad range of research topics and result in an array of research outputs, from traditional theses, research papers and conference presentations to prototypes, exhibits, websites and media campaigns, data sets and apps, performances, and more!

We are now accepting proposals for 2022-2023. All proposals must be submitted through the online proposal form by March 5, 2022 at 5:00 p.m. You may work directly within the online form and save and return to the form as you work. You may also preview the proposal questions and draft your responses using the following Word template.

Eligibility criteria
  • Research projects must be conceived of and directed by students.
  • Projects must have a faculty mentor.
  • Projects must occur within the next year (from May 2022 to May 2023).
  • Students must be active students during the time of the proposed research (i.e., graduating students are not eligible).
  • Project teams must include at least one Trinity undergraduate student; Pratt undergraduate students and/or graduate students from any Duke School are also eligible to apply as long as their team includes at least one Trinity undergrad.*
  • Projects may be focused on any topic within, or across disciplines, with a preference for interdisciplinary projects.

*If you are seeking funding for a project that does not include a Trinity undergraduate student, consider applying for the Bass Connections Student Research Award.

A note about COVID-19:

While we aspire to support applied, student-driven research projects, the health and safety of students and the community are our top priority. All projects, if selected, will be expected to follow all applicable university policies.

For Summer 2022, we anticipate that students will be able to conduct on-campus research and live in on- or off-campus housing. Students may propose projects involving domestic or international travel, but all travel plans will be subject to change in accordance with the Duke Global Travel Policy, as it applies at the time of travel.

When submitting a proposal, you should carefully consider whether the proposed research will be feasible under the current circumstances, and address in the proposal how you might adapt your research plan if aspects of the project are not feasible due to COVID-19 restrictions. If the proposed research involves in-person contact or fieldwork, the proposal should address how the team will adhere to COVID-19 protocols.

Proposal requirements

All proposals must be submitted through the online proposal form by March 5, 2022 at 5:00 p.m. You may work directly within the online form and save and return to the form as you work. You may also preview the proposal questions and draft your responses using the following Word template. For planning purposes, key proposal elements include:

  • Details about the team composition
  • A description of the project including an abstract, a research plan, information about how the team will operate and how the project will contribute to the development of student team members, a timeline, and information about how the team will adapt as needed to emerging COVID-19 circumstances
  • Project details including whether the project includes research with animals or human subjects, and a risk management plan for any projects involving fieldwork
  • Budget (see additional guidance below)
  • Letter of recommendation from a faculty mentor: Your faculty mentor should submit their letter of recommendation directly by email to laura.howes@duke.edu by March 5, 2022 at 5:00 p.m. Your mentor’s letter should address the scholarly value of your research project, their assessment of your preparedness for completing the project, and how they intend to support you (including how often the mentor and students will meet, how the mentor will provide guidance, oversight, and assistance).
Budget limitations

When submitting a proposal, you will be asked to submit a detailed budget plan for the entire proposed project, noting other sources of funding that you have secured or applied for. Maximum funding for this award is $5,000.

For planning purposes, please note the following limitations, which may be subject to change.

Reasonable expenses include:

  • Fees associated with use of archives, lab equipment, etc.
  • Software licenses
  • Research participant incentives
  • Research supplies and materials
  • Transcription services
  • Books/training to support your research
  • Travel for field research that cannot be conducted remotely (dependent upon COVID-19 travel restrictions)
  • Summer housing expenses to allow students to conduct research in instances when students need to be on-site

Funds may not be used:

  • As stipend or salary
  • To purchase personal equipment or durable items costing more than $1,000 (cameras, computers, clothing, etc.)
  • To cover personal living expenses at a permanent residence (funds may only be used to cover temporary living expenses to conduct field research, which can include Durham during the summer only)
  • To cover personal taxes

Please note that neither of these lists are all-inclusive, but rather are intended to help you consider common, allowable expenses.

Funds will generally be administered via a Duke “fund code.” To process expenditures, students will need to work with their faculty advisor to use a departmental purchase card, or file for reimbursement. Some expenses (such as housing) will be issued as a non-compensatory payment to students and will be considered taxable income.


We strongly encourage prospective applicants to attend the Bass Connections Foundational Research Module series for additional grounding in common research practices. In particular, if your project involves human subjects, you should make every effort to attend one of the two Institutional Review Board modules on February 25 or April 8. This module will satisfy the Human Subjects Certification requirement, allowing you to proceed with setting up an IRB protocol.


For questions or more information about the Student Team Grants program, please contact laura.howes@duke.edu.

These research awards are supported by the Eberts Family Fund, and are administered by the Undergraduate Research Support Office in partnership with Bass Connections.

Also see the Bass Connections Student Research Awards for another opportunity.

Technology for the People

Jesús del Carmen Valdiviezo Mora, Ph.D. ’21, combines chemistry and AI for wearable tech

Person in front of computer screen.
Valdiviezo working on his computer at the Beratan Lab

Growing up in southeastern Mexico, Jesús del Carmen Valdiviezo Mora was fascinated by science and technology. He loved exploring the latest devices and finding out how they worked. As he honed his interests, the promising young scholar knew he wanted to help improve people’s lives.

“I love technology, and I like to do research,” Valdiviezo said, “but I always aim to find ways to bring ideas from journal articles to the market through companies.”

Valdiviezo has now completed his doctorate in chemistry and cofounded a company. Before leaving Duke for Berkeley, he paused to look back at his academic and entrepreneurial journey.

Participating in a science outreach event with Clubes de Ciencia Mexico (CdeCMx)

Freedom to Explore

Valdiviezo received a Fulbright scholarship to attend graduate school in the U.S. “I was looking to do computational chemistry,” he said, “but I really love to be interdisciplinary, and I wanted to work on nanoscience and biochemistry. My bachelor’s advisor, Julio Palma, pointed out the website of the Beratan Lab, and after exploring it I said, I love this research! There was a broad scope of exciting topics that David Beratan was working on.”

Pursuing his interests, Valdiviezo became inspired by the potential of artificial intelligence. He earned a master’s in electrical and computer engineering, focusing on machine learning, while working toward his Ph.D. in chemistry.

“David gave me a lot of freedom to explore opportunities to complement my research training,” said Valdiviezo. “He has been so amazing.”

Two people holding a banner that says Fubright.
With advisor David Beratan

Tapping Into Creativity

Aiming to put his scientific knowledge to use in improving lives, Valdiviezo signed up for a free short-course on entrepreneurial strategy through the Duke Graduate Academy.

Howie Rhee.
Howie Rhee, Duke I&E

Howie Rhee, managing director of student programs at Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship (I&E), encouraged his students to let the ideas flow.

“I really loved what Howie did,” Valdiviezo recalled. “Howie was like, just take a blank piece of paper, write, draw, do whatever you want. I was feeling like I was in kindergarten or elementary school, when you’re very creative and not afraid of sounding crazy or worried about how do I do this,” Valdiviezo said. He appreciated the thought process that allowed him to generate ideas, talk them through and begin to make connections.

“After Howie’s course, I got very motivated, because he did an amazing job with how he organized the course and got us exposure to startups and entrepreneurs that are also students like us.”

Controlling the Flow

Valdiviezo reached out to a college friend, Julio Fredin, who also studied chemistry and had gotten involved in microfabrication. The two discussed their shared interest in the interdisciplinary field of microfluidics, involving the manipulation and processing of fluids at a very small scale with many practical applications.

Imagine a river, Valdiviezo suggested. You can’t control water flow, but using microfluidics you can design your river and direct where things go – akin to placing large boulders in a river. This technology has been used for blood tests, for example, speeding the process of separating plasma from cells and preparing it for more careful analysis.

“We thought, this is a really good technology, so it c­ould benefit from using AI. Let’s merge the AI side to the microfluidics technology!”

Taking It Further

That fall, Valdiviezo seized the opportunity to apply to the Duke Incubation Fund. Originally run by I&E and rehomed in the Office for Translation & Commercialization, the funds are used to support early-stage ideas with commercial potential.

Recipients of the 2019-20 Duke Incubation Fund Awards.

Valdiviezo and Fredin proposed using AI to design, manufacture and patent microfluidic devices that act as efficient analyzers of biological samples. The two were able to focus their energies on developing their idea and producing a device that they could take to other investors for the next stages.

They founded their company, E-Sentience, and are now using microfluidics and AI for wearable electronics.

Tracking and Managing Stress

Sentient Skin is a wearable arm sleeve that generates a constant stream of data on stress. Image: E-Sentience LLC

“We’re focusing on the hormones that are related to stress,” Valdiviezo explained. “If you are using a wearable, let’s say a watch, you can know thanks to the sensors when you’re getting too stressed and you should take a break.” The wearable could detect stress levels by measuring sweat, which contains hormones such as cortisol.

“If you can keep track of cortisol in real time, that can give you a profile of how your stress levels have been throughout the day or through the week,” said Valdiviezo. “We can use that information, combining it with AI to create models that can describe or predict how you’re going to be feeling, for example, in two days, if you continue with this routine or if you take a break, and how long the break should be to get back to your normal levels, to prevent complications like cardiac diseases or something that could come as a consequence of having a lot of stress.”

A wearable device could make this health-improving data broadly accessible, Valdiviezo emphasized. “That’s our goal. We want to have this technology for the people.”

Prestigious Fellowship

This spring, Valdiviezo received a national CIFellows award to work at the intersection of chemistry and AI, studying novel chemical reactivity in aqueous droplets. He’ll head to the University of California, Berkeley, in January.

“One of the cool things about the fellowship is that you have a flexibility that you wouldn’t normally have” he said. “That will give me the opportunity to spend time working on the company and taking it to the next level with my team.”

To build teamwork and leadership skills, Valdiviezo took part in The Graduate School’s Emerging Leaders Institute, a professional development program for Duke grad students and postdocs. From left: Valdiviezo, Shreyas Hegde, facilitator Kristin Murphy, Assistant Dean Melissa Bostrom, Brad Barth, Courtney Johnson

Before then, he’s wrapping up work in the lab and continuing to make progress with his company, which will be based in North Carolina.

Valdiviezo credits Beratan for encouraging him to explore other areas besides his current research. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t see myself going to the Graduate Academy or working on the company,” he said. “I was thinking about the things I’ve done here at Duke, and I’m very grateful to have had all those experiences and met so many amazing people. I like to call this place my home, and I’m going to miss it a lot.”

Duke Graduate Academy logo.The Duke Graduate Academy offers free short-courses to help graduate students and postdocs expand their skill sets and prepare for a wide range of careers. Created as an element of the Together Duke academic strategic plan, the academy launched in 2018. Read reflections from participants and instructors. Courses in the academy’s Summer Session 2022 will be announced in the spring.

By Sarah Dwyer, Duke Interdisciplinary Studies

Duke English Ph.D. Students Share Summer Internship Experiences

During the summer of 2021, several English Ph.D. students are gaining work experience through internships. Five of these students shared insight into their experiences:

Shirley Li.Shirley Li, ’23, is interning at RTI International (RTI). She began her internship working on the East Africa Energy Program Impact project in early June. Li is designing and conducting a “most significant change” (MSC) study of the influence the East Africa Energy Program had on the enabling environment around the grid-based energy sector in Kenya. She expects the study to blend government consulting, international development and social science research. Li learned about this internship opportunity through Duke’s Provost Experiential Fellowships program, which offers summer research internships to continuing Ph.D. students.

Duke University Press.Two students are interning for Duke University Press this summer. Carolin Benack, ’23, is interning as a journal platform creator. In her role, Benack assists the business systems and IT teams in creating the Scholarly Publishing Collective, a set of services ranging from journal subscription management to web hosting for university presses beyond Duke University Press. Benack builds and reviews journal sites and provides data analysis and management for them. She learned about this Provost Internship through Duke’s Office of Interdisciplinary Studies’ website.

“Working at the Press is reminding me of my professional identity outside of academia. I realize that the skills I gained during my Ph.D. training are much more useful in the nonprofit/business world than I thought. I’m learning the appropriate language to make these skills legible to nonacademic employers.” – Carolin Benack

Jessica Covil-Manset, ’23, is also interning with Duke University Press in the books marketing sector. She started working with Duke University Press during the fall of 2020 and has continued into the summer of 2021 with additional hours. When asked about her responsibilities, Covil-Manset noted that they are diverse. She orders books for reviewers, processes book reviews to share with authors, researches awards, writes nomination cover letters, writes descriptions of books for catalogs, schedules tweets to advertise books and events, formulates questions for Q&As with authors, and creates posts for the Duke University Press blog.

Covil-Manset shared that she is learning a lot about the behind-the-scenes elements of the publishing industry and how various staff positions collaborate to assure a book’s success. She now knows how acquisitions editors acquire and develop content that the publisher can utilize to market a book.

Covil-Manset added, “I’ve benefited greatly from the mentorship program that Duke University Press recently started. I was paired with Elizabeth Ault, an editor at DUP whom I’ve enjoyed video conferencing with and whose perspective/advice I truly value.”

Story+.Ellie Vilakazi, ’25, is interning locally as a graduate student project manager for Story+.

The Franklin Humanities Institute and Bass Connections offer Story+ as a 6-week paid summer research experience for Duke undergraduate and graduate students interested in exploring interdisciplinary humanities research topics and methodologies. Vilakazi began her internship in May overseeing international undergraduate students conducting research. Her team interviews international students who resided in Durham during the summer of 2020.

Vilakazi is responsible for guiding her team through the interview process and the development of a creative, visually compelling website. The website features stories organized around the themes, challenges, shows of resilience, and records of institutional solutions that emerge from the project’s interviews. She is leading an interview training session to prepare her students to write these stories, and she meets with them four times a week for an hour to discuss their progress.

“I am an English student. IRB (Institutional Review Board) and human research is not something I have to deal with in my studies, but it has been eye-opening to see the whole application process and how to deal with human beings as data. This internship has taught me more about the nuances of scholarly interviews as opposed to journalistic interviews. I have tremendous respect for the work that social scientists do now that I have had a small view into the process of researching human beings.” – Ellie Vilakazi

Catherine Lee.Catherine Lee, ’23, is completing an internship at Durham Technical Community College. Her internship is one of the Provost’s internships for Ph.D. students without summer funding. Lee is working with Durham Tech’s Creative and Liberal Arts faculty to diversify the curriculum for general education courses (British Literature I and II) so that they are more inclusive of groups historically left out of the Western canon. During her internship, she will be researching work from underrepresented communities in British literature and developing course content for future instructors.

“I can’t say I have learned much about the industry or professionalization yet, but the research that I have been doing has been fun and informative.” – Catherine Lee

The students featured in this article found their internships through Duke University resources that provide information about internship opportunities sponsored by the university or partners. Each student took advantage of the internship to gain insight into an industry they may pursue upon completing their studies. Opportunities like these provide real-life experience and allow our doctoral students to learn about alternative potential careers and professions.

By Quantá Holden, Digital Communication Specialist; originally posted on the Duke English Department website

Making the Most of Duke on the Road to the Ph.D.

Three students share opportunities that strengthened their doctoral education
Doctoral students.
Hannah Ontiveros (far left) poses with Bass Connections colleagues Imani Mosley and Charles Thompson; Edgar Virgüez cheers on the football team with his daughter and wife; Jessica West celebrates her successful dissertation defense

Jessica West, Ph.D. in Sociology

Joining a Team of Global Experts on Hearing Loss

Jessica West Jessica West.studies the health and well-being of individuals with disabilities. She is particularly interested in the experiences of people with hearing loss, as she herself has worn hearing aids since the age of 17.

West’s dissertation, “Stress Proliferation and Disability over the Life Course,” is organized into two chapters that address questions regarding stress proliferation and disability using data from the Health and Retirement Study, a longitudinal, nationally representative sample of U.S. adults over the age of 50 and their spouses.

How she got involved with a working group on hearing loss stigma

“During the second year of my Ph.D. program, I reached out to Dr. Debara Tucci, an otolaryngologist at Duke. I was interested in meeting her because in addition to her fantastic basic science research, some of her clinical research focused on addressing barriers to hearing health care.

“In 2019, The Lancet Commission on Hearing Loss (LCHL) was formed to identify ways to reduce the global burden of hearing loss. Dr. Tucci invited me to participate in the inaugural meeting. Once the Commission realized they needed a stronger focus on stigma, Dr. Tucci asked me to become part of the stigma working group, which is co-led by Dr. Laura Nyblade (RTI) and Dr. Howard Francis (Chair of the Department of Head and Neck Surgery and Communication Sciences at Duke).

Researchers pose for a group photo.
Jessica West (fourth from right) at the inaugural meeting of the LCHL in October 2019

“The RTI team is part of this working group and has several tasks. First, we are conducting an extensive literature review of past evidence on the stigma related to hearing loss and hearing-related assistive devices. Second, we have been tasked with creating a framework for thinking about hearing loss stigma. Finally, we are creating a survey that will be fielded in two countries to generate a more current understanding of hearing loss stigma.

“Through the LCHL, I have had the opportunity to meet and work with world experts in hearing loss whose work I have read and cited throughout my doctoral training. Joining the RTI team has introduced me to Dr. Nyblade, who has extensive expertise in stigma and discrimination, especially surrounding HIV and AIDS. In some of her past work, Dr. Nyblade has developed, tested, and standardized a tool for measuring stigma. Working with Dr. Nyblade has shown me ways in which academic research can be translated into public health interventions.”

Edgar Virgüez, Ph.D. in Environmental Sciences & Policy

Making the University a Better Place

Edgar.Edgar Virgüez is an energy systems engineer promoting a rapid and cost-efficient energy transition toward a decarbonized electric power system. His research integrates methods from operations research, geospatial analysis and environmental economics. At Duke, he has received several of the most prestigious awards for graduate students, including the Graduate School Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching and the Forever Duke Student Leadership Award.

Virgüez has served on numerous boards and committees across the university. He took part in The Graduate School’s Emerging Leaders Institute, where graduate students and postdocs work in teams to improve Duke’s campus environment, a Bass Connections project (read his reflection) and many other interdisciplinary endeavors. Expecting to graduate later this year, he has accepted a postdoctoral position at Stanford University.

What he gained from engaging in governance

“For the last few years I have served on the resources committee of the Board of Trustees. Through that experience, President Price invited me to be part of the search committee for the new executive vice president. I learned about the most pressing challenges for higher education, and how to engage in the decision-making process to prepare the university to confront these challenges.

“I have worked with eight of the eleven vice presidents that we have. Through our interactions I have learned so much from them. They have answered my questions and shared their wisdom and expertise. My dream is to become a university president, and they gave me so much insight, information and passion for continuing this path.

Edgar presenting at a meeting.
Edgar Virgüez speaks on a panel of Cross Scholars at the Association of American Colleges & Universities 2020 Annual Meeting.

“I’ve also made the most of my Duke experience by actively participating in the Graduate and Professional Student Government, where I have served since 2017. For example, last fall, I introduced a resolution to remove the GRE as a mandatory requirement. Engaging students, admissions officers and members of The Graduate School taught me how to tailor a proposal that reflects multiple perspectives. The final product received approval from the student government. I believe it provides a platform for student advocacy efforts to remove some of the barriers that prevent Duke from being a more inclusive and diverse place.

Edgar, Vincent Price, Temis
Edgar and his wife Temis with President Vincent E. Price

“I hope to return to Duke one day. This place has become a home for us. My wife [Temis Coral Castellanos, MEM ’19] finished her master’s degree here. We had our first baby at Duke Hospital. This place provided so many resources for us that it changed our lives forever.

“While our experience at Duke has been defining, this does not mean that everybody else’s experience has been as positive. There are things to improve. Rather than sitting down and being passive, we have been actively trying to change the university. We want Duke to be a place where everybody can thrive regardless of where they were born or how they self-identify. Even if you don’t have the resources to apply for the standardized exams, or you face multiple barriers to entry, you should have a chance to be part of the Duke family.”

Hannah Ontiveros, Ph.D. in History

Looking at Humanitarian Work from a New Angle

Hannah.Hannah Ontiveros studies the history of women in the 20th century. Last summer, while working on her dissertation about American humanitarian responses to the Korean War, she took on two research projects for CWS Durham. This branch of Church World Service supports immigrant and refugee new arrivals in the Triangle area.

Through a Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grant she designed herself, Ontiveros explored strategies for fundraising and community outreach, and conducted interviews with congregational partners and CWS staff. From her research, she crafted reports on her findings and recommended strategies for shaping future programs.

Ontiveros also served as a Story+ graduate mentor and a Bass Connections project coordinator (read her reflection).

Why she chose this internship

“I specifically wanted to work for a progressive faith-based organization, because those are the kinds of institutions I write about in my dissertation. I knew that understanding how these organizations operate on a practical, local, contemporary basis would strengthen my historical analysis of how they operated in the 1950s. Conversely, I wanted to bring my historical research on these organizations to bear on present-day operations.

CWS logo.“CWS was a great fit. The organization’s emergency relief efforts crop up a lot in my dissertation; CWS Durham operates locally and works in grievously under-served communities; and the organization’s focus on refugee resettlement and advocacy addresses a timely problem with roots in the historical period that I study.

“My work with CWS showed me how such organizations continue to operate 70 years later. As part of my research for CWS, I interrogated how donors and volunteers articulate their duty to serving refugee populations. I address the same kinds of questions about duty and motivation in my research. In both cases I found similar answers, demonstrating narratives of deservingness, civic duty and care that run across 70 years. It demonstrated to me the ongoing necessity of studying how and why humanitarianism operates, and how it functions in American society.

“My research for CWS required me to use methods outside and beyond the historical and archival ones I’m accustomed to. I had the opportunity to conduct interviews, to engage philanthropic studies literature, and to utilize some qualitative and quantitative research methods on congregations’ mission statements. Through my research I pushed myself to think in a more interdisciplinary way.”

Advice for Doctoral Students

“Make connections with people outside of your home discipline because they can often provide perspectives or other connections that you might not otherwise be able to access. The benefit of these connections may not be immediate – it may take a few months or years, but they are still worth fostering.” – Jessica West

“Push yourself to find an internship that’s as far outside of your direct area of inquiry as you can. This will help you develop an understanding of broad implications of your research and of your skillset. It will also expand your employment prospects, both in adding a diverse c.v. line and in pushing your research and writing skills into new environments. Also, don’t be afraid to send that introductory email to a potential internship host.” – Hannah Ontiveros

“Use the interdisciplinary initiatives that we have at Duke. There is a tool from The Graduate School called Duke OPTIONS to quickly identify all of the resources that we have here. Anything that you could dream of, there is a possibility that we have a resource related to that.” – Edgar Virgüez

Congratulations to all of the 2021 Ph.D. recipients! Current students, learn more about making the most of Duke this summer and beyond.

By Sarah Dwyer, Duke Interdisciplinary Studies

Duke Ph.D. Students Find Unexpected Benefits in an Unusual Summer

Six students share insights from their 2020 Provost’s Summer Fellowships
Amanda Rossillo.
“This experience looks great on a resume and it’s very fulfilling to apply your narrow research topic to something outside of academia,” said Amanda Rossillo, pictured in her lab.

When COVID hit last spring, many graduate students had to give up their summer plans for teaching, field research and internships. The Provost’s Office quickly pledged support, and Vice Provost Ed Balleisen spearheaded the effort to identify virtual opportunities.

Experiential fellowships with eight host organizations and research assistantships with more than 20 Duke units provided summer funding and career development for all 59 Ph.D. students in need. Every student who responded to Duke’s end-of-summer evaluation would recommend this kind of internship experience to other Ph.D. students.

Kim Bourne.
Kim Bourne chose a part-time fellowship, which she said was “a great way to gain experience in an area outside of my dissertation without hindering my progress.”

Kim Bourne (Civil & Environmental Engineering) got off to a strong start with Duke’s Bass Connections program. “It was incredibly helpful that my host gave me a list of goals at the beginning,” said Bourne, who developed resources for remote and in-person learning. “This experience helped me explore an area I am interested in professionally and is a great addition to my resume as I apply for jobs.”

Zach Levine (Cultural Anthropology) worked on syllabus design and modules for Durham Tech instructor Tom Magrinat’s psychology courses. “It’s very divergent from my dissertation,” said Levine, “but over time I’ve seen how helpful it is to think about other means of storytelling. It’s refreshed the importance for me of moving between different types of genre and tone.”

Four ingredients for natural selection.
A slide from a presentation Amanda Rossillo created for a lesson plan on evolution

Amanda Rossillo (Evolutionary Anthropology) benefited from constructive feedback as she worked with the Triangle Center for Evolutionary Medicine to create a lesson plan on evolution for teachers in North Carolina. “Working with Dr. Meredith Beaulieu as my mentor was an amazing experience,” Rossillo said. “Not only did she help me shape the content of my lesson plan, but more importantly, through this experience I became aware of one of my shortcomings, and my mentor helped me realize that and guided me in the right direction to work on improving.”

Khari Johnson.
Khari Johnson

Khari Johnson (Biomedical Engineering) spent his summer with RTI International to assess how misinformation affects people’s receptivity to health initiatives. Looking back, Johnson highlighted the value of collaborative research. “For me, the biggest takeaway was that you can always find [people with] similar passions in the place you least expected it, and building on those collaborations can be very fruitful.”

Also at RTI, Mavzuna Turaeva (Public Policy and Economics) conducted data analysis, coding and researching for the International Education division. “I think the most useful element [of the fellowship] was exposure to nonacademic literature,” Turaeva reflected. “It turns out there is a huge body of research conducted by economists with Ph.D.s who work in nonacademic institutions, and I don’t think we get enough exposure to that literature during our program.”

Brooks Frederickson.
Brooks Frederickson is currently working on a project for Duke Symphony Orchestra using some of the skills he honed over the summer.

Brooks Frederickson (Music Composition) helped Sō Percussion host its first virtual summer institute for college-aged percussionists and composers. Having developed and delivered an online curriculum, Frederickson said the experience “helped me to gain knowledge of tools and procedures that I immediately put into practice as a Tech TA for the Music Department this semester.” Frederickson thanked Duke “for stepping up in a major way to ensure that the graduate students had opportunities this summer. This internship was a huge lifeline for me.”

Deepening a Partnership with Durham Tech

Eight external organizations (American Historical Association, Durham Tech, Modern Language Association, Museum of Durham History, National Humanities Alliance, National Humanities Center, RTI International, Society for Biblical Literature) served as summer fellowship hosts. Three students worked with Durham Tech faculty, extending a partnership between Duke and the community college.

Through a Humanities Unbounded pilot program begun in 2019, Durham Tech faculty and Duke Ph.D. students team up over the summer to develop new pedagogical modules for courses at the community college. In the fall, the Ph.D. students help implement the projects.

In the first cohort, Lisa Blair of Durham Tech worked with Patricia Bass (Art, Art History & Visual Studies) to incorporate more Francophone African literature and culture. Marina DelVecchio partnered with Maggie McDowell (English) to redesign courses on American women’s studies and literature.

The 2020 Durham Tech/Duke pairings were Janel Thompson and Pratistha Bhattarai (Literature), Jason Moldoff and Caoimhe Harlock (English), and Tom Magrinat and Zach Levine (Cultural Anthropology).

By Sarah Dwyer, Duke Interdisciplinary Studies

Duke Ph.D. Students Receive Grants to Enhance Their Training through Remote Internships

GSTEG grantees.
Top row: Axel Berky, Brianna Elliott, Rachel Coyte, Brooks Frederickson, Jaime Gonzalez; bottom row: Keqi He, Hannah Ontiveros, Julianna Renzi, Dana Wright

Nine Duke University doctoral students have received Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants (GSTEG) for Summer 2020 from the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies.

The goal of this grant competition is to expand the opportunities for graduate students to augment their core research and training by acquiring skills, knowledge, or experiences that are not available at Duke and that will enhance their capacity to carry out original research. In light of constraints imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Summer 2020 request for proposals was revised to focus on doctoral students with only partial or no summer funding; applicants could propose remote internships with a community organization, government agency, NGO, or cultural institution.

Axel Berky, Ph.D. in Environment

Host: Environmental Protection Agency
Faculty Advisor: William Pan

Berky will remotely intern with the EPA’s Center for Public Health and Environmental Assessment. In the first of two main projects, he will join a multidisciplinary team that is developing a platform for the public to interact with information related to the risk of wildfires and smoke exposure. This will consist of helping create interactive maps of human health risk from wildfire smoke that can be easily interpreted and updated to reflect real-time monitoring. In the second project, Berky will contribute to a manuscript on the effect of ambient temperature on end-stage chronic kidney disease patients from the U.S. Renal Data System.

Brianna Elliott, Ph.D. in Marine Science and Conservation

Host: U.S. Department of State, Office of Marine Conservation
Faculty Advisor: Andrew Read

Considered the largest global threat to marine mammals, bycatch is the incidental capture of non-target species in fisheries. For the past year, Elliott has been leading an initiative in partnership with the International Whaling Commission to research the policy response of Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) to reduce marine mammal bycatch in their fisheries. After presenting her research to the IWC’s Scientific Committee this month, Elliott will continue developing this research and a report with recommendations to the IWC to work with RFMOs to address marine mammal bycatch, particularly in the Indian Ocean region. Since the U.S. is an IWC member, Elliott will collaborate with the Department of State through a remote internship focused on the bycatch report and other fisheries-focused policy tasks.

Rachel Coyte, Ph.D. in Earth and Ocean Sciences

Host: Earthjustice
Faculty Advisor: Avner Vengosh

Coal combustion residues (CCRs), including fly ash, are some of the largest industrial solid wastes in the United States. Coyte will work to connect the science behind CCR environmental contamination with the impact that such contamination could have on real communities. She will write a report with findings and produce two literature reviews for Earthjustice. The first literature review will look at the chemistry of ash pond pore water; the second will focus on research that works toward answering the question, how long will coal ash continue to leach contaminants into the water?

Brooks Frederickson, Ph.D. in Music Composition

Host: So Percussion
Faculty Advisor: John Supko

The So Percussion Summer Institute (SoSI) is an international gathering of college-aged percussionists and composers. Normally held over two weeks at Princeton University, SoSI exposes young musicians to the thinking and practices of some of the contemporary-classical music scene’s most lauded composers, percussionists, actors, choreographers, and artists. An alumnus of SoSI, Frederickson will develop an online curriculum. He will create materials for synchronous and asynchronous learning that cover a wide variety of topics connected to the creation and performance of new music. He will also create an online environment that encourages collaboration among participating SoSI students.

Jaime Acosta Gonzalez, Ph.D in Literature

Host: nonsite.org
Faculty Advisor: Michael Hardt

nonsite.org is an academic journal that features writing on aesthetics, politics, and art. Contributors often explore such issues as the relationship of the work of art to the spectator, matters of intention and interpretation, and the social ontology of the work of art. Acosta Gonzalez will serve as an editorial assistant during his remote internship. For the book review section, he will identify new and noteworthy books in the fields of art history, philosophy, literary criticism, and critical theory, then assign reviewers and collate the responses into a readable form for a scholarly audience.

Keqi He, Ph.D. in Earth and Ocean Sciences

Host: U.S. Department of Agriculture
Faculty Advisor: Wenhong Li

Wetlands protect our shores, reduce the impact of floods, absorb pollutants, improve water quality, and provide habitat for animals and plants. However, wetlands are threatened by climate change. In order to understand the processes and driving factors of wetland degradation in the southeast United States, He will remotely intern at the Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center, part of the Forest Service under the USDA. He will examine locations and time of the degradation at a regional scale, using Forest Inventory and Analysis data, vegetation indices from satellite data, and vegetation characteristics from LiDAR data.

Hannah Ontiveros, Ph.D. in History

Host: CWS Durham
Faculty Advisor: Nancy MacLean

Humanitarian organization Church World Service (CWS) is one of nine refugee resettlement agencies in the United States. The Durham office focuses on supporting immigrant and refugee new arrivals in the Triangle area. As a remote intern, Ontiveros will undertake two interconnected research projects. First, she will compile data on CWS Durham activities, funding streams, and spending, as well as on the state of immigrant and refugee populations in the region. Second, she will carry out qualitative research aimed at aligning CWS Durham’s requests for funds with the desires of individual and institutional donors.

Julianna Renzi, Ph.D. in Marine Science and Conservation

Host: National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution
Faculty Advisor: Brian Silliman

To increase understanding of reef ecosystems, the Smithsonian launched the Global ARMS (Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structures) program. ARMS are stacks of PVC plates that have been deployed around the world to describe invertebrate diversity. This summer, Renzi will use data from ARMS in Mo’orea to determine the impacts of large-scale coral loss on invertebrate communities in French Polynesia. She will synthesize DNA metabarcoding data (sequences of a small section of organisms’ genomes that is taxonomically distinct), invertebrate survey data, and environmental data that may be influencing invertebrate recruitment.

Dana Wright, Ph.D. in Marine Science and Conservation

Host: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Faculty Advisor: Andrew Read

The eastern population of North Pacific right whale (NPRW) is the most endangered population of large baleen whale. The few remaining whales are thought to feed predominantly on zooplankton on the southeastern Bering Sea (SEBS) shelf. The Bering Arctic Subarctic Integrated Survey (BASIS) contains a rich time-series (1992-2016) of zooplankton and forage fish count data on the Bering shelf during the seasonal period of presumed NPRW foraging. Wright will use the BASIS dataset to investigate which environmental-species interactions (ESI) govern zooplankton community structure on the SEBS shelf, with the ultimate goal to assess whether the ESI conclusions support the current Oscillating Control Hypothesis that describes lower trophic level dynamics in the region.

Listening for Zora: Merging Sonic Archives with the Digital Humanities

Zora Neale Hurston text and images.
Images from the timeline created by the authors

By Janel Ramkalawan, Ayanna Legros, Chloe McGlynn, and Luoshu Zhang

What happens when a group of students participates in a collective from a range of disciplines? How do a premed student, historian, neuroscience major, and English scholar seek to parse out the life and work of anthropologist, folklorist, and novelist Zora Neale Hurston? How can the digital humanities aid our understanding of sound? How does a team made of half undergraduates and half doctoral students unify to engage in research methods in a humanities seminar?

This fall, Professor Tsitsi Jaji collaborated with the Bass Digital Education Fellowship program and 2019-2020 Fellow Hannah Rogers to incorporate the digital humanities into the classroom. Our collective focused on Zora Neale Hurston’s anthropological work in Florida and the Caribbean (Haiti and Jamaica) with particular attention paid to the text Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica (1938). Most people have heard of Zora Neale Hurston and recognize her for her popular literature. Yet few are aware of the contributions that she made to sound studies and ethnography.

We paused to reflect on the experiences of working across methods, areas of expertise, schedules, and interests.

Chloe McGlynn, Senior, Neuroscience and English

Chloe.Working on a team is easiest when there are clear goals set and it can be difficult when people are coming from different academic backgrounds or people lack experience with digital projects. Further, we all had different schedules and different levels of responsibilities.

So, it became important for us to define our goals, to be clear, communication [had] to be good, and everyone [had] to be equally invested in the project. Sometimes we spent a lot of time catching each other up. People are busy. Also, conflicting visions can be hard on a project. And people work at different speeds.

Ayanna Legros, Ph.D. Student, History

Ayanna.One challenge that our group came across was that we wanted to create a mixtape yet were made aware that rights may be an issue. Do we speak to a lawyer? Do seek out resources at Duke? We referred to Hannah Rogers and requested a handout with clearer guidelines for rights. In my experience, obtaining rights for digital projects is not always standardized so it was a great learning moment to have to pause and request help and support. What came to fruition was an in-depth discussion between the whole team alongside Professor Jaji.

Finally, another thing I learned from this experience is that faculty must request permission to publish from students. This is a great thing to keep in mind as I pursue my teaching career.

Luoshu Zhang, Ph.D. Student, English

Luoshu.For me the most interesting thing about doing this project is that because we had so much time to work on it, and we all come from different academic backgrounds with different insights and approaches, we often had too many ideas, too many things we wanted to cover.

So trying to narrow down the scope of our research was a real challenge. Yet it was always in the process of making choices that we found our most creative ideas.

Janel Ramkalawan, Senior, English and Premed

Janel.The preliminary planning stages of the project (selecting our topic, scope, content, and creative angle) were, in my opinion, the most challenging aspects of our process. Flexible project requirements, a wealth of possible directions, and our lack of exposure to the broader digital humanities landscape made it challenging to decide upon and flesh out a targeted approach. We wondered how about legality of digitizing archival materials and the originality of creating digital historical maps.

I think during this phase, it would have been beneficial for us to have sought out greater librarian/technologist/scholar support as the realm of digital humanities is new to us, and evidently necessitates sustained and collaborative engagement. I think our team did a great job of working together in a nonhierarchical and communicative way.

Creativity and flexibility were key to making this project a success! For more information about collaborative projects in the humanities at Duke University, check out the Bass Connections program, Humanities Unbounded Labs, Humanities Labs in the Franklin Humanities Institute, and the Story+ summer program, to name just a few.