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.

A Community That Writes Together

Black faculty create an effective structure to boost productivity and support each other’s scholarship

Faculty members writing.
Members of the Writing and ReseArch Productivity (WRAP) Group for Underrepresented Faculty take part in a writing retreat. (From left: Sarah Gaither, Gustavo Silva, Sherilynn Black, Tyson Brown, Robert Turner, Jarvis McInnis, Sally Nuamah, Jean Beaman)

“Write!”

For Sarah Gaither, this command reminds her what she needs to make time to do. As an assistant professor of psychology & neuroscience at Duke, she balances a robust teaching and research load with administrative duties, meetings with collaborators and students, leadership of the Duke Identity & Diversity Lab and more. Advancing her own scholarship can get squeezed to the margins, but she can’t allow that to happen during this critical period in her career.

From manuscripts, grants and book chapters to opinion pieces and responses to editors, junior faculty need to write to build their tenure files and advance in rank.

Protected writing time is key. And for Black scholars like Gaither, a supportive community can be a big help in navigating this stage of faculty life.

Wrtite.
WRAP members create a reminder of their purpose at a weekend retreat.

A Group for Writing, Mentoring and Friendship

Musah.
“I have been sitting on a grant idea for months, and having this structured writing time finally gave me the opportunity to start drafting and editing the proposal.” –Samira Musah, Biomedical Engineering

Gaither joined the Writing and ReseArch Productivity (WRAP) Group for Underrepresented Faculty shortly after coming to Duke. Today she serves as co-leader along with Tyson Brown, associate professor of sociology, who founded the group in 2016.

Smith.
“Attending WRAP improved my writing and productivity. It is a wonderful space where I feel welcomed and validated.” –Martin Smith, Education

WRAP offers weekly writing sessions, weekend writing retreats and other programming. The aim is to build community among Black faculty, increase their publication rates and enhance their sense of inclusion on campus.

“With very few minority faculty in my department, WRAP has been essential in creating a support system for my faculty life transition,” Gaither says, “and the guided writing time has been critical during my first years on the tenure track.”

As universities pursue efforts to improve the racial climate on their campuses, Brown says that “faculty of color often do a disproportionate share of racial equity labor such as serving on diversity committees, helping to navigate racial incidents and recruiting and training students of color. While racial equity labor is essential, it can also be taxing and take away from time for research.”

Seed Funding for Faculty Initiatives 

Duke’s Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement has provided seed funding for WRAP since 2018. Faculty Advancement Seed Grants provide a financial head start for faculty-led initiatives aiming to foster a sense of community, build networks and promote a welcoming and respectful climate for all members of Duke’s academic units.

The seed grants program is part of the office’s multifaceted approach to faculty development and advancement, whose goals are to support hiring and retention, to provide resources and programs to help faculty succeed as scholars and mentors and to foster a welcoming and professional environment.

“When faculty mobilize around campus, that influences the whole ecosystem here,” says Sherilynn Black, associate vice provost for faculty advancement. “Everyone can benefit, including postdocs, students and staff.”

A member of the Duke community for the past two decades, Black earned her Ph.D. in neurobiology, followed by a postdoc position and an appointment as assistant professor of the practice of medical education.

“Being with the group is like exhaling,” says Black, who is an active participant in WRAP herself. “It’s implicitly understood what you’re going through.”
Cary.
“WRAP sessions help to transcend boundaries to create a highly productive workspace that fosters a real sense of community.” –Michael Cary, Nursing
Learn more about the Faculty Advancement Seed Grants Initiative and check out the Faculty Advancement and Success (FAS) Workshop Series, which provides learning opportunities, resources and networking for all faculty at Duke.
Faculty standing outside.
WRAP members build community at the Durham Hotel. (From left: Tyson Brown, Gustavo Silva, Sherilynn Black, Jarvis McInnis, Sarah Gaither, Jean Beaman, Sally Nuamah, Robert Turner, Paul Robbins)

Structured Writing with Accountability

Wilbourn.
“This group reminds me of the importance of writing and connects me to minority faculty for questions about being underrepresented at Duke.” –Makeba Wilbourn, Psychology & Neuroscience

WRAP members participate in a weekly two-hour writing session. “In the first 10 to 15 minutes, we talk about our goals for that session,” Gaither says. “We go around the table and hear from each person. Then we do 90 minutes of writing. We close by taking 15 minutes and asking each person to assess the success of that session” as well as how things are going with research, teaching and life in general.

Harris.
“WRAP has been one of the highlights of my first year at Duke.” –Deonte Harris, International Comparative Studies

If faculty are not on campus, they can join the group virtually.

Each week an average of seven members show up and a total of 22 faculty and postdocs have participated. They represent 14 disciplines and units across campus.

“It’s like a triple accountability system,” Gaither says. “You’ve got the time blocked, and people mark their calendars. And when we’re writing with similar people, we want to see how things are going; if someone doesn’t show, I’ll call them and ask where they were. There’s also a shared Google sheet. Everyone logs the hours and minutes they spend every week on writing.”

In addition to the weekly sessions, two weekend-long writing retreats are offered during the year to increase the group’s writing time. Each person aims to create a publication-ready article by engaging in structured writing sessions.

Bridging Gaps

Silva.
“WRAP is an incredible initiative that allowed me to protect my writing time in a very supportive environment.” –Gustavo Silva, Biology

As the group evolves, Brown and Gaither are adding some new components. They see a need for making connections between faculty ranks and plan to encourage Black associate professors and visiting faculty to join. Senior faculty members and campus leaders will also bridge the gap by serving as guest speakers.

A one-day writing retreat in Durham will supplement the weekend retreats and accommodate faculty for whom overnight travel is a challenge.

WRAP members help each other by reviewing drafts and discussing strategies for navigating job situations. A listserv with 30 members supplements in-person conversations.

Increased Productivity, Confidence and Inclusion

Addo.
“I was warmly welcomed into this community of brilliant scholars that had created a space for research productivity, accountability and fellowship.” – Fenaba Addo, Sanford School of Public Policy

“Co-leading and participating in WRAP programmatic activities has greatly enhanced my productivity, and led to opportunities and connections with faculty in other units across the university,” Brown says. “I’ve found that meeting weekly to write alongside others has been useful for providing accountability and protected time for writing. Participating in the group has also fostered a sense of community and provided opportunities for us to discuss our scholarship, teaching and unique experiences.”

Other members report improved daily writing habits, greater self-confidence both academically and personally, increases in research productivity and enhanced feelings of inclusion and community.

At last count, Brown and Gaither identified a substantial output among members over the past two years: collectively they submitted 28 papers, 17 grant proposals and 14 conference abstracts, and they have two books in preparation.

Perhaps most importantly, they are doing this work together as a community. “The group has been so supportive,” says Gaither. “It has made my Duke experience better!”

Faculty on beach.
WRAP members take a break during a writing retreat at the beach. (From left: Fenaba Addo, Paul Robbins, Samira Musah, Omer Ali, Sherilynn Black, Gustavo Silva, Sarah Gaither)

By Sarah Dwyer; originally posted on Duke Today

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.

Ten Groups of Faculty Receive Intellectual Community Planning Grants for 2020

Campus in winter.

The Provost’s Office has awarded Intellectual Community Planning Grants to ten groups for the 2020 calendar year.

A key goal of Together Duke is to invest in faculty as scholars and leaders of the university’s intellectual communities. To foster collaboration around new and emerging areas of interest, Intellectual Community Planning Grants (ICPG) ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 are available to groups of faculty. Recipients can use the funds to support the exploration of new collaborations, covering the cost of meeting venues, food, external speakers or other meeting costs, and research to identify potential collaborators at Duke and elsewhere.

The 2020 grants include faculty from all of Duke’s schools as well as the University of North Carolina, NC State University, and NC Central University.

Bridging Social Determinants of Health with Clinical Extensions of Care for Vulnerable Populations

Bridging team members.

This group will establish a partnership between Duke’s Clinical Translational Science Institute and the Social Science Research Institute in order to develop a portfolio of scholarly activity that tackles the interplay of social determinants of health, clinical health outcomes, and the advancement of health equity. Members will develop a compilation of resources to facilitate interdisciplinary and collaborative research and take advantage of short-term synergies that allow for additional coauthored publications. They will also develop research proposals to design and test one or more interventions.

Developing a Neuroethics and Theological Studies Network

Developing Neuroethics team members.

What can theological studies contribute to neuroethics, and vice versa? How can the engagement of theological studies with neuroethics best be facilitated? How can further interdisciplinary collaboration at Duke shape such dialogue? This group seeks to foster and expand the work of an emerging international cohort of scholars working at the intersection of theological studies and neuroethics.

Duke SciReg Center: Science in Regulation, Law, and Public Policy

Duke SciReg ICPG members.

Bringing together Duke faculty and students from STEM disciplines, law, and policy, this group will seek to facilitate the provision of timely comments from Duke experts to state and federal agencies on pending regulations that implicate scientific and technical issues. Following a series of conversations and planning events, members hope to establish a center at Duke that would create a unique model for interdisciplinary education in science, law, and policy through actual participation in the regulatory process.

Entity Resolution with Applications to Public Policy and Business

Entity Resolutions ICPG members.

This collaboration will enable the formation of a multidisciplinary lab of social scientists, public policy analysts, business scholars, mathematicians and statisticians who seek to understand the practical issues related to entity resolution (ER)—the processes of removing duplicates from large databases and engaging in accurate record linkage across databases. There will be regular meetings of the member research groups to explore applications of ER tasks in public policy and business; one Ph.D. student will work on a project to implement members’ developed tools into software for public distribution and a working paper.

Housing and Health: A Multisector Community-driven Approach to Achieving Health Equity

Housing ICPG members.

Combining a community engagement process with interdisciplinary expertise, these faculty hope to address social, economic, and environmental influencers of health, with the eventual goal of transforming Durham into a healthier place for its most vulnerable residents. Members will participate in an interactive, facilitated pre-planning meeting and four design-thinking workshops with community partners, followed by a post-workshop debrief and a meeting to determine next steps and future directions.

Human Rights Futures

Human Rights ICPG members.

This community of human rights scholars plans will discuss a new temporal framing for human rights: one that remains aware of past grievances and the need for reparations, but that places such awareness in the service of a sustainable and desirable future. Involving graduate and undergraduate students, the group will explore a number of ideas for how this multiyear project might come to life. Following several working lunches, the group plans to launch a “speculative fiction book club,” host a guest speaker, and convene a day-long workshop.

  • Lead: James Chappel, History, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences
  • Kathi Weeks, Gender, Sexuality, & Feminist Studies, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences
  • Robin Kirk, Cultural Anthropology, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences
  • Adam Rosenblatt, International Comparative Studies, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences
  • Liliana Paredes, Romance Studies, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences
  • Marion Quirici, Thompson Writing Program, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences
  • Jen Ansley, Thompson Writing Program, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences
  • Emily Stewart, Duke Human Rights Center at the Franklin Humanities Institute

Light-based Methods in Neuroscience and Biology

Light-based ICPG members.

This group aims to cross-pollinate ideas among neuroscientists, engineers, and data scientists. Each meeting focus on related questions requiring interdisciplinary engagement (e.g., How can we use light-based methods, such as scanless holography, adaptive optics, computational optics approaches, and genetically encoded activity sensors and actuators such as bacterial opsins, to investigate neural function?) Members will share information about resources for addressing these questions and communicate across Duke to strengthen imaging infrastructure.

North Carolina Saltwater Intrusion and Sea Level Rise

NC Saltwater ICPG members.

Predicting the impacts of sea level rise and the accompanying saltwater intrusion on freshwater coastal wetlands is a complex challenge. While the formation of “ghost forests”—the rapid death of trees due to salt stress—is gaining attention, our understanding remains fragmented. This group will convene a one-day workshop to develop an overarching research framework, with the goals of then pooling resources, sharing data, and submitting joint grant proposals.

Opioid Detection Technologies and Their Application to Addressing Various Aspects of the Opioid Crisis

Opioid ICPG members.

How can novel detection technologies be brought to bear on the opioid crisis? Members of this group will explore that question by undertaking two parallel activity streams: monthly collaboration meetings to share information; and acquisition of initial compound signatures on two fundamental detection technologies (X-ray diffraction and mass spectrometry). These faculty will pursue increased cross-disciplinary understanding of the opioid crisis and its detection needs; a baseline signature library of relevant compounds to support future analysis and design; and one or more joint proposals on topics related to detection and the opioid crisis.

Transformative Learning: A Shared Intellectual Interest across the University

Transformative Learning ICPG members.

This group’s primary goal is to identify transformative learning moments among Duke students. Members will meet monthly to develop a shared knowledge of transformative learning practices and assessment. They will host a dinner with Dr. Stacey Johnson of Vanderbilt University, a renowned expert in transformative learning in language education, convene two campus-wide discussions, and invite a nationally recognized speaker to give a public talk. The group will create a shared toolkit of assessment tools for transformative learning and develop conference proposals and a publication to showcase this work.

  • Co-lead: Cori Crane, Germanic Studies, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences
  • Co-lead: Deb Reisinger, Romance Studies, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences
  • Co-lead: Joan Clifford, Romance Studies, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences
  • Jennifer Ahern-Dodson, Thompson Writing Program, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences
  • Alessandra Dinin, Office of Assessment, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences
  • Jennifer Hill, Office of Assessment, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences
  • David Malone, Program in Education, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences
  • Liliana Paredes, Romance Studies, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences
  • Melissa Simmermeyer, Romance Studies, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences

Read about the 2019 recipients of Intellectual Community Planning Grants and view the 2018 summary report.

See all initiatives in the Together Duke academic strategic plan, including the current RFP for Collaboratories for Research on Immigration or on Science, Technology & Ethics (deadline: January 24, 2020; to learn more, attend an information session on Thursday, January 9, from 3:00 to 4:00 in the Karl E. Zener Auditorium, 130 Sociology-Psychology).

Thirteen Faculty Seek Out New Skills and Experiences to Enhance Teaching and Research

FTREG grantees.
Top row: Angrist, Bennett, Furtado, Guevara, Hartemink; middle: Maren, Mestyan, Miles, Shapiro-Garza, Starn; bottom: Stein, Weinthal, Vadde

Thirteen Duke University faculty members have been awarded Faculty Teaching/Research Enhancement Grants (FTREG) to acquire skills, knowledge, or experiences outside or beyond their main disciplines in 2020-2021.

A key goal of Together Duke is to invest in faculty as scholars and leaders of the university’s intellectual communities. Now in its second year, FTREG is intended to enhance faculty members’ capacity to carry out original research and provide transformative learning experiences for students.

Plain People, Modern Medicine: Gene Therapy Trials in Amish and Mennonite Patients in Lancaster, PA

Misha Angrist, Social Science Research Institute; Initiative for Science & Society

Angrist will spend time in Lancaster observing and chronicling the experiences of Anabaptist patients participating in gene therapy trials to treat their rare genetic diseases. Building on previous trips to Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana, this experience will inform a proposal for a book that will shed light on a new biomedical, social, and cultural phenomenon and prompt caregivers, researchers, policymakers, and patients to think about healthcare in new ways. This research will also enhance Angrist’s Focus course (Patient Activism and Advocacy) as well as his science writing course (Science and the Media) and the course he coteaches for NIH-funded trainees (Responsible Conduct of Research).

Distributed Computational Techniques for Machine Learning

Victor Bennett, Fuqua School of Business

Bennett will pursue a two-course sequence on tools—Scala and Spark—related to machine learning in distributed computing environments offered by Databricks in McLean, VA. His current project about the future of work requires matching three million establishments to 22 million shipments of automation technology, which would take years of computing on the Fuqua server. Knowledge of parallelization techniques will allow him to make use of code that would get the match down to within a day, and will enhance his ability to serve as a resource for doctoral students and faculty at Fuqua and across the university.

Mapping the Amazonian Moving Image: Territoriality, Media, and the Senses

Gustavo Furtado, Romance Studies, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences

Furtado’s research project explores the ways in which visual and audiovisual media participate in efforts by competing sociocultural groups to appropriate the Amazon region symbolically and materially. In order to finish gathering materials, he will visit museums, cultural institutions, and film collections in three Amazonian cities: Iquitos, Belém, and Manaus. This research will contribute to a book-length monograph and enhance his undergraduate course, “Perspectives on the Amazon.”

Training in Biomarker Analysis to Enhance Integrative Research on Evolution of Aging

Elaine Guevara, Evolutionary Anthropology, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences

Under the expert guidance of Virginia Kraus and Janet Huebner, Guevara plans to train in biomarker analysis at the Biomarkers Shared Resource Core in the Duke Molecular Physiology Institute. This training will assist her in developing a more integrative research program with methodological, analytical, and theoretical approaches drawn from evolutionary biology and basic aging research. Mastering new methods will help her train students in this area and foster interdisciplinary interactions among the Duke Lemur Center, Arts & Sciences, and the Molecular Physiology Institute.

Visiting Rhodes House to Learn About Character, Service, and Leadership Program

Alexander Hartemink, Computer Science and Biology, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences

Hartemink will undertake a trip to Rhodes House at Oxford University in order to learn more about its Character, Service, and Leadership Program. He intends to visit during a three-day retreat for scholars-in-residence, and engage in conversations with program staff the following day. This experience will strengthen his first-year seminar, “The Examined Life,” by providing new and/or better methods for allowing students to reflect on their values, build a meaningful life, and be prepared to lead in the world. It will also enhance his contribution to the Office of University Scholars and Fellows, where he serves as faculty director, as well as his capacity to mentor and advise all his students.

A Cultural, Social, and Political History of Barbed Wire

Mesha Maren, English, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences

Maren will undertake fieldwork to scope out a new direction that will take her research, writing, and teaching deeper into the field of creative nonfiction writing. To inform a monograph that is part personal essay and part cultural, social, and political history, she will travel to several World War I battlefields where barbed wire first played a significant role. Maren will conduct research in the museums, memorials, archives, and guided tours at battlefields in Italy and France as well as museums in Rome, Florence, and Paris.

The Power of Land Survey: A History of British Surveying in Occupied Egypt, 1890s-1950s

Adam Mestyan, History, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences

During a trip to London, Mestyan will conduct preliminary research for a book on the history of land survey in the early 20th-century British Empire. Marking a new research direction, this project will help him understand the British use of land survey, the mechanisms of metropolitan and imperial land survey, and the history of imperial British surveyors in occupied Egypt. This research will also enhance his course, “Engineering the Global Middle East,” and contribute to the development of a new course on land and law in modern Islam.

On Guard for Peace and Socialism: The Warsaw Pact, 1955-1991

Simon Miles, Sanford School of Public Policy

To jump-start the archival research process for a book, Miles will travel to Kyiv to consult the KGB’s in-house journal containing articles by intelligence community leaders and analyses of major issues, and to Prague to work in four key repositories. His grant will also support initial archival research carried out by a research assistant in Moscow. A broader archival scope is likely to amplify the book’s impact on the field, burnishing Duke’s standing as a top destination to study these questions. It will also inform his teaching of courses such as “American Grand Strategy” and “The Global Cold War.”

Global Environmental Justice: Scholarship, Teaching, and Practice

Elizabeth Shapiro-Garza, Nicholas School of the Environment

To support the incorporation of environmental justice concepts and case studies into her teaching and enhance her scholarship on how these issues are impacting communities in North Carolina, Shapiro-Garza will participate in a workshop, “Bridging Research, Policy and Activism for Environmental Justice in Times of Crises,” at the University of Freiburg. She will also serve as a scholar-in-residence at the University of Barcelona’s Institut de Ciéncia i Tecnologia Ambientals, a center for research on global environmental justice issues and the social movements addressing them. These experiences will deepen her understanding of global environmental justice issues, strategies to address them, and the methods to analyze their dynamics and outcomes.

Understanding Peru’s Moche Civilization

Orin Starn, Cultural Anthropology and History, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences

At its height around 700 A.D., the Moche’s achievements included adobe pyramids as large as those in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings and highly advanced irrigation systems to water their desert lands. During a trip to Peru, Starn will join local excavation teams at new sites in the Chiclayo and Trujillo areas. Learning more about the process of archaeological research and deepening his knowledge of Moche culture will enhance his teaching by incorporating more material on indigenous civilizations. It will also serve as the basis for a book about the quest to understand the Moche.

Jerusalem: Human Rights in a Contested City

Rebecca Stein, Cultural Anthropology, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences; Erika Weinthal, Nicholas School of the Environment

Stein and Weinthal will take a joint trip to Jerusalem establish partnerships with Israeli nongovernmental organizations and human rights groups that will benefit future teaching on the Israel/Palestine conflict. The Shufat refugee camp will provide the basis for on-site learning modules in the course, which will include an examination of the ways that Palestinian refugees residing in the camp navigate access to services. This experience will also benefit the professors’ scholarship by providing an opportunity to consider refugee issues within the broader context of environmental issues, rights, and mobility.

We the Platform: Contemporary Literature in the Sharing Economy

Aarthi Vadde, English, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences

To enhance her research and writing on the ways in which social media platforms configure contemporary literary and popular culture, Vadde plans to gain knowledge of how programmers and artists think about data, network architecture, and human-computer interaction. Pursuing training in information science and media archaeology, she will incorporate new knowledge and tools into a research program that links the history and future of the web to the sociology of literature. Increased computational literacy will strengthen her sociotechnical approach to analyzing literary works and readerships and inform a new course that connects humanistic criticism with responsible computing.


See all initiatives in the Together Duke academic strategic plan, including the current RFP for Collaboratories for Research on Immigration or on Science, Technology & Ethics (deadline: January 24, 2020).