Students Explore Discourses and Practices of Militarization in the Global South

Working group meeting

Are there trends in the types of sociopolitical violence that have characterized social movements after the Arab Spring? How has this violence been represented in the media and in popular culture? What are the legal and political consequences of such representations?

Renee Michelle Ragin and Giulia RiccòThese questions fascinated Duke University doctoral students Renée Michelle Ragin (Literature) and Giulia Riccò (Romance Studies). Inviting other graduate students to join them in an interdisciplinary exploration, they created a working group called The Global South after 2010: Epistemologies of Militarization. Guided by their faculty sponsors Deborah Jenson and miriam cooke, Ragin and Riccò received a Duke Support for Interdisciplinary Graduate Networks (D-SIGN) grant for use in 2017-2018. Here are excerpts from their year-end report.


We began the activities of our working group with an outreach meeting in September 2017. During this session, we selected the themes for the group’s workshops. We also began coordinating with the codirectors of the Global South Lab at the Institute of the Humanities and Global Cultures at the University of Virginia (UVA). Our introduction came as a result of our participation in the Academy of Global Humanities’ summer school program, hosted by the University of Bologna and cosponsored by Duke and UVA.

The Extravagance of Drones

drones workshop flyerThanks to our outreach, we secured UVA Professor Camilla Fojas as the presenter and facilitator of our October 2017 workshop on the use of drone surveillance on the US-Mexico border. We realized that having a subject-matter expert assign the reading and moderate the workshop yielded more productive conversations than when we simply structured the workshop around readings we selected. After this event, we took Professor Fojas to dinner, at which time she extended an invitation to come to UVA and organize a workshop on epistemologies of militarization.

In November, we began circulating the call for papers for our colloquium and reaching out to possible keynote speakers. We contacted a Duke alumnus, Professor Paul Amar at UC Santa Barbara, who is the director of graduate studies in the Department of Global Studies. He accepted enthusiastically; his areas of study, which encompass both Brazil and the Middle East, speak to our combined interests, and his current research on new forms of militarism and paramilitarism in Brazil aligned with the working group’s mission.

Militarization, Statelessness, and Refugees in the Global South

The third meeting of the working group took place during the first week of December. We invited two Duke professors, Ranjana Khanna (English, Literature, and Women’s Studies) and Robin Kirk (Human Rights Center and Cultural Anthropology), to speak about refugees and the space of the refugee camp.

Their different disciplinary backgrounds allowed us to work toward an interdisciplinary understanding of issues surrounding militarization in the contemporary world. Indeed, as the working group progressed, we realized how important it was to focus on ensuring that our understanding and interpretation of militarization encompassed its myriad forms in the contemporary moment. Through these workshops we were able to identify what militarization looks like today, and where we encounter it.

Translation and Publishing in the Global South

January workshop In January 2018, we collaborated with Sylvia Miller, director of the Publishing Humanities Initiative at the Franklin Humanities Institute, to organize a day-long symposium dedicated to publishing and translating in the Global South. This symposium shifted the focus of our working group on to questions of who produces knowledge in and about the Global South. It also offered Duke graduate students working on the Global South the opportunity to find out more about career options available to them as a result of a panel that included representatives of the three major academic presses in the area (UNC Press, Duke University Press, and Oxford University Press).

Giulia Riccò and Renee Michelle Ragin at UVAThe keynote speaker, Professor Juan Obarrio from John Hopkins University, introduced the new Duke University Press journal series he launched with Professor Achille Mbembe, which is dedicated to highlighting critical thinkers from the Global South. Professor Obarrio is now a contributing author to a special issue of a journal, which we are editing and will be released in summer 2019.

Our February 2018 trip to UVA pushed us to reflect on our findings, while giving us a receptive forum in which to test our ideas. We used our talk at UVA as an opportunity to pilot ideas for a cowritten research article, and the positive response we received encourage us to expand our ambitions and find a journal willing to allow us to serve as coeditors for a special issue on contemporary militarization.

Also in February, we supported Duke Professor Shai Ginsburg’s conference Emergency Legal Cultures: British Imperial Cultures. The working group was officially listed as a sponsor and we served as the respondents for the two panels.

Re-Membering Torture

The last workshop took place in March 2018 and featured Professor Shahla Talebi from Arizona State University and her graduate student, Diana Coleman. We discussed the role of the torturers in black sites such as Guantanamo, and read excerpts from Darius Rejali’s Torture and Democracy.

Epistemologies of Militarization in the Global South After 2010

colloquium flyerOn April 12 and 13 we hosted our colloquium. We chose a seminar-style format with precirculated papers in order to give us ample time to discuss participants’ research throughout the day. It was an intellectually stimulating experience and left us with provocative questions that we are addressing in our cowriting.

One of the colloquium respondents, Duke Professor Michaeline Crichlow, offered us the opportunity to curate a special issue of Cultural Dynamics: Insurgent Scholarship on Culture, Politics, and Power. The title of the issue is “Epistemologies of Militarization in the Global South,” and is forthcoming in June 2019.

It includes two papers from the colloquium, and contributions from several working group collaborators, including Camilla Fojas (UVA), Juan Obarrio (John Hopkins), and Diana Coleman (Arizona State). The article that we are cowriting is going to be the introduction for the issue.


About D-SIGN

This internal funding mechanism from the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies encourages graduate students to explore beyond disciplinary lines, both in research and coursework. The goal is to enable graduate students to build or extend their networks and to integrate collaborative, cross-school experiences into their programs, thereby increasing the number of individuals whose graduate training reflects Duke’s commitment to interdisciplinarity and knowledge in the service of society.

  • See who else received D-SIGN grants in 2017-2018.

 

Photos: Working group meeting; Renée Michelle Ragin and Giulia Riccò; drones workshop flyer; Translation and Publishing in the Global South event; Riccò and Ragin at UVA; colloquium flyer

Graduate Student Network Imagines a World with Sustainable Energy for All

A few of the entries to ImaginEnergy

The Global Energy Access Network (GLEAN) is an interdisciplinary group of more than 50 Duke graduate and professional students who aim to advance sustainable solutions to address the world’s energy access challenges.

Yating Li, Muye Ru, Faraz Usmani, and Heidi VreelandHoused at the Duke University Energy Initiative, GLEAN received a Duke Support for Interdisciplinary Graduate Networks (D-SIGN) grant in 2016-17 and a follow-on D-SIGN grant in 2017-18. Doctoral students Yating Li and Faraz Usmani (Environmental Policy), Muye Ru (Earth & Ocean Sciences), and Heidi Vreeland (Civil & Environmental Engineering) served as coordinators. Their faculty sponsors were Subhrendu Pattanayak and Brian Murray.

Here are excerpts from their year-end report.


Speaker Series

A meeting of GLEAN students with Jim Rogers;GLEAN’s Energy Access Speaker Series brings world-renowned energy-access researchers and practitioners to Duke. Critically, the selection of speakers is driven entirely by the students who are part of the GLEAN community, ensuring overlap in mutual interests between visiting speakers and students.

GLEAN sponsored and organized the visits of three speakers: Professor Shu Tao (Peking University), who spoke on the rural energy transition in China; Dr. Akanksha Chaurey (ITP India), who shared her experiences developing a renewable energy strategy for Afghanistan; and Professor Jill Baumgartner (McGill University), who highlighted the importance of clean-energy programs in the context of air pollution in China.

The Speaker Series creates tangible opportunities for graduate, professional, and undergraduate students to engage with leaders in the field.

–Faraz Usmani

GLEAN’s visiting speakers recognize the breadth of talent and experiences that the students in the network have.

–Muye Ru

Case Studies

cover of volume 1 of GLEAN case studiesCurrently in its final stages of production, GLEAN’s second volume of energy-access case studies will present important research takeaways from up to five GLEAN members, providing distinct experiences on energy access across key regions of the developing world.

Focusing on a diverse range of topics—from the implications of improving energy finance for India’s solar industry to measurement of the impacts of cleaner cooking technologies in rural Madagascar—the volume aims to inform researchers, practitioners, students, and others working on energy access and energy transitions.

GLEAN’s second volume of case studies is expected to be released by the end of Summer 2018. The first volume was published in June 2017.

GLEAN members have contributed to a wide range of energy-relevant research applications across the world. The case studies collection will compile these experiences for policymakers, practitioners and researchers, who frequently find themselves ‘reinventing the wheel’ when engaging with unfamiliar contexts or communities.

–Heidi Vreeland

ImaginEnergy Photo Contest

Hannah Girardeau’s entry to ImaginEnergyRecognizing that visual media can highlight the reality of energy poverty in remote, rural settings in new and distinct ways, GLEAN organized the ImaginEnergy Photo Contest—open to students from across the world. The contest received over 40 submissions.

Winners—selected via a social media campaign led by the Energy Initiative—had the opportunity to display their photos as part of a DUU VisArts curated exhibition at Duke’s Brown Art Gallery, which runs through the end of Summer 2018.

Their photographs were also on display during the annual meeting of the Sustainable Energy Transitions Initiative (SETI), which was hosted by Duke for the third consecutive year in May 2018.

Lack of access to energy is a multidimensional challenge, and sometimes a picture is indeed worth a thousand words when it comes to demonstrating the scale of the challenge.

–Yating Li

About D-SIGN

This internal funding mechanism from the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies encourages graduate students to explore beyond disciplinary lines, both in research and coursework. The goal is to enable graduate students to build or extend their networks and to integrate collaborative, cross-school experiences into their programs, thereby increasing the number of individuals whose graduate training reflects Duke’s commitment to interdisciplinarity and knowledge in the service of society.

  • See who else received D-SIGN grants in 2017-2018.

 

Photos: A few of the entries to ImaginEnergy; Yating Li, Muye Ru, Faraz Usmani, and Heidi Vreeland; a meeting of GLEAN students with Jim Rogers; cover of volume 1 of GLEAN case studies; Hannah Girardeau’s entry to ImaginEnergy

Learning System Dynamics to Support Policy Research, No Advanced Math Required

Professor Mavrommati’s webinar

For students exploring policy research, skills in systems thinking and computer modeling can be a valuable asset. However, many modeling tools are only accessible to those with advanced mathematical backgrounds.

The Modeling Health & Environment Graduate Working Group, organized by Shashika Bandara (M.Sc. in Global Health) and Varun Mallampalli (Ph.D. in Civil & Environmental Engineering), provided an opportunity for Duke students from multiple disciplines to learn about system dynamics modeling and build complex models relevant to their research.

System dynamics is a modeling method that allows the user to create complex graphic representations of systems and identify policy intervention points.

Bandara and Mallampalli received a Duke Support for Interdisciplinary Graduate Networks (D-SIGN) grant from the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies for 2017-2018. Their faculty sponsors were Kevin Schulman and Mark Borsuk.

Here are excerpts from their year-end report.


We had a working group consisting mainly of engineering, global health, and public policy students. Our strategy was focused around exposing graduate students in global health and public policy to system dynamics modeling and exposing engineering students to the world of practical policymaking.

We used STELLA software that allows students to graphically build complex models. We chose this software as all students do not have the advanced mathematical background required by many modeling software.

Varun MallampalliAs a Ph.D. student in engineering, I was able to improve my teaching skills and collaborative skills by being part of this working group. Being exposed to issues related to global health and the potential avenues for collaborative research was a great learning experience for me.

–Varun Mallampalli

We provided basic training on STELLA software for graduate students, opportunities to learn more about the use of modeling in research environments, and self-learning tools and relevant lectures from the project on an online platform. We also created course material based on the working group sessions.

The first session centered around an interactive exercise where students actively engaged in building a model to ward off a hypothetical flu epidemic at Duke. Students responded by saying, “I would take a course on this” and “This was very useful.” The interactive environment meant students exchanged ideas and identified different ways to address the flu epidemic at Duke. Below is a diagram of the system students built over a two-hour interactive learning session.

diagram of students’ model to ward off a hypothetical flu epidemic

; Professor Yamey’s guest lecture on evidence-based policymakingIn the second and third sessions we invited guest lecturers from Duke to outline the practical aspects of policymaking and modeling. Professors Mark Borsuk and Kevin Schulman talked about practical use of modeling in the context of environmental and health systems respectively. Professor Gavin Yamey from the Duke Global Health Institute engaged students on evidence-based policymaking and improving writing skills.

The fourth session was an interactive learning session around modeling predator-prey systems in the environmental sciences. The fifth session was a webinar with Professor Georgia Mavrommati, Assistant Professor of Ecological Economics at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. She spoke to students about sustainability in coupled human natural systems, specifically looking at coastal and lake systems and their ecological health as a consequence of human interaction.

Shashika BandaraAs a global health master’s student, it was a great opportunity to consider how I can use modeling as a powerful policy advocacy tool. As a group, we benefited not only by the technical modeling-related knowledge sharing but also by the advice given by guest lecturers on communication, research, and careers. It was rewarding that even students outside the working group expressed interest in learning modeling due to the guest lectures. This is why we hope to make the learning tools available online for all students.

–Shashika Bandara

Based on the feedback from the working group and requests we received from undergraduate students, we decided to create an online resource for students to learn system dynamics modeling. Thus, our current steps include building a series of instructional videos. We will make these videos, guest lectures and other resource material available on a website dedicated to this project. We also aim to develop course materials integrating all our lessons learned during the five sessions. We hope this course will serve as a guide to students to engage more deeply with this subject.

As two graduate students from different fields, this project provided us with the opportunity to understand potential collaborative opportunities between global health and engineering. Also, it gave us the opportunity to reach across and beyond the campus to gain expert opinions on the use of modeling.

About D-SIGN

This internal funding mechanism from the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies encourages graduate students to explore beyond disciplinary lines, both in research and coursework. The goal is to enable graduate students to build or extend their networks and to integrate collaborative, cross-school experiences into their programs, thereby increasing the number of individuals whose graduate training reflects Duke’s commitment to interdisciplinarity and knowledge in the service of society.

  • See who else received D-SIGN grants in 2017-2018.

Photos: Professor Mavrommati’s webinar; Varun Mallampalli; diagram of students’ model to ward off a hypothetical flu epidemic; Professor Yamey’s guest lecture on evidence-based policymaking; Shashika Bandara

Duke Students Share Skills with a Rural Mexican Community to Strengthen Ecotourism

Duke Desarrollo Mexico team

Ruxandra Popovici, a Ph.D. student in Environment, teamed up with Emilio Blanco Gonzalez and Adam Cullen, master’s students in Mechanical Engineering, on a proposal to help a rural Mexican community develop a renewable energy strategy and a business plan for sustainable ecotourism.

They received a Duke Support for Interdisciplinary Graduate Networks (D-SIGN) grant from the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies for use in 2017-2018, with faculty sponsor Elizabeth Shapiro-Garza.

Last summer, the three graduate students traveled with undergraduate Matheus Dias to Playa Grande. They assessed the community’s ecotourism business and energy needs, and generated two reports with recommendations.

Here are excerpts from their year-end report.

Playa Grande is a Mexican ejido, where land is jointly owned by a group of 70 community members. Residents of Playa Grande, like many rural communities in Mexico, participate in government-funded conservation programs where community members receive monetary compensation in exchange for their involvement in the sustainable management and stewardship of communal natural resources. Their conservation activities include fire prevention, protection against illegal logging and hunting, and maintaining corridors for jaguar protection.

Ejido Playa Grande

Ejido Playa Grande is part of a small group of communities that decided to invest their conservation program earnings into an ecotourism business, which is jointly owned by community members. Their company has been growing but community members are looking to improve their business strategy in order to attract more customers, as well as to transition to a renewable energy strategy to power their tourist center.

Selva Ecoturistica Playa Grande

A common problem encountered by rural communities in Mexico is that it is difficult to access experts that can provide specialized assistance in fields such as business, marketing, and engineering. To remedy this situation, students at Duke created Economic Sustainability, an initiative that connects rural community members to “student experts” that assist residents with their business and engineering needs.

Solar panels, Playa GrandeAdam and Emilio evaluated three renewable energy options – hydro, wind, and solar – and recommended that the community invest in additional solar panels, which they have found to be the most cost-effective option. Community leaders in Playa Grande have already bought additional solar panels based on this recommendation.

Matheus, an economics major, created a report documenting the community’s existing business structure and activities. This report is extremely useful for community members, as it provides concrete documentation about their business, which they can use to apply for loans and government grants. In addition, Matheus conducted research on the region’s ecotourism market and provided suggestions for improving the ecotourism business and developing future services.

Ruxandra interviewed micro-entrepreneurs. She facilitated a partnership with NC State’s P1tLab, whose students, faculty, and staff provide guidance on the community’s marketing and business strategy. Due to the very competitive and vertically integrated nature of the tourism industry in the region, this community is struggling to “capture” visitors from the international enclave destination of Puerto Vallarta. Through this partnership with Duke and NC State’s P1tLab, members of Ejido Playa Grande will attempt to penetrate local retail monopolies to advertise their services directly to potential visitors.

Duke students, Playa Grande

About D-SIGN

This internal funding mechanism from the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies encourages graduate students to explore beyond disciplinary lines, both in research and coursework. The goal is to enable graduate students to build or extend their networks and to integrate collaborative, cross-school experiences into their programs, thereby increasing the number of individuals whose graduate training reflects Duke’s commitment to interdisciplinarity and knowledge in the service of society.

  • See who else received D-SIGN grants in 2017-2018.

Taking It Outside, Doctoral Students Build Girls’ Science and Leadership Skills

Jacqueline Gerson and Emily Levy

Duke University doctoral students Jacqueline Gerson (Ecology) and Emily Levy (Biology) wanted to increase hands-on science opportunities for young women and other groups that are underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and math.

With fellow Duke students Emily Ury and Alice Carter, they created a free summer program called GALS (Girls on outdoor Adventure for Leadership & Science). High school students who identify as female or gender nonconforming, students of color, and students from low socioeconomic backgrounds are welcome to participate.

For the inaugural program in 2017, the founders created a science curriculum and taught eight young women about the scientific method, environmental science, and backpacking. While it was a success, they identified two areas that would strengthen the program: a standardized curriculum, and a humanities component to complement the environmental science focus.

To further this work, Gerson and Levy established a network to enrich the GALS program and received a Duke Support for Interdisciplinary Graduate Networks (D-SIGN) grant from the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies for use in 2017-2018. Their faculty sponsors are Erika Weinthal, Nicolette Cagle, Naomi Kraut, and Megan Mullin.

; learning about evolution via natural selection during GALS 2017

“I can’t stress enough how beneficial the D-SIGN network has been to this program,” said Levy. “I am especially thankful for the time and effort of colleagues outside of the fields of biology and ecology who added a new level of thoughtfulness, intentionality, and depth to our curriculum. The connections we made through our D-SIGN network will continue to strengthen our program and help us accomplish the GALS mission.”

Here are excerpts from their year-end report.

The D-SIGN network helped us fill the two gaps of a standardized curriculum and a humanities component. We worked with a Duke Master of Arts in Teaching and Master of Environmental Management student, Katrina Herrera, to overhaul our curriculum. Our lessons are now matched to state and national educational standards, and they include more hands-on and place-based learning activities.

We held four D-SIGN network meetings with Duke graduate students and postdocs from the Sanford School of Public Policy, the Medical Physics Graduate Program, the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, the Economics Department, the University Program in Ecology, the Nicholas School of the Environment, and the Biology Department. Our intellectual breadth allowed us to tackle topics that the original GALS team (comprised of ecologists and biologists) didn’t have the expertise to do. Through these meetings, we created four new lessons and documents that will critically enhance the GALS curriculum.

a 2017 GALS participant studied snail velocity on different substrates for her independent research project

The D-SIGN-supported network created a lesson about Environmental Values and Economics, in which students will learn about different ways in which humans place value on the environment. In this lesson, students first reflect on their own valuation of different aspects of nature. Then, they will each represent stakeholders in a town hall debate about whether to build the Fontana Dam (which was built in the 1940s).

We also created a lesson plan about environmental policy. In this lesson, students will learn how to assess environmental issues, identify those who have power over those issues, and act to effect change in those systems. Students will create a ‘power map’ of a CAFO [concentrated animal feeding operation, or large farm in which animals are raised in confinement] in North Carolina to identify the people and institutions who can sway the status quo. Students will then write letters to these entities, which will be mailed upon returning to Durham.

The third lesson we produced focuses on the causes of, consequences of, and solutions to environmental justice issues. Students will consider the relevance of environmental justice to their own lives, take on the persona of stakeholders in a North Carolina CAFO to discuss a current instance of environmental justice, and finally take time to reflect on how to fight for environmental justice in their own communities.

GALS instructors during the 2018 instructor training trip

During our last D-SIGN network meeting, we produced a “GALS Instructor Guide for Sensitive Science Topics.” This 8-page document provides instructors with tips for facilitating discussions about topics that may be uncomfortable for some students (e.g., evolution). It also describes the scientific background behind 10 different “sensitive” topics that students asked about last year (e.g., Weather vs. Climate, Extinction & Biodiversity, GMOs).

Funds have also been used to attend diversity trainings, purchase educational materials, and organize a backpacking training weekend for GALS instructors.

About D-SIGN

This internal funding mechanism from the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies encourages graduate students to explore beyond disciplinary lines, both in research and coursework. The goal is to enable graduate students to build or extend their networks and to integrate collaborative, cross-school experiences into their programs, thereby increasing the number of individuals whose graduate training reflects Duke’s commitment to interdisciplinarity and knowledge in the service of society.

  • See who else received D-SIGN grants in 2017-2018.

Photos: Jacqueline Gerson and Emily Levy; learning about evolution via natural selection during GALS 2017; a 2017 GALS participant studied snail velocity on different substrates for her independent research project; GALS instructors during the 2018 instructor training trip

Collaborative Research Project Tackles Environmental and Social Inequities in Alabama

Catherine Flowers and Duke team members in Lowndes County

Catherine Coleman Flowers is the founder of the Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise (ACRE). Since 2015, she has partnered with the Duke Human Rights Center at the Franklin Humanities Institute and the Nicholas School of the Environment to find solutions for the lack of wastewater infrastructure in Lowndes County, Alabama.

The situation exemplifies the social and environmental inequities facing rural communities of color in the American South, which include endemic poverty, lack of economic opportunity, hazardous health conditions, and inadequate infrastructure.

A recent article by Flowers and Duke’s Erika Weinthal, Elizabeth Albright, and Emily Stewart, “Solution-centered Collaborative Research in Rural Alabama” describes the ongoing environmental justice project in Lowndes County.

This year, an interdisciplinary network led by Duke graduate students has taken the lead in diagnosing the interlaced physical, financial, legal, and political barriers to sanitation access in Lowndes County and evaluating potential solutions.

Next year, Flowers will be involved in a Bass Connections project team with colleagues from the Nicholas School of the Environment, the Pratt School of Engineering, and the Duke Human Rights Center.

Interdisciplinary Groups Led by Duke Graduate Students Receive 2018-19 D-SIGN Grants

D-SIGN grantees 2018-19

The Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies has awarded Duke Support for Interdisciplinary Graduate Networks (D-SIGN) grants to six graduate student groups for the 2018-2019 academic year.

Duke-ACRE Partnership

  • Core students: Katherine Pringle, M.A. in Economics; Ryan Juskus, Ph.D. in Religion; Emma Lietz Bilecky, Master of Environmental Management

Up to 90% of households in Lowndes County, Alabama, have either no or inadequate access to sanitation, which poses serious health risks for residents. The Duke-ACRE Partnership aims to support doctoral and professional students from the Graduate School, Law School and Nicholas School of the Environment to address wastewater treatment in the county through an interdisciplinary, community-based research project. In conjunction with a 2018-19 Bass Connections project, the group will evaluate different strategies to address the wastewater management problem, combining engineering, policy, economic, and scientific solutions, as well as creatively representing the human face of the issue.

Fostering Community Participation in the Arts

  • Core students: James Budinich, Ph.D. in Music Composition; Brooks Frederickson, Ph.D. in Music Composition; Rebecca Uliasz, Ph.D. in Computational Media, Arts, and Cultures

Through the techniques of interactive media, improvisation, and community art-making, this group hopes to promote an equal role between creator and community member in fostering a more connected, democratic artistic community. With the help of guest experts, the group plans to present performative works to the Duke and Durham communities that blur the boundary between performer and audience. They will present four events over the 2018-19 academic year under the umbrella of the Duke Music Department. This approach views the community not as the recipient of artistic works, but rather as an equal partner in the artistic process.

Riding the Belt and Road

  • Core students: Yating Li, Ph.D. in Environmental Policy; Travis Dauwalter, Ph.D. in Public Policy; Seth Morgan, Ph.D. in Environmental Policy; Zainab Qazi, Master of Environmental Management; Santiago Sinclair Lecaros, Master of Environmental Management

Many countries’ pursuit of economic development depend on enormous investments in infrastructure, none more so than China’s new Belt Road Initiative. This mammoth undertaking seeks to establish a “new Silk Road” linking China with over 60 countries in Asia, Africa, and Europe. The group aims to ignite a discussion among students and faculty members on multiple facets of the Belt Road Initiative, with a focus on environmental impacts. By identifying green development projects, sharing knowledge in a monthly seminar series, and connecting with researchers and stakeholders outside of Duke, the team hopes to promote graduate students’ involvement in this cutting-edge global issue. (See the group’s website and sign up for the listserv.)

Social Science Methods Network

  • Core students: Valerie-Jean Soon, Ph.D. in Philosophy; Kobi Finestone, Ph.D. in Philosophy; Peng Peng, Ph.D. in Political Science

This project aims to create an environment in which graduate and professional students working on social scientific projects can engage in interdisciplinary methodological debates and concrete collaboration as they work on turning research findings into publishable outputs. The format will involve monthly working groups in which scholars from different disciplines will share their original research. The working groups will be organized around a shared conceptual and or methodological problem faced by researchers across the social sciences.

Theology, Religion, and Qualitative Methods Network

  • Core students: Michael Grigoni, Ph.D. in Religion; Dustin Benac, Doctor of Theology; Emily Dubie, Ph.D. in Religion; Sarah Jobe, Doctor of Theology; Ryan Juskus, Ph.D. in Religion

Recently, we have seen a shift within the fields of religion and theology toward the study of physical bodies and everyday practices of religious experience. This group aims to formalize the relationships between religion and the social sciences by employing methodological tools from the social sciences to better understand how cultural groups talk about holy figures and navigate ritual engagement with the sacred. Members plan to provide opportunities to engage in regular dialogue about findings from fieldwork, explore how to incorporate insights from interdisciplinary conversation partners, discuss methodological challenges associated with this work, and consider the implications of qualitative research experience for students’ emerging vocations as scholars.

Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Interdisciplinary Network of Graduate Students (WaSHINGS)

  • Core students: Lucas Rocha Melogno, Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering; Stewart Farling, Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering; Siddharth Kawadiya, Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering; James Thostenson, Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering; Billy Gerhard, Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering

Current UN estimates indicate that 1.8 billion people use a drinking water source that is fecally contaminated, while 2.4 billion lack access to basic sanitation services. World-wide, more people have cell phones than access to suitable sanitation. The global challenge of access to water, sanitation, and hygiene has brought together people from a wide range of backgrounds. This project hopes to extend this network to Duke graduate students focusing on strategies to improve water sanitation. WaSHINGS will establish an interdisciplinary platform where engineers, policy makers, educators, and entrepreneurs can share their perspectives and collaborate on this highly complex challenge.

About D-SIGN

This internal funding mechanism encourages graduate students to explore beyond disciplinary lines, both in research and coursework. The goal is to enable graduate students to build or extend their networks and to integrate collaborative, cross-school experiences into their programs, thereby increasing the number of individuals whose graduate training reflects Duke’s commitment to interdisciplinarity and knowledge in the service of society.

A January 2018 RFP invited all current Duke graduate students (including master’s, professional, and Ph.D. students) to propose interdisciplinary groups and activities. Proposals were reviewed by a panel of faculty and graduate students from across the university.

See previous recipients (2017-2018 and 2016-2017) and review the 2016-2017 summary report.

Photo, first row: Katherine Pringle, Ryan Juskus, James Budinich, Brooks Frederickson, Rebecca Uliasz, Yating Li; second row: Travis Dauwalter, Seth Morgan, Zainab Qazi, Santiago Sinclair Lecaros, Valerie-Jean Soon, Peng Peng; third row: Michael Grigoni, Dustin Benac, Emily Dubie, Sarah Jobe, Lucas Rocha Melogno, Stewart Farling; fourth row: Siddharth Kawadiya, James Thostenson, Billy Gerhard. Not pictured: Emma Lietz Bilecky, Kobi Finestone

Graduate Student Groups Can Apply for D-SIGN Grants to Strengthen Their Networks

D-SIGN

Deadline: February 16, 2018

Opportunity

The goal of this internal grant competition is to enable graduate students to build or extend their networks and to integrate collaborative, cross-school experiences into their programs, thereby increasing the number of individuals whose graduate training reflects the university’s signature commitments to interdisciplinarity and knowledge in the service of society. We believe such experiences will lead to better preparation/training, whether for academic positions or other career trajectories.

Interdisciplinary Graduate Network Grants are available to graduate student groups to propose an interdisciplinary project, training, or experience lasting up to a year. Preference will be given to proposals that include participation across schools and that include professional students and well as doctoral students.

Proposals require a lead faculty sponsor who agrees to mentor the group; an organizational sponsor (preferably a department, school, or institute/initiative) willing to handle funds and provide logistical support; endorsement from an additional faculty member from a different discipline or school; a plan of work; and anticipated outcomes. Where appropriate, these activities should count toward curricular requirements.

Proposed projects or activities could include a year-long research team (e.g., on the Bass Connections model that incorporates undergraduates and engages with external partners such as community organizations); groups to explore a compelling theme or problem that cuts across disciplinary lines (e.g., a reading group, group independent study, dissertation writing group); a joint effort to construct an interdisciplinary course for undergraduates, etc. For reference, see previous awardees and project descriptions.

Eligibility

All current graduate students (post-undergraduate, including master’s, professional, and Ph.D. students) in any program at Duke University may propose interdisciplinary groups and activities.

Proposals

Proposals will be accepted from January 8 through February 16, 2018 at 5:00 p.m.

Proposal Requirements

The Provost‘s Office uses MyResearchProposal online application software to submit applications.

You will be asked to upload the following documents:

  • A brief narrative that articulates the plan of work, the proposed group, the goals of the network, and how it fits with your overall academic, research, and professional plans (no more than 3 pages).
  • A budget plan (up to $20,000), and timeline for use of the funds, and identification of the sponsoring unit (to manage the funds); we anticipate most budgets and awards will fall in the $5,000-$15,000 range. Note: Funds cannot be used for Ph.D. student support.
  • A listing of all other concurrent proposals for funding to support the proposed activities (we will ask awardees to update us when any additional funding for the proposed activities is awarded/received).
  • Letters or e-mails from the faculty sponsor and an additional faculty member from a different discipline or school in support of the proposed network.
 Instructions
  • To apply visit http://bit.ly/myresearchproposal, click on “Create New User” (or log in if you already have an account).  A step-by-step user’s guide for applying via the MyResearchProposal software is available; please review this document.
  • Enter Access Code PROVOST then select the 2018 Duke Support for Interdisciplinary Graduate Networks (D-SIGN) grant opportunity and follow the instructions.
  • For any questions concerning MyResearchProposal passwords or system issues, please contact Anita Grissom or Kara McKelvey at myresearchproposal@duke.edu.
Timeline
RFP released 01/08/2018
RFP deadline for submission 02/16/2018
Project winner(s) notified 03/19/2018
Funds made available* 04/01/2018

*Funds must be expended between 4/1/18 and 6/30/19.

Contact

For any questions regarding your proposal, please contact Laura Howes or Carolyn Mackman.

Review and Selection

Proposals will be reviewed by an ad hoc committee convened by the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies, to include representation from faculty, deans, institute directors, and graduate students, representing all divisions of knowledge. Decisions will be announced by mid-March 2018. Awardees will be expected to provide updates on their activities during the year, which may include meeting with the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies.

Learn More