Doctoral Students Honored for Excellence in Mentoring

Duke graduate students Eleanor Caves (Biology), Joyell Arscott (Nursing) and Zachary Carico (Immunology) are this year’s student recipients of the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Mentoring.

Caves (pictured above) is part of a graduate student group that received a Duke Support for Interdisciplinary Graduate Networks (D-SIGN) grant for the 2016-2017 academic year. Her successful proposal, submitted with Rebecca Lauzon, Ph.D. student in Earth and Ocean Sciences, and Patrick Green, Ph.D. student in Biology, called for a new network of STEM graduate students and Master of Arts in Teaching students to create lesson plans based on current research and distribute them to local K-12 educators. The network utilizes the structure of a graduate student-run STEM outreach group called the Scientific Research and Education Network (SciREN), which develops relationships between researchers and educators to incorporate current research into K-12 classrooms. All lesson plans created for SciREN are freely available to educators through an online repository. The group’s faculty sponsors are Kate Allman and Brad Murray.

Explore the 2017-2018 Bass Connections Projects

Bass Connections projects

Duke students from all levels and schools are invited to preview the new Bass Connections projects for 2017-2018. Applications will open on January 24 and run through February 17 at 5:00 p.m.

Bass Connections bridges the classroom and the real world, giving students a chance to roll up their sleeves and tackle complex societal challenges alongside faculty from across Duke. Working in interdisciplinary research teams, students at all levels collaborate with faculty, postdocs and outside experts on cutting-edge research that spans subjects and borders.

Most Bass Connections project teams engage with community partners outside Duke, including private companies, nonprofits, universities, school systems, hospitals and government agencies at the federal, state and local levels.

Forty-three projects across five themes will be offered in the 2017-2018 academic year. Most of these interdisciplinary teams last for two semesters; some have a summer component. Course credit and summer funding are available.

See the 2017-2018 projects by theme:

Through this intensive research experience, students and faculty work as a team to make a real-world impact. Each project team page contains a full project descriptions, anticipated outcomes, student opportunities, timelines and faculty team leaders.

Join Us at the Bass Connections Fair on January 24

Stop by the annual Bass Connections Fair on Tuesday, January 24 from 2:30 to 5:30 in the Energy Hub (first floor of Gross Hall).

Students of all levels can learn more about the Bass Connections project teams for 2017-2018 by talking with faculty team leaders and theme representatives. Tasty food and drinks will be available. Cohosted by the Energy Initiative.

Bass Connections Fair

Meet with an Advisor

For each student, discovering and developing a pathway through Bass Connections will be an individualized experience. Undergraduates can benefit from the guidance of Duke’s Directors of Academic Engagement, who offer individualized hour-long advising appointments to guide students through the process of integrating Bass Connections into their academic careers. Graduate students can access a number of resources to guide their pathways, and the professional schools offer tailored services to professional students.

Members of the Bass Connections Student Advisory Council are another resource for interested students.

Learn More

  • Check out examples of alumni who are pursuing further studies or working in a field related to their Bass Connections projects.

Duke to Convene Year-long Sawyer Seminar on Corporate Rights and International Law


Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant to support interdisciplinary scholarship on the nature of the global corporation

From politics to popular culture, the corporation is one of the most critical institutions of the modern era. It’s also one of the most controversial. Do corporations have rights? Are corporations people, societies or even governments? What are their civic, social, ethical and political responsibilities?

Supported by a grant of $175,000 from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Duke University will convene a year-long Sawyer Seminar to wrestle with these complex issues about the global corporation.

“Corporate Rights and International Law: Past, Present, and Future,” will be organized by Rachel Brewster, Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Center for International and Comparative Law, and Philip J. Stern, Sally Dalton Robinson Associate Professor of History.

The seminar will bring together an interdisciplinary community of scholars to explore how international, commercial and political rights have shaped corporate power, and consider how corporations should govern, and be governed, in our ever-globalizing world.

Hosted by the Franklin Humanities Institute and the Center for International and Comparative Law, the seminar will galvanize a robust community at Duke and in the wider Research Triangle area of North Carolina. A roundtable in Spring 2017 will convene core faculty for discussion, and the heart of the seminar will take place throughout the 2017-2018 academic year through an ambitious program of meetings and keynote addresses. It will conclude with a day-long roundtable on the intersection of corporate history and the history of human rights, and the effect of both on structuring corporate responsibility and accountability.

Sawyer Seminar awards include support for a postdoctoral fellow and for the dissertation research of two graduate students. Duke will advertise these opportunities in the coming months.

“This seminar exemplifies the capacity of Duke faculty members to imagine compelling humanistic explorations across the divides of disciplines, societies and eras,” said Edward Balleisen, Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies. “Rachel’s and Phil’s collaboration will spark important dialogues about the pivotal roles of the corporation in the early modern and modern worlds, as well as the salience of the deeper past for contemporary policy-making.”

Duke is the recipient of previous Sawyer Seminar grants, most recently in 2010, which have each made a lasting contribution to the university.

Further information on the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation can be found at

Pen and ink cartoon by Albert Reid depicting American financier J.P. Morgan grasping the Earth in his arms, ca. 1895-1905.

Originally posted on Duke Today

New Faculty Books Explore Topics from Motivation to Fraud


From the hidden logic affecting your motivation to the resilience of Syrian activists and a chancellor’s reflections on changes in health care, Duke writers explore a wide array of topics in their latest books. Duke Today shares a roundup of this season’s latest publications.

Among the authors is Edward J. Balleisen, Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies and Associate Professor of History and Public Policy. His book, “Fraud: An American History from Barnum to Madoff,” will be published by Princeton University Press next month.

Learn more about this Fall’s new books from Duke faculty.

Immersive Experience in Brazilian Government Informs History Dissertation


Travis Knoll, a Ph.D. student in History at Duke, received a Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grant to serve as an intern at the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia this summer. He focused on issues ranging from Brazil’s internal political scene to the key role the country’s foreign policy plays in the region and beyond. Now back on campus, he shared this update.

The internship itself was not dedicated to my area of research per se. As an unpaid intern, I was tasked with fulfilling many of the functions of a junior officer staff member during a staffing transition this summer. Drafting reports, preparing congressional reports, and note-taking in meetings with Brazilian officials made up the majority of my internship work. I worked on issues ranging from nuclear proliferation liability and biological weapons conventions to reporting on Brazil’s ongoing political transition. I did, however, write two reports dedicated to recent changes in Brazil’s affirmative action policies as well as two key Brazilian congressional reports on discrimination and violence against black youth.

Separately from my department work, I made important contacts in Brasilia’s black movement. Such contacts ranged from religious and cultural leaders to Chamber deputies and diplomats. I also encountered several journals at the University of Brasilia’s (UnB) archives dealing with Brazilian culture and debates around race in the 1970s.

My time in Brasilia helped me connect historical debates with public policy. Both writing policy reports on affirmative action and meeting important public figures has opened up the possibility for focusing less exclusively on the push for affirmative action in Rio de Janeiro state (both in universities and the public sector, approved in 2001). I might instead connect the 2001 initiatives more explicitly to legislation that Brazil’s National Congress would approve a decade later (2012 and 2014). Better knowledge of the legislative process and the legal underpinnings of the national affirmative action laws’ intersection with gender and labor legislation will allow me to elaborate on the connection between women’s, workers’ and racial struggles for equality. Social movement leaders’ denial of the Catholic Church’s role in supporting affirmative action policies, despite evidence they themselves cite to the contrary, has also focused my attention on the controversy (and thus opportunity) that such a link could pose both historiographically and politically.

Finally, with the time my internship allowed me in Brasilia, I presented a quantitative source critique of a black movement oral history project at Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies Research Institute (CEFOR) and talked to Brazilian government officials who benefited from affirmative action policies. Such encounters allow me to better connect my research period during the 1980s to continuing debates in Brazil itself.

This internal funding mechanism from the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies encourages graduate students to step away from their core research and training to acquire additional skills, knowledge or co-curricular experiences that will give them new perspectives on their research agendas. Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants are intended to deepen preparation for academic positions and other career trajectories.

Photo courtesy of Travis Knoll (at right, with other interns at an Embassy-sponsored party)

Workshop on Capitalism Informs Study of Slavery and Freedom

Workshop on Capitalism Informs Study of Slavery and Freedom

Alisha Hines is a Ph.D. candidate in History and African and African American Studies at Duke. Last spring she received a Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grant to attend a summer workshop on the history of capitalism; her aim was to learn about technical content areas such as statistics, accounting and economic theory in order to apply quantitative methods and techniques to her study of slavery and freedom in the middle Mississippi River Valley. Now back on campus, she shared this update.

At the History of Capitalism Workshop at Cornell University this summer, I participated in an intensive introductory series to a range of topics and skills including corporate finance, statistics, economics and other topics. Participants attended class each day from 9:00 to 6:00, during which the day’s lecturer would introduce us to their field of specialization (the majority of our lecturers were faculty at Cornell or nearby institutions). The idea is that historians of capitalism would be able to gain a greater sense of how corporations work, the logic of accounting and the grammar of economics in order to approach our sources and topics in new ways and with more technical grounding.

In addition, we spoke with historians of capitalism in the field who have implemented the kind of skills we were developing in the course in their own work. Archivists from repositories with collections related to business history, such as the Baker Library at Harvard, walked us through some of their collections and resources that might be useful to our work. The sort of “hard” skills we learned were how to use statistical software (JMP), Excel and also some digital mapping techniques.

The workshop was quite useful to me because I use steamboat company records in my research and I now feel more confident reading ledgers and account books, and can ask new questions about the hiring practices, for example, of steamboat captains and how they might have assessed the risk of employing enslaved men and women in river work. In addition, I was able to learn more about mapping techniques that are somewhat more accessible than GIS, which I can use to chart patterns of mobility of black women in the Mississippi River Valley.

Finally, I was able to meet a number of historians whose work overlaps geographically or thematically with my own and have some invigorating conversations about our research ideas and the history of capitalism more generally. I have even planned to submit a panel proposal to an upcoming history conference with a fellow cohort member. The organizers of the workshop have facilitated an ongoing network among participants in the program that I will certainly continue to draw on and contribute to as I proceed in my academic career.

This internal funding mechanism from the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies encourages graduate students to step away from their core research and training to acquire additional skills, knowledge or co-curricular experiences that will give them new perspectives on their research agendas. Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants are intended to deepen preparation for academic positions and other career trajectories.

Photo courtesy of Alisha Hines (History of Capitalism Summer Workshop 2016 cohort)

New Program to Expand Career Opportunities for Ph.D. Students

NEH Logo MASTER_082010

Duke is giving humanities doctoral students new career paths

Durham, NC – With the help of a $350,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), Duke University is creating a program that will enhance the curriculum and expand career opportunities for doctoral students in the humanities.

The three-year grant from the NEH will be matched with a similar amount of funding from the university.  Duke is one of three recipients of an implementation grant, along with the University of Chicago and the University of Delaware.

The program will support skills training relevant for both academic and non-academic career paths, a wide array of new internship opportunities, and curricular innovations that incorporate collaborative research, computational humanities/media, and engagement with policy analysis.

“Duke has made significant investments in interdisciplinary doctoral education for the humanities and interpretive social sciences, as well as resources for career development,” said Ed Balleisen, vice provost for interdisciplinary studies and one of the co-directors of the grant. “We intend to use the NEH grant to amplify the most effective innovations at Duke and to integrate each of these pieces into a more cohesive whole.”

Added Paula D. McClain, the dean of Duke’s Graduate School, “We want to prepare our doctoral students to make a difference, whether within academia, in NGOs, in government agencies or the private sector. From the moment our students arrive on campus, we are working to help them explore and prepare for a wide range of career possibilities.”

These efforts will involve a variety of resources and partners, including:

  • A competitive grants process to encourage Duke departments to develop and test new curricular ideas.
  • Competitive paid internships that offer students relevant perspectives on their dissertation research, as well as experience in project management. Duke will partner with such organizations as RTI International, the National Humanities Center, the American Historical Association and local museums, including the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences and the Durham History Hub.
  • Duke alumni, who will provide networking opportunities, advise students on career paths and explore internships outside of academia.
  • A full-time “navigator” position to support students as they consider co-curricular opportunities and weigh career options, and to help faculty, departmental leaders and alumni similarly support students.

The grant will facilitate partnerships across campus, linking departmental graduate programs to the Graduate School, the Franklin Humanities Institute, Duke Libraries, the Social Sciences Research Institute, the Career Center and to Bass Connections, a university-wide initiative that brings together faculty and students of all levels to engage in research to tackle societal challenges.

Since 2003, roughly half of Duke’s Ph.D. recipients in the humanities and interpretive social sciences have found tenure-track positions teaching at colleges and universities. A growing number of graduate students have expressed interest in expanding their training to incorporate such arenas as social entrepreneurship or policy analysis.

“In recent years, we have engaged in efforts to prepare students for non-academic careers, but we can do much more to expand intellectual horizons, extend analytical skills and foster a cultural transformation in how we envisage the societal impacts of humanistic expertise,” said Deborah Jenson, director of the Franklin Humanities Institute and the other co-director of the grant.

“This comprehensive program will establish intellectual versatility as a core goal of our doctoral training,” she added.

Originally published on DukeToday

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Preparing for Job Market, Grad Students Create Online Lessons for Humanities Center

 Humanities grad students Hannah Ontiveros and Kelly Tang participated in the NHC pilot program

Doctoral students in the humanities know they’ll be entering a tight job market. This summer, four Duke students gained an edge by building their pedagogical skills at the National Humanities Center in Durham.

Each student chose a text that addresses elements of a standard high school curriculum in American history or literature and created an online National Humanities Center lesson for high school teachers.

Johnnie Holland, a Ph.D. student in History, selected an anti-lynching pamphlet by Ida B. Wells. Ph.D. student in English Karen Little chose “Ballad of the Landlord,” a poem by Langston Hughes. History Ph.D. student Hannah Ontiveros worked with an anti-feminist speech by Phyllis Schlaffly. Kelly Tang, a Ph.D. student in Art, Art History and Visual Studies, took on Citizen 13660, a graphic novel about the internment of Japanese Americans.

The pilot internship program grew out of conversations between Richard Schramm, then the vice president for education programs at the National Humanities Center, and Ed Balleisen, vice provost for interdisciplinary studies at Duke. Four graduate students from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill joined the cohort.

“Our meetings were highly collaborative, providing ample opportunity to receive insightful feedback from peers and NHC staff—often from the perspective of what works practically in a classroom and what teachers’ needs are,” Tang said. ”We were encouraged to explore and experiment at every step and were given advice on how to conceptualize our plans, not what they should be.

“And I think we felt a greater awareness of a Triangle-area graduate student community that may individually work on different time periods, source materials and methods, but share an interest in bettering classrooms throughout the United States.”

To create their lessons, the students developed a framing question, orientation for teachers, background information for students, interactive exercises and a follow-up assignment. Over four sessions, they received coaching and critiques of their work in progress from their dissertation advisers.

In an evaluation, students reflected on their experiences, which many noted would enhance their career prospects. The National Humanities Center hopes to offer the program again next summer.

“The internship was a great experience,” said Ontiveros. “It had me thinking critically about not only my pedagogy and writing for a non-academic audience, but also about how to ask the really simple questions that cut to the core of a document—an invaluable skill for a historian. It was also inspiring to work with my fellow interns. Each person’s work raised important and very interesting questions.”

Originally published on Duke Today

Photo: Humanities grad students Kelly Tang and Hannah Ontiveros participated in the NHC pilot program.