Each year, the Duke Human Rights Center at the Franklin Humanities Institute awards students interested in developing, implementing and working in human rights with funding for summer research. These grants typically support domestic and international research, but due to COVID-19, students will only be conducting remote research this summer. This year’s recipients include four undergraduate and two graduate students with projects ranging from the League of Nations’ gendered legal and humanitarian response to the Armenian Genocide to ways Durham’s Queer community supports transgender and queer youth of color. Students will also explore best practices for working with refugee children, the role of school curriculum on racial identity, the impact of “black lung” on women in China, and the intersection of human rights, COVID-19 and the impact on Tanzanian small-scale fishers. For more information about each recipient and to follow their research this summer, please visit the Human Rights Research Grant page.

Stefanie Pousoulides’ (’21) research project contributes to her senior thesis entitled, “Women in the Armenian Genocide: The Legal and Humanitarian Response of the League of Nations (1919-1939).” The execution of the Armenian Genocide was gendered, and so were the remedies issued to Armenian survivors. While Armenian men were more frequently subject to mass killings and labor camps, Armenian women more frequently faced sexual violence, deportations and means of assimilation into the Ottoman Empire, in addition to facing mass murders. Stefanie seeks to understand how the League perceived what the humanitarian and legal needs were of Armenian women survivors and how that shaped its disparate legal and humanitarian responses.

Rezilience Williamson (’21) will explore how Durham’s Queer communities forge social space for queer and transgender youth of color to navigate racism, sexism and heterosexism. Building on the work of Marlon Riggs, who looks at how identities are lived in a specific time and place, Williamson will virtually interview local teachers, parents and community leaders about how they create practices that cultivate support networks for queer and transgender youth of color.


Grace O’Connor (’22) will conduct interdisciplinary research in education, psychology, sociology and public policy to study best practices for working with and advocating for migrant and refugee children. Using the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child and documents from the UN Refugee Convention as a guide, she will delve into the Duke library system’s extensive collection of papers and official documents on public policy and child development and explore online resources at the Duke Child and Family Policy Center. The culmination of her research will be a list of recommended best practices for non-professionally trained volunteers working with refugee and migrant children.

Ce’Ondra Ellison (’21) will build upon research from a 2018 Story+ Left of Black Project which focused on the importance of expanding education to incorporate black studies within secondary schools. Her research will examine the role of school curriculum on racial identity formation and how school policing affects the educational attainment of black women. The research gathered from the summer will contribute to her senior thesis on black women’s experience in education and how school culture and curriculum contributes to their racialized experiences in educational institutions, racial identity formation and academic achievement.

Yanping Ni is a first-year graduate student in the East Asian Studies program focusing on the occupational disease of pneumoconiosis or “black lung” in China. Although the “black lung” has gained attention in both scholarly and non-scholarly work, in this literature women are always absent or solely serve as the background of the patients. Ni’s project will focus on women’s invisible, non-wage, subsistence labor and doubled responsibilities. To better understand participants’ daily lives, Ni will conduct interviews remotely, follow social media posts and use Photovoice to record daily activity.

Dana Baker is a fourth-year Ph.D. Candidate in Marine Science and Conservation at the Duke University Marine Lab in Beaufort, North Carolina. Her dissertation research investigates the relationships between the environment and human wellbeing, focusing on issues of poverty and protected areas in sub-Saharan Africa. Specifically, she investigates how marine protected areas (MPAs) affect small-scale fisher’s wellbeing, focusing on relational values and place identity in southern Tanzania. This summer, Dana will focus on the intersection of COVID-19, human rights and the impacts on Tanzanian small-scale fishers.