By Miranda Gershoni, ‘22

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 support research both in the United States and abroad. This year’s recipients include five undergraduate students with projects ranging from an exploration of community organizing after Hurricane Maria to understanding Hepatitis C rates in the North Carolina prison population. These students work will aim to address disparities in human rights through observational social science, archival sources, and medicinal data.


Esther Kwarteng (’20) will be partnering with Shoulder to Shoulder, an NGO in Camasca, Honduras, to conduct field research. She will be investigating the perceptions of body image amongst young adolescents and older women and analyzing how these perceptions affect levels of self-esteem. In addition, she will organize small groups discussing self-esteem as it relates to body image as well as teach English to elementary school students.



Gino Nuzzolillo (‘20) will use archival sources to discuss emerging tensions in the rapid expansion and urbanization in the emblematic city of the post-war “New South.” Narrated from the perspective of poor and working-class African Americans and whites in turn-of-the-century Atlanta, Gino wants to probe questions like who claimed a right to Atlanta and a stake in its development? How did poor and/or vulnerable communities respond, organize, and resist? Gino hopes this project will present a “grassroots” historical perspective on one of the most significant historical moments in American history, the legacy of which still dominates our daily life in 2019.


Selin Ocal (‘20) aims to better understand and explain the implications of Hepatitis C in the North Carolina prison population. She will address how testing/treatment in this environment is imperative to disease elimination in the US by utilizing updated HCV patient health data from prisons in North Carolina. Selin ultimately hopes to advocate for better health conditions for the incarcerated population, who often receive poor medical service while imprisoned and often have very little resources upon release.


Ivan Robles (‘20) endeavors to construct an understanding of how Hurricane Maria as a disaster event has impacted frameworks for community organizing and development in Puerto Rico. He ultimately aims to unearth the sociopolitical implications of these unique forms of movement-making and how they impact discourse regarding the island’s larger concerns of governance, debt, and political status.



Anisha Watwe (‘21) will be partnering with Shoulder to Shoulder, an NGO based in Camasca, Honduras, to conduct field research on women’s reproductive health and the barriers that prevent contraceptive use. She will conduct small seminars on reproductive health to targeted population groups and will also teach English at a local elementary school.



For more information and to follow their research, visit the Summer Research Grant page on our website.