Scholars and Fellows


Chalk up two Trumans, two Rockefellers, and a Mellon for Duke undergraduates receiving scholarships and fellowships this spring. Juniors Erin H. Abrams, of Northbrook, Illinois, and Christine M. Varnado, of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, received Truman Scholarships; juniors Natasha Harris, of Philadelphia, and Akil Edward Ross, of Washington, D.C., received Rockefeller Brothers Fund Fellowships; and senior Kelvin Black, of Fayetteville, North Carolina, won a Mellon Fellowship.
The Harry S Truman Scholarship Foundation awards scholarships of $3,000 for senior-year study and up to $27,000 for graduate or professional students who plan to pursue careers in government or public service. In addition, Truman scholars receive leadership-development training and internship opportunities in the federal government. Duke students have received thirty-three Truman scholarships since the program was initiated in 1977. Between seventy-five and eighty Truman Scholarships were awarded this year. Truman scholars are recognized for academic accomplishments, leadership potential, and commitment to a career in public service.
Abrams is a political science and comparative area studies major and plans a career as an international human-rights lawyer. After graduating, she intends to work for a humanitarian organization in Asia or Africa before entering a professional program that would allow her to get a joint degree in law and international relations.
A winner of the Lars Lyon Volunteer Service Award, sponsored by the Community Service Center, Abrams has worked to establish a pilot domestic violence prevention program at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro. She also has coordinated the Women’s Center Safehaven Program and held summer internships with the U.S. State Department Global Affairs Bureau and the International Human Rights Law Institute.
Varnado, an Angier B. Duke Scholar, is an English major. After graduation, she first intends to work abroad with the Peace Corps or, domestically, teaching English to under-served communities. Ultimately, she plans to enter an interdisciplinary Ph.D. program in literature and gender studies. At Duke, she was editor of VOICES magazine, a publication on gender and women’s issues; an outreach coordinator at the Community Service Center; and a tutor for children at the Community Shelter for Hope and at Genesis House. In 1999, she had a summer internship working with international refugee adolescent girls.
The nationally competitive Rockefeller Brothers Fund Fellowships are awarded to minority students who are entering the teaching profession. Duke is one of twenty-five institutions in the United States to participate in the program. Awards are presented to about twenty-five students each year who are majoring in the arts and sciences and have shown interest in graduate study leading to a job in teaching, either at an American public elementary or secondary school. As part of the fellowship, the students receive a grant of $2,500 for a project or study that is related to teaching, and a fellowship of $12,000 for a one-year program of graduate study or $16,000 for a two-year program.
Rockefeller recipient Harris will use her project grant to participate in an innovative program in Philadelphia this summer, working with researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and educators from Philadelphia’s board of education to totally revamp an existing school. She will assist in teacher hiring, forming school policies, revising the curriculum, and even looking at teaching styles. At age thirteen, Harris became the youngest educator ever hired by the American Red Cross in Philadelphia. She taught area youths about conflict resolution, AIDS education, and life skills.
Ross, a member of the Duke football team, hasn’t decided what he will do with his project grant, but this summer he is interested in participating in a community in-schools program in Durham. Like Harris, he started young in teaching. In the ninth grade, he was a “flight director” in Washington at a space-shuttle flight simulator for children. The simulator, established in memory of the Challenger astronauts, was designed to get young children get interested in science.
As a Mellon Fellowship recipient, Black, an English major from Fayetteville, won a nationally competitive award given to top students planning to enter a Ph.D. program in the humanities. The fellowships, which cover tuition and fees for the year and provide a stipend of $17,500, are intended to help promising students prepare for careers of college teaching and scholarship in humanistic fields. Ninety-two students across the country received the fellowships this year; the awards are sponsored by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
A Benjamin N. Duke Scholar and a Reginaldo Howard Scholar at Duke, Black earlier won a Mellon Minority Undergraduate Fellowship for the Humanities. He plans to pursue graduate study in English literature, focusing on colonial and post-colonial British literature as well as modern American and African-American literature.
Black studied in the Duke Oxford Program last summer. He also conducted a summer research project in London on African and Asian-British aesthetics, funded by a Benenson Award in the Arts and by an “Oceans Connect” Summer Undergraduate Research Award at Duke. He is a member of the Duke Honor Council, Prism House, and the executive advisory board of the Office of University Scholars and Fellows. In the community, he has tutored local youths and volunteered as an usher and lector at Duke Chapel.

Share your comments

Have an account?

Sign in to comment

No Account?

Email the editor