Poverty, Ethics & Policy Lab

Poverty, Ethics & Policy Lab

The Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University

The Kenan Institute’s Poverty, Ethics and Policy Lab is part of a larger initiative starting in the Fall of 2010 called The Moral Challenges of Poverty and Inequality. The overarching goals of this project are to raise awareness and a sense of urgency among the public about the ongoing prevalence of poverty and inequality in North Carolina; to analyze competing ethical principles and their resulting policy prescriptions; and to educate future leaders about the human and economic costs of poverty and the moral challenge it poses in a democracy. In addition to the laboratory, there will be a faculty colloquium, speakers, and events.

In the lab we aim to reinvigorate interdisciplinary learning about poverty, guided by ethical questions about the root causes of and effective interventions into poverty. We also seek to create products that will move the conversation out into communities across North Carolina. Finally, we seek to build community between students at UNC and Duke who share an interest in working on poverty in this state.

The lab has pedagogical goals that are shaped by our commitment to ethical teaching and learning environments. We want to create an atmosphere conducive to productive collaboration, creative new approaches to material, and interdisciplinary insights. We believe these will evolve in a physical space that nurtures relationships and encourages ongoing interaction. Students will find that mentorship and guidance from faculty, graduate assistants, and community members happen not just occasionally, but routinely.

The lab will launch in the fall of 2010. Students from Duke and UNC will enroll in a course team taught by the two faculty directors, historians Robert Korstad (Duke) and James Leloudis (UNC). The course, The History of Poverty, will meet on Thursday evenings from 6 to 8:30 p.m. in the Kenan Institute at Duke University. The seminar will focus on the history of poverty and antipoverty work in North Carolina, including the new book written by Korstad and Leloudis, To Right These Wrongs: The North Carolina Fund and the Battle to End Poverty and Inequality in 1960s America.

In addition to the seminar meetings, students will be expected to work 3-5 hours in the lab each week in small groups or individually and in collaboration with the faculty directors, lab director Rachel Seidman, and/or graduate student lab fellows. Students will research poverty in North Carolina today, including a county-by-county survey of antipoverty organizations across the state. They will produce materials aimed at helping communities develop guided conversations about poverty and methods for combating it.

Lab participants will have an opportunity to register in the spring semester for another seminar and to continue working in the lab.

Faculty Directors:  Robert Korstad and James Leloudis

Robert Korstad is the Kevin D. Gorter Professor of Public Policy and History at Duke University. He received his B. A. and Ph. D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His research interests include twentieth century U. S. history, labor history, African American history, and contemporary social policy, and he is the co-director of a major documentary research project at Duke’s Center for Documentary Studies, “Behind the Veil: Documenting African American Life in the Jim Crow South.” His publications include: Civil Rights Unionism: Tobacco Workers and the Struggle for Democracy in the Mid-Twentieth-Century South (University of North Carolina Press, 2003); Remembering Jim Crow: African Americans Talk About Life in the Segregated South (coeditor, The New Press, 2001); and Like a Family: The Making of a Southern Cotton Mill World (co-authored with Jacquelyn Hall, James Leloudis, Mary Murphy, Lu Ann Jones, and Christopher Daly; University of North Carolina Press, revised edition, 2000).

James Leloudis is Professor of History, Associate Dean for Honors, and Director of the James M. Johnston Center for Undergraduate Excellence at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He received his B.A. and Ph.D. at UNC, and his M.A. at Northwestern University. His chief research interest is the history of the modern South, with emphases on women, labor, education, race, and reform. He has published two books on these topics: Like a Family: The Making of a Southern Cotton Mill World (co-authored with Jacquelyn Hall, Robert Korstad, Mary Murphy, Lu Ann Jones, and Christopher Daly; University of North Carolina Press, revised edition, 2000), and Schooling the New South: Pedagogy, Self, and Society in North Carolina, 1880-1920 (University of North Carolina Press, 1996). With support from the Spencer Foundation, he has also completed a major oral history project on school desegregation.

Lab Director:  Rachel Seidman

Rachel F. Seidman is the Research and Policy Associate at the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University and Visiting Assistant Professor at the Sanford School of Public Policy. Rachel holds a Ph.D. in American History from Yale University and teaches courses on ethics, women’s history, leadership and public policy. She is the author of several articles on women and the Civil War, and of a textbook, The Civil War: A History in Documents.

If you are interested in joining the lab, please click here to submit a brief statement that explains why you want to be involved, your previous relevant courses, and your previous work and/or civic engagement experiences.

Duke students will register for The History of Poverty, History 211s/Pub Pol 270S/Ethics 211. UNC students will register for The History of Poverty, Honors 350, section 1.

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