Beinecke Memorial Scholarship awarded to Kelly Duke `01

Kelly M. Duke, a Kenyon senior, has received a coveted Edwin, Frederick, and Walter Beinecke Memorial Scholarship worth $32,000 in support of her graduate education. Chosen from a field of sixty-three competitors, Duke is one of twenty-one Beinecke winners, all of whom plan to attend graduate school in the arts, humanities, and social sciences.

Duke, who is from Fort Thomas, Kentucky, entered the College with only a passing interest in history. She planned to major in biology and then go on to medical school. However, a course in medieval history, taught by Kenyon Assistant Professor of History Jeffrey A. Bowman, captured her interest and turned her in another direction.

"The readings and discussions were so dynamic that I was completely engrossed," Duke says. She also studied "Faith of Christians" with Professor of Religious Studies Royal W. Rhodes and, for a time, considered a major in religious studies. "I finally decided to major in history and complete a minor in religion," Duke notes. "Now that I'm reading for honors in history, though, I won't be able to do that." Nevertheless, she says she is interested in comparative history rather than the history of any one country or region, adding that she finds that a history major satisfies her need to explore religions and literatures in historical context.

Duke spent the second semester of her junior year in Dakar, Senegal, on a program sponsored by Beloit College. "I chose Senegal," she explains, "because I wanted to become very fluent and comfortable in French without going to a European country. I studied French for four years in high school and one year here at Kenyon. The Senegal program really stood out above the others." Duke researched the country for a paper she wrote for one of her classes so she would know something about Senegal before she arrived.

In Senegal, Duke lived with two different host families, one Muslim and one Catholic. "The Muslim family was particularly interesting, because they were quite unusual for a Senegalese family," says Duke. "Both parents were English professors, one at the university and one at a teacher's college. I was able to speak English with them, while I used either French or the native language, Wolof, with their children."

Duke says she found both her families welcoming and supportive. "The Senegalese people go to great lengths to welcome you to their homes and tables," she says. "They are very gracious."

Duke's program called for her to attend classes at the Université Cheikh Anta Diop, but strikes that shut down classes for seven weeks forced her to take classes at African Consultants International (also known as the Baobab Center). Her studies included the Wolof language, gender issues, the history of Islam in the region, and African literature.

One of the distinctive features of the Beineke Scholarship is that it is awarded to a rising senior. As a result, Duke does not yet know where she will attend graduate school. Her top choices so far include Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Northwestern, and Yale universities and the University of Wisconsin.

"I'm looking at programs in postcolonial studies as well as in African history and folklore," she says. "I expect to develop a career that most definitely includes researching and learning."

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