Skip to main content

The Duke Center for International Development (DCID) and the Duke University Center for International and Global Studies (DUCIGS) hosted the first annual Duke Conference on International Development in November 2018. Several students shared information and data relating to their DukeEngage independent projects.

two women in business wear pose in front of research poster
Samhitha Sunkara (right) and Kimberly DelSignore (left)

Kimberly DelSignore ’21 and Samhitha Sunkara ’21 prepared a poster describing their work in Ahmedabad, India, with DukeEngage during the summer of 2018.

“The local NGO that we worked with was called Saath,” explains DelSignore. “They were instrumental in helping us go out in the community and actually approach these micro-entrepreneurs to learn about their businesses. We were hoping to build off the current Business Gym program Saath had — which sends mentors out in the field to give 1-on-1 advice to these businesses — by making the curriculum more self-driven and discussion-based so they could rapidly expand the program.”

Sunkara adds: “Kimberly and I interviewed street vendors in the informal sector of the economy to learn about their common business challenges. We developed a business curriculum for micro-entrepreneurs that included chapters such as Marketing, Loan Acquisition, Price Fluctuations, and Budgeting. Our goal was to help street vendors boost profits so they can better support their families, thereby making small steps to reduce income inequality in India.”

young man poses in front of research poster
Brian Grasso

Brian Grasso ’19 completed an independent DukeEngage project in Kenya the summer after his freshman year. During the 10-week project, he worked with a small NGO that distributes water filters in rural areas of southern Kenya and learned about development, global health, and NGO work with real, on-the-ground experience. After his DukeEngage project, his interest in development was solidified. When he saw an opportunity to study abroad in China, he was thrilled. With support from the Kunshan Innovation Scholarship, he completed a research project on the history of Kunshan’s economic development and its impact on the city’s health systems. His paper describing the work and results was published in an undergraduate journal at the University of Wisconsin.

“My DukeEngage project allowed me to learn more about development and global health than is possible in a classroom setting,” Grasso says, “and this knowledge gave me an understanding of cross-cultural interaction, development, and global health that allowed my research project in China to be a success. Since then, I was able to write a research paper for a class at Duke comparing the histories of economic development in China and in Kenya. DukeEngage has made my studies of international development and global health on campus to have an experiential, rather than just theoretical, basis. The program was honestly the highlight of my Duke career.”