News and Activities

Karsh Scholars Fall Trip

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The Karsh International Scholars traveled to Asheville, N.C., to experience the best of fall foliage and festivities. On Saturday, they visited the North Carolina Arboretum, where they voted in a bonsai competition. The afternoon was spent shopping and exploring downtown Asheville. On Sunday morning, the group had a lesson in pottery glazing, in a city known for its ceramics. Finally, the Karsh Scholars visited the Biltmore Estate – the nation’s largest private residence – before returning to Durham.

The Biltmore Estate


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North Carolina Arboretum

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Pottery Glazing!

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Volunteering – Karsh Scholars in the Community

Karsh Scholars engage in community and civic events. Here are updates on their latest volunteer projects.

Building Our Community – Habitat for Humanity Project 2015


Each spring semester the Karsh Scholars engage in a Habitat for Humanity build project, where they help build homes for low-income families in the Durham, North Carolina community. Over the past two years, scholars have built walls, shelves, and porches. Karsh Scholars had also put up roofing in new and rehabbed homes.

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Karsh Scholars “Take it Out to the Ballpark”

For graduating Karsh Scholars Winnie Biwott, Talal Javed Qadri, and Laxmi Rajak, the scholar group did something very All-American and quintessentially Durham. They headed to the ballpark, the Durham Bulls Athletic Park to be exact. Taking in a baseball game with fellow scholars at the DBAP in downtown Durham made for the perfect “Senior Send-off” Party. Congratulations Winnie, Talal, and Laxmi!

Durham Bulls Game

Karsh Alumna Laxmi Rajak Shines as Hart Fellow In Nepal (2015)

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In her own words, Laxmi Rajak writes an exclusive update for OUSF, on her Hart Fellowship in Nepal.

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Laxmi Rajak – August 19, 2015

I can’t believe that I have been back in Nepal for almost two months! My time here, as a Hart Fellow, has been very interesting amidst the aftershocks, constitution craze, and my work at Teach for Nepal.

When I set my foot here in Kathmandu back in June, I was amazed to see how normal everything seemed. The same smell, the same traffic, the dusty road, and the school children – it just felt like every other visit. Yes, some buildings were disfigured, and I had to drive through a road that was damaged, but I was very happy to realize that things were much better than what I had imagined. Deep down, however, the earthquake seems to have a huge psychological impact. For example, stories about the ghosts of the victims have become very common, and people have stopped visiting some areas at night. The constant aftershocks are just adding to the fear. Over fifteen aftershocks have occurred since I arrived (I felt about five of them)!! I am slowly getting used to it.

A few weeks ago, the Constituent Assembly finally presented the citizens with the draft of the constitution [after nine years of long wait]. A two-day national holiday was declared, and various camps were set up throughout the country to engender ‘constitution conversations’ with the citizens. While some camps ended in violent clashes, the overall enthusiasm the country witnessed was remarkable.

Speaking of my community partner (Teach for Nepal – TfN), I have been very impressed with the leadership team, their work ethic, and the types of work that they are involved in general. The team is quite big – eighteen staff members, over a hundred fellows, and two interns including me. What is really exciting is that everyone seems to very happy about his or her involvement with TFN. To quote one of my co-workers, “it feels great to work with so many inspiring young people for such a great cause”.

I agree with him. I had a chance to visit one of the placement sites (Janakpur) few weeks ago with the CEO, and four other co-workers. The challenges in the community are enormous – large number of students per class, teacher absences, corruption, politics, pollution (Janakpur is one of the most polluted places in Nepal), weather (extremely hot in the summer and classrooms don’t have any fans), and many more. But despite all this, TFN as a team is having a positive impact in the community. Some of the students told me that because of TFN fellow’s dedication, other teachers in their school have also started attending school regularly. Students also love fellow’s classes because “it’s not a typical rote-learning based classroom, it’s much more practical, and fun”. TFN has been working in this particular community for only three months, and it was amazing to see how the community was receiving TFN’s work.

Right now, I am in the process of finalizing my research questions and methods. But to be general, my research will examine the students’ experiences of the TFN fellows’ classrooms.

It’s going to be a great year of learning and growth, and I am really excited to see how everything unfolds in the coming months!


A Different Life – Laxmi Rajak’s Story

Laxmi Rajak 2015, Karsh International Scholar, talks to The Standard about her life now and how different it might have been. Read this article about Rajak’s childhood in Nepal and the work she’s doing to change her life and the lives of others.

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2103 Fall Break in Washington, D.C.   saturday, July 20 at 4:00 p.m

The nation’s capital played host to the Karsh International Scholars during Fall Break 2013. Although the visit occurred during the government shut down the scholars managed to take in several sights, tours, and a play.

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Karsh Senior Reflection (2013)

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The Karsh International Scholars Program salutes our graduating seniors. The graduates share their experiences at Duke and advice for future Karsh Scholars in the videos below.

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Karsh Spring 2013 Speaker – Dr. Elizabeth Anderson

Understanding and conserving freshwater ecosystems in diverse landscapes: Lessons from tropical rivers in East Africa, Central America, and the Andean Amazon

(Dr. Elizabeth Anderson, Department of Earth and Enviroment – Florida International University)

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Freshwater ecosystems, such as rivers, lakes, and wetlands, harbor extraordinary biodiversity even though they cover very little of the Earth’s surface and contain a only very small fraction of the world’s freshwater. At the same time, freshwater ecosystems and their biota are among the most threatened globally, as a consequence of factors ranging from river alterations and water withdrawals, to globalization and climate change, to species introductions. Among freshwater ecosystems, tropical rivers present a unique case. Many are thought to contain very high species richness and levels of endemism, much of which still remains to be described. Yet tropical rivers are being altered at an increasingly rapid rate, with construction of new dams and water pollution among the leading causes of alteration. This seminar will present three cases from East Africa, Central America, and the Andean Amazon of efforts to simultaneously improve understanding of tropical rivers and work towards their conservation in the face of ongoing changes.

About the speaker:

Elizabeth Anderson is a conservation ecologist based in the Department of Earth and Environment at Florida International University. Her professional work explores the natural history of tropical freshwaters of Central America, the Andean Amazon, and East Africa, and the effects of alterations of these ecosystems. Dr. Anderson received both undergraduate and PhD (Ecology) degrees from the University of Georgia in Athens, GA, USA. She has since worked for the Organization for Tropical Studies as a coordinator of an international research program for U.S. and Costa Rican students at La Selva Biological Station; as Conservation Sustainability Director at The Field Museum of Natural History in the Division of Environment, Culture and Conservation; and is currently a member of the faculty and affiliated with the Global Water for Sustainability program at Florida International University.

Karsh Symposium 2013


Karsh International Scholars Program held their 2013 Symposium, where upper classmen presented their Summer 2012 Projects to fellow scholars, professors, and colleagues. Scholars described where they worked, their specific daily tasks were, what made their projects unique or distinct, and their final results. Presenting scholars included: Joshua Foromera, Roberto Xavier Darquea, Milkie Vu, Volodymyr Zavidovych, Maria Benitez, Winnie Biwott, Talal Javed Qadri, and Laxmi Rajak (via Skype).

Karsh Scholars’ 2012 Fall Break at the Beach

The Karsh International Scholars traveled to Wrightsville Beach and Wilmington, North Carolina, in October of 2012. For all of the scholars, this was the first timing visiting the North Carolina coastline.

Besides having the opportunity to relax at the beach, the students took a tour of one of North Carolina’s best-preserved barrier islands, Masonboro Island. During the tour, Karsh Scholars learned about the importance of the island’s distinct ecological zone to the wildlife on the island. The island also functions to buffer the North Carolina coast from storm fronts.