Alumnae Academic Adventures with Catherine Ward

Tuesday, December 11, 2018
By: Caitie Buteau, English Department 2018 Fall Digital Media Intern
Alumae Catherine Ward

Talking to Catherine Ward, a recent 2018 English major graduate, it is easy to see how her time at Duke created opportunities and influenced her life post graduation. Now, Ward is pursuing a Master of Philosophy in Education (Globalization and International Development) as a Rotary Global Grant Scholar at the University of Cambridge. In the future, Catherine plans on attending law school. 

It is also easy to credit Catherine Ward’s success to her own intellect and merit, but she acknowledges the skills that the Duke English Department afforded her. Ward explains that she “learned to deconstruct complex ideas, gaining valuable analytical skills. Moreover, [she] learned how to form a well-researched argument, understanding and refuting counter-arguments in the process.” Catherine tells me that she knows she “will carry these skills with me to law school, alongside my immense gratitude for the Duke University English Department and the many opportunities it offered me.”

While she was at Duke, Catherine says she “spent a good bit of time in the Allen Building, as a Student Assistant to the President and English Department Ambassador.” But besides those positions, her academic interests were fueled by her various service experiences. One she especially notes was the opportunity to tutor with Durham-based organizations. In addition to this, she was a part of the Citizenship Lab: Tools for Change through Bass Connections in the Kenan Institute for Ethics. There she mentored young refugees and grew her passion for global education development. Catherine was also the president of a Living/Learning Community that focused on Ethics and Global Citizenship in addition to being a sister in Chi Omega’s Mu Kappa Chapter. Even post graduation Ward continues to be involved with the Kenan Institute as a young alumna on their Advisory Board. 

Catherine focuses on how English, as a language, “manifests as a social and cultural force.” Before declaring her major, Catherine came to Duke with major questions “surrounding whose stories get told, how these stories are represented, and who, over varying periods in history, has held the authority to artistically depict these voices.” Within the English Department she found a space that allowed her to fully explore these questions. Furthermore, Catherine says that she declared as an English major because she “hoped that studying English would allow [her] to probe representations of marginalized voices that, through the texts, were preserved across time.”

Looking back on how she began studying for her masters at Cambridge, Catherine says that writing her senior thesis titled “Repositioning Home: Performing and Reconstructing Identity in the Migration Narrative” allowed her to synthesize all the critical reading, writing, and argument development skills that the department helped to teach her. Her thesis focused on looking at how the home becomes an “intersectional layer of identity for migrant women in three different novels: Morrison’s Jazz, Condé’s Heremakhonon, and Adichie’s Americanah.” Not only did the department help teach her the skills she needed to create this thesis, but it also provided her a space to experience applying critical theory and close readings to a topic that she was truly passionate about. The process of writing her thesis affirmed her appreciation for the research process. Catherine tells me that she “knows my experience writing my thesis will be helpful this year as I write my MPhil dissertation.” 

Also during her time at Duke, Catherine became involved with Representing Migration: A Humanities Lab, which is a reading group within a lab that allows for the discussion of migrant representation issues in varying geographic regions and time periods. Even now after she has graduated, the things Catherine discovered she had a passion for at Duke persist in her academic adventures. Her current research is looking into deconstructing the “concept of educational equity for refugee and asylum-seeking youth,” and she feels that her time in the migration lab and the discussions she had on the representation of displaced populations remains important to her current, and most likely, future work.