Hometown: Rose-Hill, Mauritius Island, Africa
Major: Program II in Human Cognitive Evolution: Studying the Behavioral Phenotype through Cognitive Genomics
Clubs/Organizations: Multimedia editor for The Chronicle, council representative for Duke University at the MasterCard Foundation Scholars Network, vice president for outreach at the International Association, student researcher with Bass Connections (Brain & Society Theme)
Other activities you participated in: Neurohumanities Summer Program, Paris; Study Abroad at Maastricht University, Netherlands; Summer Internship with the Empathetic Systems Group, Japan
What Duke has meant to you: “When I was leaving home in Mauritius to attend Duke, my parents, who never had the chance to attend college, told me, ‘What you are doing has surpassed the limits of what we could imagine for you.’ So to me, Duke means the fulfillment of old dreams and the genesis of new ones. I really wish to thank the MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program, whose support has allowed me to attend this wonderful institution.”
Shanen did not learn about the U.S. college admissions process until her final year of high school. She received a MasterCard Foundation Scholarship, which is aimed at helping economically disadvantaged young people in Africa find opportunities to learn and prosper. “I did not necessarily have the means to make my dreams come to life when I was home, but ever since my Duke journey began, I just have witnessed my dream space expand,” said Shanen.Commencement Homepage
While at Duke, Shanen explored art, science and their intersection. She often wrote prose inspired by lessons in neuroanatomy where she would feature a DNA strand as the main character in her short story. Shanen had the opportunity to work on a thesis project under the guidance of evolutionary anthropologists Greg Wray and Steven Churchill and neuroscientist Leonard White exploring the history of the brain. “I am interested in using ancient DNA genomics to answer the age-old question: What makes us human? My claim is that the advent of artistic ventures truly shaped the beginning of behavioral modernity. In a sense, I want to be a historian of the brain,” said Shanen.
Shanen is excited about the future of higher education and research in Africa and exploring ways to make research findings accessible to the rest of the world. Upon graduating, Shanen hopes to work as a faculty member for the leadership core course, "Communicating for Impact," at the recently opened African Leadership University in Kigali, Rwanda.