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Equity Through Stories Program

Duke Gardens aspires to be a place where people can deepen their connection with the land and each other, especially those with experiences and identities that have been marginalized in our dominant cultures of outdoor learning and horticulture. In the Equity Through Stories Program, we work with Duke students to expand our knowledge of local history and people’s relationships with plants in order to include more perspectives in our gardens, facilitated programs and interpretive materials. Each semester, students in the program conduct research and then create sharable materials or plans that we incorporate into our internal reference materials and our public spaces, interpretation and programs. Some students also open or build ongoing relationships between Duke Gardens and our wider community.

If you're a Duke student interested in joining the program:

Opportunities will be posted to the Duke student employment site any time we're hiring for this program, and this page will be updated to reflect that. There may not be openings every year. When there are openings, the posting will go up in August. 

  • Joining the program requires a commitment of at least one academic year (fall-spring) and 10 hours of work per week during each semester.
  • This program involves a lot of independent work, and relies heavily on students' strong communication, planning, and organization skills.
  • This program also requires students to bring specific skills and knowledge they've developed prior to joining the program, as related to their project. These may be identity-based experiences, technical skills, prior coursework or work/volunteer experiences, or something else.
  • Additional information, including specific projects that are available for applications and any additional requirements, will be listed in the student employment job posting.
  • Interested students must apply to the program following the directions on the student employment job posting.

If you have additional questions, feel free to contact Kati Henderson (she/her) at or 919-886-3816 (calls or texts).



Tigerlily Kaynor (Spring 2022-Fall 2023)

photo of Tigerlily Kaynor

Tigerlily Kaynor is a junior in Duke’s Trinity College of Arts and Sciences. Tigerlily grew up on the Hawaiian island of Kauai O Manokalanipo, where she cultivated her passion for Indigenous language renaissance and general reclamation of culture, space, and self. Her project, perfectly aligning with that passion, will be centered around cultivating relationality and community–both human and with the surrounding natural world. She intends to focus on supporting the interests of  Duke’s Native American and Indigenous Student Alliance, especially through the development of educational materials and workshops. Workshops are to be focused on cultivating relationships with native plants, including their various uses. Similarly, educational materials will be designed to encourage relationship building with featured plants.

Read Tigerlily's Rooted in Relationality zines here.

Register for Tigerlily's public workshops here.


Ally Barbaro (Fall 2022-Fall 2023)

photo of Allison Barbaro

Ally is a master’s student at the Nicholas School of the Environment studying Coastal Environmental Management. She grew up on Long Island, then moved to Washington, DC to study international affairs and geography at the George Washington University. During her time in D.C she volunteered with Camp Kesem GW and served as an AmeriCorps VISTA at a local anti-hunger nonprofit. 

In her project, Ally is creating signs and additional virtual resources detailing the histories, geographies and cultural importance of plants grown in the Discovery Garden. She hopes her signs will inspire visitors to reflect on their connections to these and other edible plants. 


Michelle Thompson (Fall 2021-Spring 2023)

photo of Michelle Thompson

Michelle graduated in 2023 from her master's program at the Nicholas School of the Environment studying Ecosystem Science and Conservation. She was born and raised in the Southeast and graduated from Clemson University, where she worked at the South Carolina Botanical Garden. Michelle works in the Equity Through Stories Program in conjunction with her position as a garden guide leading programs for children & families.

Her first year in the program, Michelle researched how plants are named and different naming conventions. She used this information to create shareable materials highlighting the original "roots" of plant names, including how names affect our experiences and vice versa. In her second year, she built on that foundation to develop training materials for volunteers that explains the colonial history of botanic gardens and how this history affects us today. Michelle wants to highlight this history while working to expand the stories we tell so the garden can better represent its visitors.

Get Michelle's Exploring Plant Names booklet here (to use, print and fold in half).


Kaila Balch (Fall 2022-Spring 2023)

photo of Kaila Balch

Kaila Balch is graduating in 2023 with an MSc in Global Health at the Duke Global Health Institute. Her research encompasses human and environmental health issues from malaria incidence to mercury exposure in the Peruvian Amazon. Prior to Duke, Kaila focused on food security and sustainable agriculture through urban farming and an Environmental Studies degree focused on food systems at the University of Utah. Her passion to promote food security led her to join the Duke Equity Through Stories Program.

Through the Duke Equity Through Stories Program, Kaila aims to build narratives around native and tropical food plants to share at Sarah P. Duke’s Discovery Garden. In contextualizing food plants through visual signage, story maps, and recipe sharing she hopes to shed light on less known stories around food. Overall, she wants the greater Durham community to emerge with a better understanding and appreciation of the food we come across every day.


Grace Dewyer (Fall 2022-Spring 2023)

photo of Grace Dewyer

I am a Navajo undergraduate student studying Native American Studies through Program II and taking the pre-medicine path. I was motivated to join this program because they greatly support documenting Oral Histories and working with members of the community, both of which I find very interesting and valuable. Through my work in the Equity through Storytelling program I hope to learn from different Indigenous groups as well as more about my indigenous roots. 



Reyna Cardoza (Fall 2022-Spring 2023)

photo of Reyna Cardoza

Reyna Cardoza is a sophomore pursuing a chemistry major and a minor in cultural anthropology in addition to a minor in Korean. She is from Oklahoma and is a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation as well as being of Cherokee, Seminole, Creek, and Hispanic heritage. She is Co-Treasurer of the Native American/Indigenous Student Alliance (NAISA) and Chair of Treasury for NAISA’s Powwow Committee. She is a sister of the Native American sorority Alpha Pi Omega Inc. and has participated in Duke LIFE, Project Search, and was an Orientation Leader for Project Earth. She previously worked at Lilly Library and is currently working at the Meyer Lab in the Nicholas School of the Environment where she researches the effects of environmental pollutants on mitochondrial DNA. She hopes to utilize her Native American background, cultural anthropological research, and environmental science research in her project for the Equity through Stories Program. Reyna plans on creating a medium to share Indigenous medicinal knowledge as it relates to the Duke Gardens to foster a relationship between the broader Duke/Durham community, the Indigenous community, and the plant community.



Ella Dunham (Fall 2020-Spring 2022)

photo of Ella Dunham in Duke Gardens

Ella Dunham graduated in 2022 after studying health outcomes: power, community, and social systems with a chemistry minor as a B.N. Duke Scholar at Trinity College. She was also a digital marketing intern at Black Venture Foundation and publicity chair for Duke Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students (MAPS). They are interested in this work to learn and teach others about agriculture and horticulture practices used and popularized by Black and Indigenous folks. Through interviews and literature review, Ella created virtual and in-person activities so children and their families can build their own connection with the plant world around them..

Take Ella's Plant Personality Quiz here.

Get Ella's Black Walnut Identification activity booklet here (to use, print and fold in half).

See Ella's Plant Passport booklet here (use this digital version, or print it out using the booklet setting).


Amy Yoon (Spring 2022)

photo of Amy Yoon

Amy is graduated in 2023 after engaging Critical Food and Agricultural Studies with a Program II (undergraduate independent course of study) at Duke. Her interests in food and farming are grounded in a commitment to building up a food system that sustains the life of humans, non-humans, and the environment. They worked on the beginnings of a seed sharing program with community partners of Duke Gardens as well as researching the stories of Asian heritage crops and creating signage for visitors to interact with in the Discovery Garden



Quinn Smith Jr. (Fall 2020-Fall 2021)

photo of Quinn Smith, Jr. in Duke Gardens

Quinn is a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, majoring in public policy with a documentary studies certificate. As a documentarian, Quinn strives to challenge our misconceptions of Indigenous people by documenting a long-silenced, shared humanity. Quinn graduated in 2023.

What drew Quinn to the Equity through Stories Program was the ability to uplift Indigenous truths and to forge reciprocal relationships with Indigenous people throughout the Carolinas. Quinn does this by interviewing Indigenous people about their relationships with the land and weaving their stories into audio documentaries to be exhibited at the Blomquist Garden of Native Plants. He also initiates seed-sharing and other reciprocal ventures between Indigenous peoples and the Blomquist Garden. Quinn hopes that his work will help to re-educate Duke Gardens' 600,000+ annual visitors and to create a healing space for Indigenous people.

Listen to Quinn's half-hour audio documentaries here.

Start Quinn's interactive audio tour here.

Visit Quinn's website here.


Lily Levin (Fall 2021)

photo of Lily Levin

Lily Levin (she/her) graduated in 2023 as an English major interested in the intersection between justice and storytelling. She’d like to be an immigration attorney, although she’s most looking forward to unpaid organizing work in her future communities.

For her project, Lily used interviews she conducted with Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden visitors to make signs and other interactive material. She sought to highlight cultural ties to plants and foods, the impact of colonialism on the production of crops, and  generational gardening discussed by both visitors and local farms.  


Autumn Burton (Fall 2020-Spring 2021)

Autumn graduated in 2021 with a major in environmental science and a minor in global health. She is interested in working toward methodologies to facilitate environmental justice outcomes for marginalized populations, as well as research in sustainable energy, clean technology and conservation. Autumn's projects aimed to shed light on the major impacts that people of color have had on agriculture and horticulture throughout contemporary U.S. history and to highlight connections between crop plants grown at Duke Gardens and a diverse range of cultures who have relationships with those plants.


Anna Steltenkamp (Summer 2020)

Anna graduated in 2021 with a major in cultural anthropology. Her project with Equity Through Stories began to develop reciprocal relationships with local Indigenous communities, including interviewing those interested about their relationship with plants and what kinds of collaborations with Duke Gardens they would find useful.



To learn more, share feedback or ask questions, please contact Kati Henderson (she/her) at or 919-886-3816 (calls or texts).