Davina Durgana, SIS/PHD ‘15
Davina Durgana's passion to fight modern slavery ignited on a mission trip to El Salvador, after she attended the funeral of a child trafficked by an international gang-a child she would have taught. When she returned to the US, Durgana learned all she could about modern slavery. First Lady Michelle Obama recognized Durgana for these efforts at her undergraduate commencement.
After earning her master's degree in Paris, Durgana signed up to pursue a PhD in International Affairs. She credits the program's flexible, interdisciplinary nature for allowing her to take a nontraditional approach to statistics. Now, Durgana is a statistical analyst at the Walk Free Foundation (WFF), where she combats modern slavery on a team that measures human trafficking across the globe through the Global Slavery Index. She is developing the first joint global human trafficking estimate for WFF and the International Labor Organization, and she teaches at the School of International Training Graduate Institute, a school that focuses on practitioner scholars. Her work landed her on the
Forbes "30 under 30: Science" list in 2017.
Durgana said she could not have expedited her PhD without the support of AU's unparalleled faculty, specifically SIS Dean Jim Goldgeier, Doctoral Studies Director Sharon Weiner, and Associate Professor Joseph Young. When a snowstorm and school closing threated to delay Durgana's proposal defense, Weiner helped her locate five computers—one for each doctoral committee member—so she could present via teleconference. The committee approved her proposal that day. "You're not just another student. You're someone they care deeply about and someone they'll do everything they can to accommodate," she said.
Durgana plans to continue her path of public service by running for office someday. "There's no real other purpose to all of the education, all of the activism, all of the advocacy, all of the work that we do, if not to eventually help make policies and help design a world you would want to live in."