Four seniors have been named Hart Fellows for 2014—an increase from the fellowship’s traditional three recipients, which is mostly due to the outstanding nature of this year’s applicants, program directors said.

Anastasia Karklina, Lucas Spangher, Jessye Waxman and Casey Williams are the recipients of the ten-month fellowship, which is run by the Hart Leadership Program in the Sanford School of Public Policy. Through the fellowship, students are offered the opportunity to work in low- and middle-income countries outside of the United States and immerse themselves in communities that are facing complex social, political and economic issues.

“Each of the four applicants had fascinating, ambitious, yet feasible proposal ideas,” said Alma Blount, director of the Hart Leadership Program. “We simply could not choose between them, so we invited all four to join us.”

Spangher, Waxman and Williams will use the fellowship to do projects with a focus on environmental sustainability, while Karklina will research women’s rights.

“What unifies this class of fellows is that their projects are a natural continuation of who they are and what they have done at Duke,” said Erin Sweeney, Trinity ’13 and research associate for the Hart Leadership Program. “They each have a deep passion, a clear sense of purpose, and a desire to lead a rich public life.”

This year’s increased number of fellows was contingent on both the applicant pool and funding, said Sanjana Marpagda, Trinity ’13 and the research service-learning coordinator for the Hart Leadership program.

Blount noted that the program would like to have more funding to meet the demand of applicants through grants and other programs.

Originally from Riga, Latvia, Anastasia Karklina is graduating with a double major in political science and African and African American studies. While at Duke, Karklina has been involved in community organizing around issues of social justice and has been working at the Women’s Center for the last year. She has previously conducted research in Uganda, Israel and Ghana.

“I hope that the fellowship will allow me to continue pursuing my passion for gender equity after I graduate, and will let me reflect on how I will choose to engage with gender justice in the next few years,” Karklina wrote in an email Monday.

Karklina will spend her year working with the Gender Studies and Human Rights Documentation Centre in Accra, Ghana. She plans to interview male students at the University of Ghana to examine their attitudes on gender equity issues.

Lucas Spangher—an A.B. Duke scholar from Long Island, N.Y.—is graduating with a degree in computer science and statistics with a minor in mathematics. Spangher will travel to Mumbai, India to research the factors and methods most conducive to biogas generation in rural villages.

“I’m interested in sustainability because I think that environmental degradation is the single most pressing problem we as a species face,” Spangher wrote in an email Sunday.

Spangher said he will be working at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay in Mumbai for a month to learn about bio-gas development and work on model concepts for his statistics work. He will then spend the next three months traveling to villages in neighboring regions to observe their plants.

Jessye Waxman is a senior from Great Neck, N.Y. who will graduate with a major in environmental science policy and a minor in earth and ocean sciences.

The goal of Waxman’s project in the West Bank is to develop a strategy to coordinate efforts in 28 Israeli and Palestinian communities to improve water management resources in the Lower Jordan River Valley.

“As I am both keenly interested in environmental peace-building and water issues, I could not imagine a more perfect organization to work with,” Waxman said.

Waxman noted that this work connects to her studies at Duke. During her junior year, she studied abroad at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, an academic and research institute in Israel that brings Israelis and Arabs together to work on regional environmental issues and peace-building efforts.

An A.B. Duke scholar and the chair of The Chronicle’s independent editorial board, Casey Williams is a literature major with a minor in philosophy. Williams, a senior, will travel to Dhaka, Bangladesh to research the social impacts of environmental degradation. He plans to interview community members and hear their stories about the effects of environmental changes on their lives.

“Most of my courses at Duke have been about these abstract theoretical things, which are awesome and I love,” Williams said. “But throughout my college experience, I was always asking the question of how can I translate philosophy into tools that help us act.”

Blount praised each of the fellows and noted that the program has high expectations for them.

“We had a sense with each of these fellows that he or she would embrace the learning experience—with all its ups and downs, and would grow tremendously as a result,” Blount said. “Each of these fellows has abundant courage and leadership potential.”

On getting the fellowship, Spangher said he feels honored and does not feel he necessarily deserves it more than any other Duke student.

“While I’m honored to have gotten this opportunity, I approach it now as I think one should approach any admission—not as reward for work already done, but as an investment in progress yet to be made,” he said.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated Casey William's major. He is a literature major and philosophy minor. The Chronicle regrets the error.