Leadership


President - Allison Killius | MEM-Ecotoxicology & Environmental Health (EEH) '17

Born in Buffalo and raised in Tallahassee, I never quite fit in with the Deep South mentality. Desperate to find a more diverse and eclectic culture, I moved to New Orleans and completed my undergrad degree in Ecology at Tulane University. While attending Tulane I became a founding member of a mentorship program, WYSE. We visited a middle school once a week and established relationships with a group of young girls, mostly poor and all African American. It was fascinating hearing them speak of their own experiences growing up - some so similar to mine while also wildly different. When I arrived at Duke, I quickly got involved in the D&I community, eventually going on to co-found DICE. It is a personal goal of mine to ensure all students have a welcoming and comfortable home in the Nicholas School, regardless of personal background or current situation. I love to push people out of their comfort zone and challenge them on their perspectives. I will continue to "fight the good fight" for those who do not have a voice, be it the environment, children, poor and underprivileged, incarcerated, etc.

Vice President - Diego Calderón-Arrieta | MEM-Ecosystem Science & Conservation (ESC) '17

 

I am first-generation Peruvian-American student raised in Mobile, AL after being born in Tampa, FL. I received a BA in Economics at Rhodes College in Memphis in 2015, and I decided to pursue environmental science as a Plan B when I dropped out of Calculus 3 and let go of any chance of a Ph. D. in Economics. I became "woke" to structural racism when there was an influx of police brutality cases in 2014, and I realized that people will treat me differently than my privileged peers based on the color of my skin. I realized there are not many people from my background who appreciate "naturaleza" in the same way that I do when I came to the Nicholas School. I helped co-found this organization when NSOE administration expressed sincere support to diversify our student body. Now I am thoroughly-enthralled with environmental justice and I will apply my mapping & science skills for that movement.

Treasurer - Mauricio Hérnandez | MEM-Energy & Environment (EE) '16

I was born in Mexico City, Mexico and was raised in Mexico City and Queretaro. I received my BS in Electrical Engineering and my MSc. in Automation and worked in the automotive and aviation industry for several years before deciding to move to the US to study my master's degree at the Nicholas School. Before coming to Duke, I taught some classes in a private college and I volunteered with different children’s shelters. From these experiences, I realized how poverty and violence affect children's behavior and academic performance. I saw that for some children having dreams and working hard were not enough to reach a good life. I also learned that discrimination has a great impact on the future of these children because it limits their opportunities. Now that I am living in the US, I have realized that discrimination, particularly racism, also deeply affects American society. I also believe that discrimination limits our ability to solve issues of word-wide importance, such as global warming. Fortunately, during my time at Duke I have gotten to know wonderful people that care about diversity and inclusion. I am really happy that I have had the opportunity to work with them in a group like DICE.

Secretary - Shaina Nanavati | MEM-Energy & Environment (EE) '17

I was born and raised in California, and the past couple years since I've moved to the south have truly been transformative for me. Coming to the Nicholas School, I have learned to embrace my unique identity as a first generation Indian-American woman in the environmental field. I grew up in San Jose, California,attending a high school where over 70% of the student body came from low income families and most students were either immigrants or children of immigrants. After graduating from the University of California Davis, I worked for two years in the clean energy sector.Moving to Durham, North Carolina to begin grad school was a culture shock for me. I was fortunate enough to meet other students at the Nicholas School who were willing to discuss being a minority in the field and making the school a comfortable place for everyone.My experiences have helped me to realize the value of diversity and to understand the role I can play in fostering inclusion in any professional or educational environment.Being a member of DICE has taught me important skills that I plan to bring to my future job, including how to engage people in meaningful cultural interactions and how to implement lasting systemic change.

Website Manager - Celeste Whitman | MEM-Environmental Economics & Policy (EEP) '18

I was born and raised in Asheville, North Carolina and received a B.A. in Anthropology/Sociology from Agnes Scott College in Atlanta in 2016. I minored in Environmental/Sustainability Studies in undergrad and the introductory class for the minor showed me that you can actually have a career in the environmental field, which led me to pursue an MEM degree at Duke. Throughout my undergraduate education, I was exposed to a variety of social and institutional problems throughout the world around diversity. It was not until I stepped outside of my own culture and studied abroad in Australia that I really saw and realized how minority groups are treated differently by government structures and are denied basic rights based upon their race, ethnicity, religion, and/or cultural background. My brief time in Australia learning about Aboriginal people and their social, economic, and environmental struggles sparked my passion to fight for indigenous environmental rights in the hopes that all underrepresented groups will have their voices heard and their land and culture defended.

 

Admissions Liaison - Taylor Price | MEM-Environmental Economics & Policy (EEP) '18

Hey Y’all. I’m Taylor Price. I’ve lived in North Carolina for the past 10 years and I am happy to call it home.  I graduated from Duke’s biggest rival, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in May 2014 with degree in Environmental Studies and a minor in Geography. I am extremely interested in diversifying higher education in general, but of course I have a special interest in STEM, particularly the environmental field. As the DICE admission liaison during for this school year, it is my goal to work with the Nicholas School admission team and DICE to create strategies to expand diversity within the environmental field and the Nicholas School. For me going to college and getting a masters degree was never out of the realm of possibilities for me, but in my two years spent working with high school students as a college adviser, I realized that this was not the case for many students.I believe that it is so important to have environmental leaders of color in order to address many of the justice and environmental challenges we face today!

 

Multicultural Committee - Rajah Saparapa | MEM-Environmental Economics & Policy (EEP) '18

I am from Togo and moved to the USA few years ago for my studies. I graduated from McDaniel College in 2015 with a Bachelor in Economics. I have always had an interest for the environment since I was a child. I grew up going to farms and being constantly in touch with nature. Even before I finished my Bachelor, I knew I wanted to continue my education in the environmental field and decided to apply for the MEM program at Duke. My goal is get my PhD in environmental economics.

 

I have never felt like a minority until I left my home country and moved to the USA. After all these years in the states, I have come to realize how social and environmental justice, gender equality, and equity is very important and should be part of our education. As the multicultural leader, I have made it a goal for the not only the Nicholas School community to improve communication among people from different culture but also foster an environment of understanding and acceptance.

"Deeper Discussion" Committee - Haseena Punjani | MEM-Global Environmental Change (GEC) '17

I have always been oriented towards justice and equity. This means both trying to protect the environment from the worst of climate change and habitat destruction, and advocating for minorities who may not be treated fairly. I was born in Hyderabad, India after which I was raised in New York City and Atlanta; these distinct cultures plus my various minority identities have taught me to be adaptable, appreciative, and inclusive of everyone. These identities include growing up with minimal resources in a single parent family, being brought up with Ismaili Muslim ethos, staying under the radar as an undocumented immigrant for nearly two decades, and having a learning disability, among other things. Now, from being in both privileged and underestimated spaces, I've learned to be a strong ally for fairness in all forms. I've cared for the environment before it seems it was cool to do so--from the time I attended a magnet elementary school for environmental sciences to the time I moved back to NYC without a job to pursue my passion. I'm dedicated to making a difference in business sustainability after graduating and am hoping to weave in pluralism in the field along the way.

Diversity & Inclusion Newsletter - Emily Mills | MEM-Ecosystem Science & Conservation (ESC) '17

I'm originally from Cincinnati, Ohio and spent my undergraduate years at THE Ohio State University (I'm a Buckeye for life!), where I earned my Bachelor's degree in Psychology. I pursued Pre-Medicine during most of college, but summer conservation trips to South Africa and Mexico sparked my interest and passion for wildlife conservation. I am very happy to have chosen the Nicholas School at Duke, where I have found such a welcoming and supportive family. My academic focus is using geospatial modeling techniques to study forest elephant habitat in Gabon and inform management of this vulnerable species. I have developed a love for travel and learning about different people, cultures, and especially food. My mother is a first-generation immigrant to the US and my childhood was a delicious mix of Chinese and American traditions. I hope to bring my perspectives and appreciation for diversity in the environmental field to the D&I Newsletter so that the Nicholas School community can be involved, aware, and engaged in activities and current events on this important topic!