Learn About Our Work

At the Nicholas School, we believe that transparency and accountability are hallmarks of an inclusive approach and an effective diversity, equity, & inclusion strategy.

The Nicholas School community includes a network of staff, faculty, students at the undergraduate, master’s and doctoral levels, and over 5,000 alumni. To meet the needs of this vast network, the NSOE has had official diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) goals since at least 2013. Click here learn more about the history of DEI work in the Nicholas School.

Effectively addressing DEI at NSOE can have a number of benefits. Effective DEI initiatives serve to attract staff and faculty candidates, drive engagement and retention, increase staff and faculty happiness and satisfaction, increase understanding and learning, and positively affect performance and productivity (Hewitt 2021). A diverse and inclusive school is a hallmark of excellence.


The Nicholas School is advancing a DEI Implementation plan with two major goals: (1) creating a climate of inclusivity at the Nicholas School among students, staff, and faculty; and (2) attracting and successfully recruiting students, staff and faculty from a diversity of backgrounds to the Nicholas School.

Each of these goals is important, and they are associated with measurable objectives and over 60 action items. Learn more about these on our Implementation page.

We also know that developing a climate of inclusivity underpins successful recruitment and retention of people from a vary of backgrounds.

Climate is the “atmosphere or ambience of an organization as perceived by its members” (WISELI 2021) and it can be improved through a series of formal processes, transparent communication, teamwork, and brave leadership (Hewitt 2021). Poor departmental climates are often characterized by toxic personalities and bullying, loose boundaries, a family-like environment, leadership lacking skills to manage confrontation, secrecy and lack of accountability, an inability for an individual faculty to have an influence on department direction, exclusive informal networks, and exclusive mentoring opportunities  (Hewitt 2021). In contrast, healthy climates can attract candidates, drive increased engagement and retention, impact happiness and satisfaction, increase understanding and learning, and positively affect performance and productivity (Hewitt 2021). Moreover, NSOE diversity strategic plans have noted major objectives, including “creating conditions for success for URM and low-income” students already in NSOE (Cagle, Hadley, and Thompson 2019).


To make our DEI Implementation Plan a success, the Nicholas School most be accountable and transparent about it’s DEI activities and metrics of success. To ensure accountability, the Nicholas School hosts regular DEI Accountability Meetings for students, staff, and faculty to review recent DEI efforts, make suggestions for improvements, and ask questions. To ensure transparency, the Nicholas School is committed to sharing our DEI evaluations and metrics. Click here to learn more about our DEI metrics and data.

In addition, in the Nicholas School, our approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion includes cultivating a growth mindset. In this, we recognize that everyone will make mistakes and has room to grow in creating a more inclusive Nicholas School community. For us, a growth mindset means calling people in, cultivating curiosity, seeking to learn, and practicing cultural humility. Growth mindest is key to becoming anti-racist, learning from mistakes, allowing others to learn from mistakes, and cultivating an inclusive community. We support a growth mindset through various trainings and accountability mechanisms, including NSOE DEI accountability meetings and the Coffee Conversation Corps.


Cagle, N. L., Hadley, L. and Thompson, N.. (2019). “NSOE Undergraduate Diversity Pathways Strategic Planning Report.” Duke University, Nicholas School of the Environment, Durham, NC USA

Hewitt, K. (2021). “The Benefits of Examining Departmental Climate.” Presented at the Duke Faculty Advancement Improving Departmental Climate at Duke, Duke University, Durham, NC, USA, August 3, 2021.

WISELI. (2021). “Department Climate Survey.” WISELI and Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. https://wiseliarchive.engr.wisc.edu/climate/deptsurvey_2013-2018.pdf.