Banner reads: "In the Nicholas School, we believe it's important to do more than talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion, and we work hard to sustain DEI initiatives to support all NSOE community members."


K-5 DEI Program

Image: photo of Brandon Gertz (MEM ’21) talking with elementary school students.

Since 2018, Durham Public Schools and the Nicholas School have collaborated to support an on-going mentoring program at 3 durham public schools identified as in-need by DPS. Short for ELementary Environmental MENToring, “ELEMENT” creates a space for mentors to work with a small group (6 to 8) of students in a similar age group (e.g., K-2 or 3-5) and offer weekly environmentally-focused activities. These activities are developmentally appropriate and emphasize hands-on exploration and discovery. In addition, DPS has identified three sets of skills that these activities also emphasize: literacy, numeracy, and career awareness.

Read about ELEMENT in Duke News here.


High School DEI Program

Image: AHEAD logo

The Applying Health and Environmental Across Disciplines (AHEAD) program led by Drs. Nicolette Cagle, Jason Somarelli, and Meagan Dunphy-Daly aims to foster mentor relationships and enhance environmental health involvement among underserved Durham Public Schools high school students. Our vision is to cultivate environmental leaders in our own community. Through AHEAD, talented and under-served high school students from diverse cultural and socio-economic backgrounds participate in a semester-long environmental science program at Duke University. The program features biweekly zoom sessions with guest speakers, weekend field trips, and lab experiences.

Learn more about AHEAD here.


Undergrad DEI Program

Image of Nicki Cagle and student in classroom.

The Diverse, Innovative &Vibrant Environmental Scholars (DIVE Scholars) Program provides Duke undergraduates from a variety of backgrounds with vertically integrated opportunities to develop academic skills and career readiness while offering the social support needed for students to have a meaningful, valuable, and successful experience in environmental fields. DIVE scholars receive training through small seminar experiences, mentorship, and a community to support problem-solving in the DEI space. 

Learn more about DIVE here and read the DIVE mentor and mentee newsletters here.

The Coffee Conversation Corps

The NSOE “Coffee Conversation Corps” aims to improve inclusivity and workplace quality by promoting a positive and safe work culture among faculty, staff, and students. The Corps trains Duke faculty and staff to become Peer Messengers to help their colleagues uphold Duke’s core values (Excellence, Safety, Integrity, Diversity and Teamwork) in their day-to-day behaviors. When unprofessional behavior is reported, instead of seeking immediate punitive actions, Peer Messengers foster improved professionalism through awareness, understanding and support. Programs like the NSOE “Coffee Conversation Corps” report enormous success!

Read more about the Coffee Conversation Corps on our Reporting page.

Let’s Do Lunch

The NSOE “Let’s Do Lunch Program” allows members of the Nic School community to invite their colleagues to lunch in small groups. Groups, which can include staff, faculty and grad students, receive a voucher to cover the cost of lunch. We encourage participation among diverse stakeholders and groups across NSOE. Lunches are limited to 3-5 individuals to encourage meaningful conversation and connection, and other restrictions apply (i.e., frequency of participation, cost of meals, and alcohol). To evaluate and improve the program’s effectiveness, we collect information and feedback from participants.

Learn more about the Let’s Do Lunch program here.

Questions? Please email Dr. Nicki Cagle at

Building In Justice

The “Building in Justice at the School of the Environment” initiative will build greater awareness among our faculty and staff of the roots and manifestations of environmental injustice, the strategies being employed to counter these issues, and its relevance to our mission and daily work in ways that also strengthen the sense of community and shared vision and purpose among our faculty and staff. The initiative encompasses plans for novel “build in” and “build on” activities that include trainings, events, seminar series, and field trips.

Read the full description of our “Building In Justice” initiative on our EJ page.

Walk & Talk

The “Walk & Talk” program encourages meaningful conversation and connection among NSOE faculty and staff by asking participants to invite their lesser known colleagues out for coffee. Eligible groups (including staff, faculty, and postdoctoral fellows) receive a beverage voucher to cover expenses.

We encourage participation among diverse stakeholders and groups across the Nic School community.

Want more information? Click here.

To register, click here.

Questions? Please email Dr. Nicki Cagle at

Building In Justice