Introducing the First Nine Nicholas Scholars


Meet JASON YONGWOO LEE of Belle Mead, N.J., who is pursuing an MEM in Environmental Economics & Policy. He is the Norman L. Christensen Jr. Scholar.

“I’m interested in why people make the environmental decisions that they do.What are the institutions or incentives at play, and how could we make them better? For instance could we use behavioral/experimental economics like healthcare has? Or have institutional designs that leverage local, social or cultural practices? In my ideal future, everyone will be an environmentalist even if they don’t know it.”

Meet TAYLOR PRICE of Cary, N.C., who is pursuing an MEM in Environmental Economics & Policy. She is a Dean’s Scholar. She views herself as a proponent for social justice and hopes to find a place at the Nicholas School that will allow her to grow as an advocate for communities.

“At my core, I view myself as a proponent for social justice so I hope to find a place at the Nicholas School that will allow me to grow as an advocate for communities.”

Taylor tells us more about why she chose the Nicholas School in this video.

Meet KELLEY ROBBINS-THOMPSON of Marietta, Ga., who is pursuing an MEM in Ecosystem Science & Conservation. She is a Field Fellow and is interested in ecosystem sustainability.

“Of the graduate programs I considered, I felt the deepest connection with the Nicholas School.  I was quite impressed with and drawn to the school’s interdisciplinary approach, the courses offered and the outstanding faculty. I am very interested in engaging in meaningful scientific research and exploring ways to bridge research, policy and management strategies, and the Nicholas School has an excellent reputation for providing these types of learning opportunities.”

Meet ALEX RUDEE of Seattle, Wash., who is pursuing an MEM in Environmental Economics & Policy. He is the William H. Schlesinger Scholarship Fellow. He came to the Nicholas School because its reputation for environmental leadership precedes it in the clean energy and environmental policy fields.

“The Nicholas School’s reputation for environmental leadership precedes it in the clean energy and environmental policy fields.  I was looking for a graduate education that would train me on a range of environmental issues, connect me with the leading organizations and individual thinkers in my chosen field, and give me a support network of other young professionals working toward similar goals.”

Alex blogs for the Nicholas School at Silver Buckshot.

They are four of the nine outstanding students from the Class of 2018 chosen as the inaugural cohort of Nicholas Scholars and selected for the two-year program from a highly competitive field.

The Nicholas Scholars Program, launched with the incoming class this past fall, is the most prestigious merit award ever offered by the Nicholas School.

Funded through five endowments, the program enables the school to award up to 15 Nicholas Scholarships each year to incoming Master of Environmental Management (MEM) or Master of Forestry (MF) students from diverse backgrounds and experiences who demonstrate exceptional leadership potential and academic excellence.

These students receive scholarships that cover two-thirds of their tuition—the highest level of financial aid the school has ever offered.

GLORIA ALDANA of Miami, Fla., who is pursuing an MEM in Environmental Economics & Policy;

In addition to the scholarship support they receive, Nicholas Scholars benefit from a specialized training program designed to foster their environmental leadership skills.

This includes personalized guidance from a leadership advisor, and mentorship and networking opportunities with alumni and local environmental leaders through programs such as the newTriangle Environmental Leadership Conversations, which pairs students with leaders in public service and government, the nonprofit sector, and private industry.

Nicholas Scholars meet monthly with guest speakers and faculty experts to discuss key environmental leadership skills and topics, and they work as a team to plan and implement an annual Nicholas School community event focused on environmental leadership.

SAMANTHA GODWIN of Duck, N.C., who is pursuing an MEM in Coastal Environmental Management;

They also represent the school to the Duke and Durham communities, and to peers and partners within our local, regional and national networks of environmental professionals.

Earlier this year the scholars heard from four local leaders in the government, business and nonprofit fields, who shared their definition of leadership as well as the traits and behaviors that they attribute to effective leaders. “I don’t buy into the notion that leaders are born,” WILLIAM G. ROSS JR., Acting Secretary of the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, told the students. “All of us can learn or improve our leadership skills.”

BRENDAN HANNON of New York, N.Y., who is pursuing an MEM in Energy & Environment;

In addition to Ross, the scholars met with PAULA ALEXANDER, director of sustainable business at Burt’s Bees; BRETT SMITH, president of Counter Culture Coffee; and BILL HOLMAN, N.C. State Director of The Conservation Fund.

“I thought it was inspiring to see all the different shapes and sizes that environmental leadership comes in within the Triangle, from thinking up new ways to cut down on packaging waste to setting statewide priorities for environmental policy,” says Alex Rudee. “Seeing the impacts these leaders have had gives us some lofty goals to shoot for with our MEM degrees.”

JAMES MACCARTHY of Oakton, Va., who is pursuing an MEM in Ecosystem Science & Conservation; and
KRISTEN McKINLEY from Durham, NC., is a Dean’s Scholar interested in contaminant chemistry and the environmental fate of pollutants.

Learn more about all 9 students, including their work experience, and why they chose the Nicholas School @ nicholas.duke.edu/nich-scholars

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