Nic Students Help Clients Large and Small with Corporate Sustainability

“Wilsonart has a well-established Sustainability program that has been in place for a number of years. The students in the Sustainable Business Strategy class helped us most by giving us different ways to look at our information and making it more useful by painting a different picture.”

Kevin M. Sweeney, DEL ’07
Global Director – Environmental, Health & Safety, Wilsonart International
Client for Nicholas Students in the Sustainable Business Strategy course


“I worked in a team of student consultants to develop a business strategy for continuing sustainability initiatives for Bell Helicopter. My team presented a report to stakeholders recommending different ways they could overcome current sustainability challenges by looking at how similar companies tackled these problems and developing creative ideas that can be implemented in the company. This experience was very challenging and rewarding because it provided insight into real-world issues and perspectives that we will face in our careers.”

Sahil Chaini, MEM ’15
Student in the Sustainable Business Strategy course

Students in the DEL program attend Professor Deb Gallagher's class on Tuesday.

Deb Gallagher, associate professor of the practice of resource and environmental policy, wants her Nicholas students to have the opportunity to hone their skills working with real-world clients. So every year she arranges for MEM students in her Sustainable Business Strategy course to work in small groups with a variety of clients in corporate sustainability. Throughout the spring semester, students work with each client to solve a particular sustainability-related strategic challenge the business is facing.

The clients range from large national corporations to small local businesses. One group of Nic students helped a large company develop a strategic message to help recruit younger employees; another devised strategies for a very environmentally responsible Durham business to more effectively share its ethos with customers. Gallagher’s students have conducted several projects for the Washington Duke Inn over the years, most recently conducting competitive analysis of green hotels in the area to see where WDI stood. Past clients have enjoyed the opportunity to gain a unique perspective on challenges they face, and most go on to implement the students’ recommendations.

The goal, says Gallagher, is to give the students opportunities to practice the tools for strategic sustainability analysis that they’re learning in the classroom. It’s also a great opportunity for students to gain experience working directly with clients – experience that many cite in job interviews.

Deborah Gallagher, Ph.D. Assoc Prof of the Prac of Faculty NSOE Esp Div +1 919 613 8138(tel) Address for interoffice mail: Deborah Gallagher, Ph.D. Box 90328 Address for external mail: Deborah Gallagher, Ph.D. Box 90328 A142A LSRC Durham, NC 27708

Gallagher is currently putting together the roster of clients her students will work with this spring. She is aiming to recruit an all-woman roster this year: a nod to the many female students she has mentored over the past decade who have gone on to leadership roles in corporate sustainability. For the first time, this year’s class also will integrate Duke Environmental Leadership (DEL) and on-campus MEM students who will work together in mixed teams to bring diverse perspectives to clients’ needs.

Interested in being a client for a team of Nicholas students? Deb Gallagher would love to hear from you!