Why is the Nicholas School changing the MEM program structure and underlying curriculum?

The curriculum is changing to give students a more organized framework for tailoring their degrees to their individual career paths and demonstrating they have the specialized skillsets employers are looking for. We’re not getting rid of any of the things that have made our MEM program so successful and respected for more than 30 years now—we’re just rearranging the components to better meet students’ needs.

Which students does this impact?

The new curriculum will be available to students who matriculate Fall 2023 and later. 

Which students are not impacted? 

The following groups of students will not experience a change to their curriculum:

  • Current and future Duke Environmental Leadership - Master of Environmental Management students
  • Current and future MF students (who are not also pursuing the MEM)
  • Current second-year MEM students (class of 2023), including students pursuing concurrent degrees
  • MEM students matriculating Fall 2022 (class of 2024), including students pursuing concurrent degrees

What is changing? 

At present, students choose one of seven program areas of concentrated study for their MEM. Under the new plan, students will choose one area of study from a list of five Environment Concentrations and another from a list of four Management Concentrations.

  • The Environment Concentrations are: Ecosystems and Conservation; Ecotoxicology and Environmental Health; Energy; Marine and Coastal Systems; and Water Resources Management.
  • The Management Concentrations are: Business and Finance; Data Analytics; Environmental Economics and Policy; and Equity, Justice and Community Engagement.

The Environment Concentrations are designed to provide depth of knowledge in a primary topical area. The Management Concentrations will enable students to develop essential skillsets related to professional practice in that area. Students will take four courses, or 12 credits, in each of their two selected concentrations. 

What is not changing?

MEM degree requirements, which include the completion of 48 hours of coursework, a Master’s Project and a program seminar will remain the same as they currently are.

Students will also continue to be able to augment their specialized training through a broad array of elective courses at Nicholas and other schools at Duke; by pursuing dual degrees through Duke’s Master of Forestry, Master of Business Administration, and other graduate-level professional degree programs; and through certificate programs.

Are any courses or program areas are being discontinued? 

No. This new curriculum will expand on the previous program areas while introducing a more structured format for building and demonstrating practical skills.

Will certificates still be offered? 

Yes. Certificates will still be offered as optional specializations. The current certificates are Community-Based Environmental Management Certificate, Climate Change Science and Applications Certificate, and Geospatial Analysis Certificate.  

When was this change announced? 

The Nicholas School’s Education Committee approved the restructured curriculum on May 9, 2022.
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For Students Matriculating Fall 2023 and Later

Do I have to decide both an Environment Concentration and a Management Concentration at the time I apply? What if I want to change one of my concentrations after classes have started? 

Many students enter graduate school to learn about their career options, and forcing early decisions runs counter to this desire. To allow you to explore your options as fully as possible while we manage the logistics of capacity planning and course scheduling, we will ask you to select either an Environment or a Management Concentration as your primary affiliation when you apply to the program. You will then have until the end of your second semester to declare your secondary concentration and make changes to your primary.

Will I still be able to work with and interact with students outside of my selected Environment or Management Concentration? 

Yes. If anything, this new curriculum offers the opportunity for students to have more interdisciplinary interaction than before. Along with this, you can also still work in multidisciplinary teams of students on your Master's Project.

Will I still be able to take electives outside of the Nicholas School?

Yes. Students should refer to the recommended electives for each Environment or Management concentration, but will enjoy the same freedom to choose electives MEM students have now. Keep in mind there are still restrictions on certain electives, such as undergraduate level courses.

Will broadening my course load by having to choose an Environment and Management concentration take away from knowledge I could have gained if I were only selecting one MEM Program Area?

Students will not sacrifice the depth of their knowledge. The new curriculum includes significant room for elective courses, which students may use to go deep in a particular area or explore additional topics related to their interests and career goals.