Client-Based Courses & Projects

Nicholas School students don't have to wait until graduation to make a difference in the world. Client-based courses and projects give students an opportunity to build their skills and knowledge while solving real problems faced by actual companies and organizations.

Client-Based Courses
Client-Based Master's Projects
Benefits for Organizations and Students


A number of courses at the Nicholas School are structured to allow students to serve as pro bono consultants for organizations. Under the expert guidance of their professors, students collect data, conduct research, and perform analyses to answer clients' real-world questions related to the environment, sustainability, and decision making.

For example, students have generated strategic plans for issues around conflict resolution, supply chain, planning, ethics, risk management, and organizational design. Students also regularly serve as consultants to organizations as part of the Social Science Surveys for Environmental Management and Environmental Decision Analysis courses, among others.

If your organization has a large project that requires more time, funding, or personnel than you have available, contact us to connect to appropriate faculty members and discuss how we might build your project into one of our courses.

Students should consult with their faculty advisors for advice on participating in client-based courses.


Students in our Master's programs are required to complete a Master's Project as part of their educational program. Many students design their Master's Project around real-world questions from a partner organization. These projects, which can be done individually or in a group, give students hands-on experience with research, analysis, program development, communication, and other skills while providing practical advice and useful information for organizations.
Explore examples of past Master's Projects here:

Contact us if your organization has a need that might be suitable for a Master's Project. We'll help you refine the idea and promote it to students.


Engaging in a client-based course or project can have many benefits for both the students and the organizations involved.

Our partner organizations are typically extremely pleased with the quality of work provided and are often surprised by how easy it is to participate. In addition to gaining new insights for the project at hand, organizations also benefit from the chance to interact directly with students and build a pipeline of potential job or internship candidates who have proven work performance and knowledge of their organization.

Additional benefits for organizations include:

  • No fee
  • Minimal time commitment
  • Meetings conducted virtually
  • Duke faculty oversight
  • Students bring fresh perspectives
  • Opportunity to build relationships and be a resource to future environmental leaders

Students often find client-based work to be among the most memorable and rewarding aspects of their Nicholas School experience. You'll be challenged to adapt to real-world constraints and think creatively to find solutions that are both robust and practical. These projects are also a tremendous opportunity to expand your professional network and link your academics to your career by working closely with leaders who may become employers or colleagues later in your career.

Additional benefits for students include:

  • Hands-on experience with real-world problems
  • Networking opportunities
  • Exposure to potential employers or colleagues
  • Opportunities to build leadership and teamwork skills
  • Chance to produce work that has a tangible impact