Jennifer Cherry, a 2022 graduate of the Duke Environmental Leadership Master of Environmental Management (DEL-MEM) program, recently shared insights into why she pursued a DEL-MEM degree, how the experience has helped in her career, and also her advice for anyone considering the program. 

Cherry is an environmental science instructor at Florida Virtual School, as well as a sea turtle conservationist with New Smyrna Beach Marine Turtle Conservancy.

Why did you get a DEL-MEM degree? 

"I wanted to pursue a master’s degree to not only increase my knowledge and leadership opportunities but also to advance my career and be a part of an extensive network of environmental leaders. I pursued the DEL-MEM degree specifically because it offered diverse course opportunities, allowed for continued leadership growth, and was designed for working professionals, so I was able to continue working in sea turtle conservation and environmental education. The DEL-MEM program checked off all my requirements and more for a master’s program."

How did your DEL experience help you in your career? 

"Throughout the DEL program, I was given the time and space for self-reflection. The program provided valuable tools for continued development into the best version of myself, both for myself and for my students. This program increased my confidence in leading in the environmental field. This program helped me to realize that no matter our fancy job titles after our names, we are all making an impact.

I have found some way to sprinkle everything I have learned from the DEL-MEM program into my classroom to inspire and encourage my students about the possibilities in the world of environmental science and leadership and to help them find their voice. With the Master’s Project within the DEL-MEM program, you can pursue something of interest. I developed a Sea Turtle Conservation Education and Outreach Program, which I now use with my students. This is just one of many examples of real-world applications from my DEL experience. For someone that went into the DEL program to have a career pivot one day, I can say there are endless resources within your cohort, Duke and the Nicholas School to help in the process, even after graduation."

What would you tell a person considering enrolling in the program? 

"If you are on the fence about applying for the program, just do it! The entire experience will transform you into a person that sees the world from multiple lenses. One of the most impactful quotes from an environmental leader that spoke at the Washington, D.C., Leadership Conference was from Mamie Parker, who said, “Leap and grow your wings on the way down.” Taking steps out of our comfort zones can be uncomfortable and unknown but pursuing the DEL-MEM program was one of the best decisions that I made. Be open-minded and allow yourself to take in all that the program has to offer. Allow yourself the time and space for transformation. Be involved in the community that organically develops. Be present during classes and just know that flexibility and time management will become your best friends.

Little did I know, the DEL-MEM program was not just a program to go through to receive my master’s degree, but it was an experience that transformed me into a more confident and resilient person, and I gained priceless memories and lifelong colleagues and friends along the way."