Keni Rienks, a 2019 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. 

Rienks is an upper school science teacher and department chair at Cape Fear Academy in Wilmington, N.C.

Why did you get a DEL-MEM degree? 

"I pursued the DEL-MEM degree because of the people. From my first inquiry, everyone at Duke, the Nicholas School, and the DEL-MEM program were inspiring, intelligent and supportive. When I met my cohort for the first time, I knew I made the right choice. The friendships I made with 'The Nineteens' [the class of 2019] have been some of the most priceless and special of my entire life."

How did your DEL experience help you in your career? 

"I developed my high school Coastal Physics & Engineering course directly from my DEL experience. This course is completely project-based, and I teach it in a project management format. I use what I learned from many of my DEL classes: Program Management, Environmental Economics, Survey of Environmental Leadership, and Community-Based Environmental Management, to name a few. I take pride in exposing high school-aged students to this side of the environmental and engineering fields, knowing the jobs entail much more than math and science skills.

My teaching schedule and connections to Duke’s Nicholas School have provided some fantastic opportunities. I worked as a Duke Engage Site Coordinator and co-taught Program Management class in the DEL program. These have been priceless experiences for my personal pursuits, and I have been able to transfer these experiences on to my high school students."

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

"The DEL program is not easy. The synchronous work commitment is intense, and you will write a lot. But every ounce of the journey will make you a better speaker, thinker, writer, learner and leader, and you will come away with a priceless network of colleagues and friends unlike anywhere else."