Maddie Shiff, a second-year student in the Duke Environmental Leadership Master of Environmental Management (DEL-MEM) program, recently shared insights into why she's pursuing her degree, how she balances her studies with her career and how she's applying what she's learning to her job.

Shiff is a commercial operations manager at Polycarbin.


I sought a way to legitimize sustainability expertise and leadership the way that business knowledge is legitimized through an MBA. I wanted to pursue sustainability-focused positions at work and in my future roles, and I wanted a way to show employers that I have a comprehensive understanding of the sustainability space. I had an acquaintance who completed the Master of Environmental Management program and told me about the DEL-MEM program. After looking into it, it was clear that the DEL-MEM program provided the kind of comprehensive approach to environmental leadership that I had been seeking.

What’s been the highlight of your time in the program? 

It's been a real treat getting to know my cohort and other students in the program. Because we all have several years (at minimum) experience in different fields, I've learned a lot from hearing my classmates' perspectives both during class discussions and outside structured class time. 

How do you balance your career with your studies?

Time blocking on my calendar has been a huge help for me, but my general piece of advice is to find what works best for you and stick to it. I'd also advise current and prospective DEL students to get to know their professors and explore all the resources Duke has to offer. For example, I am involved in an independent study this semester that, had I not met with one of my professors outside of class, I would not have known about. Professors and DEL students alike are happy to connect you with their networks. Take advantage of this opportunity!

How are you applying what you’ve learned to your job?

I work at a start-up that focuses on the circular economy, so I am constantly applying my learnings from classes to my everyday work life. For example, my company closely follows waste disposal regulation changes as those laws can impact our business. My law and policy class this semester has provided a strong foundation of knowledge on environmental law and policy that has proven useful when reviewing regulatory changes.