DURHAM, N.C. – Environmental leaders from across the Triangle shared their leadership journey and ideals with students from the Nicholas Scholars Program, the most prestigious merit award given at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment, on January 10.

The Triangle Leadership Conversations event was an invaluable learning experience for the inaugural Nicholas Scholars class, which includes nine Master of Environmental Management (MEM) students from the Class of 2018 who have been identified as potential future environmental leaders.

The scholars heard from four local leaders in the government, business and nonprofit fields, who shared their definition of leadership as well as the traits and behaviors that they attribute to effective leaders.

“I don’t buy into the notion that leaders are born,” William G. Ross, Jr., Acting Secretary of the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, told the students. “All of us can learn or improve our leadership skills.”

In addition to Ross, the scholars met with Paula Alexander, director of sustainable business at Burt's Bees; Brett Smith, president of Counter Culture Coffee; and Bill Holman, N.C. State Director of The Conservation Fund.

“I thought it was inspiring to see all the different shapes and sizes that environmental leadership comes in within the Triangle, from thinking up new ways to cut down on packaging waste to setting statewide priorities for environmental policy,” said Alex Rudee, a Nicholas Scholar. “Seeing the impacts these leaders have had gives us some lofty goals to shoot for with our MEM degrees.”

Launched in 2016, the Nicholas Scholars Program awards scholarships that cover two-thirds of students’ tuition – the highest level of financial aid the Nicholas School has ever offered.

In addition to the scholarship, Nicholas Scholars also benefit from a year-round specialized training program – including personalized guidance, mentorship and networking opportunities – designed to foster environmental leadership skills.

The Nicholas Scholars listen to Bill Ross.

Paula Alexander talks to the Nicholas Scholars.

Bill Holman talks with Nicholas Scholars.


by Sergio Tovar, social media specialist