DURHAM, N.C. – To give students greater ability to tailor their degrees to individual career paths and demonstrate they have the specialized skillsets employers are looking for, Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment is making changes to its Master of Environmental Management (MEM) degree program. 

Instead of selecting one area of concentrated study for their MEM, as is currently the case, students admitted under the new curriculum, starting in Fall 2023, will pursue advanced studies in two areas, both of which will be displayed on their transcript.

“We’ve long had students who wanted to do something like a double major, where they gain in-depth knowledge in a topical area like water resources management but also learn the advanced skills and practices needed to be adept at data analytics or policy analysis. Although they’ve been able to do that through elective courses, it’s never shown up on their transcripts,” said Timothy L. Johnson, associate dean of professional programs.

“This allows them to do it and be recognized in a way that is visible to prospective employers,” he said.

Under the new plan, students will choose one area of study from a list of five Environment Concentrations and another from a list of four Management Concentrations. 

The Environment Concentrations are Ecosystems and Conservation; Ecotoxicology and Environmental Health; Energy; Marine and Coastal Systems; and Water Resources Management.

The Management Concentrations are Business and Finance; Data Analytics; Environmental Economics and Policy; and Equity, Justice and Community Engagement.

Students will take four courses, or 12 credits, in each of their two selected concentrations.  

The environmental concentrations are designed to provide depth of knowledge in a primary topical area; the management concentrations will enable students to develop essential skillsets related to professional practice in that area.

MEM degree requirements, which include the completion of 48 hours of coursework, a Master’s Project, and a project seminar, will remain the same as they currently are. 

Students will also continue to be able to augment their specialized training through a broad array of elective courses at the Nicholas School and other schools at Duke; by pursing dual degrees through Duke’s Master of Forestry, Master of Business Administration, and other graduate-level professional degree programs; and through certificate programs in Climate Change Science and Applications; Community-Based Environmental Management; and Geospatial Analysis.

“We’re not getting rid of any of the things that have made our MEM program so successful and respected for more than 30 years now. We’re just rearranging them to better meet students’ needs,” said Johnson.

“If anything, our focus on providing students with in-depth but broadly transferrable and applicable skills and knowledge—which has always been a hallmark of our MEM program—will grow even stronger,” he said. “That can’t help but open more doors and bring new opportunities to our graduates, because employers increasingly are looking for environmental professionals who bring a suite of skills and knowledge to bear on the complex problems facing organizations in all sectors today.”

Students admitted under the retooled curriculum will be expected to select one of their two concentrations when they apply to the program. To allow them to explore their options as fully as possible, they will have until the end of their first year to select their second focal area. 

The Nicholas School’s Education Committee approved the restructured curriculum on May 9.  

The changes apply only to students who will matriculate into the MEM program starting in 2023.  

They do not apply to existing MEM students, incoming students who matriculate in 2022, or students pursuing MEMs through the Duke Environmental Leadership program (DEL-MEM). The school’s Master of Forestry curriculum will likewise not be affected.