DURHAM, N.C. –  Three 2021 Master of Environmental Management (MEM) graduates of Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment share this year’s Virlis L. Fischer Memorial Award for academic achievement.

All three of the students graduated with a perfect 4.0 grade point average.

“Maintaining a perfect academic record is a remarkable achievement in any year but was especially challenging for members of this year’s graduating class given the disruptions caused by COVID-19,” said Toddi Steelman, Stanback Dean of the Nicholas School.

This year’s Fischer Award recipients are:

Colleen Baker

Baker earned her MEM in Coastal Environmental Management and was a Nicholas Scholar. In addition to her coursework, she served as a part-time coastal habitat policy review assistant at Duke’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.

She plans to pursue a career in ocean resource management, with a focus on small-scale fisheries management.

Her Master’s Project was “Learning from 30 Years of Small-Scale Fisheries Co-Management in Africa.”

Prior to enrolling at the Nicholas School, Baker worked as a consultant for design and capacity development and also as a fisheries management consultant at Environmental Defense Fund, and as a program assistant to the executive office at American Rivers.  Much of her work at those NGOs focused on identifying innovative approaches and technologies for small-scale fishery management in China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Samoa and French Polynesia.

She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in anthropology from Princeton University in 2016.

Thomas Hancock

Hancock earned his MEM in Energy & Environment. In addition to his coursework, he served as a research assistant, focusing on the pros and cons of renewable natural gas and on the environmental impacts of industrial animal farms and ways that biogas systems and mitigate these impacts.

His Master’s Project was “Analysis of the Microgrid Market for Small and Medium-sized Municipalities and Electric Cooperatives.”

Prior to enrolling at the Nicholas School, Hancock worked as an electricity intern at the Rocky Mountain Institute, a Climate Corps Fellow at Environmental Defense Fund, and an environmental and process engineer at AECOM. He also completed 19 hours of graduate-level coursework in chemical engineering at North Carolina State University. Much of his work at the two NGOs focused on developing financial strategies to help communities and industries transition from fossil fuels to green energy, and on creating financial models to assess the economic and technical viability of a district-level energy system powered by a waste-to-energy incinerator.

He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical and biomolecular engineering from Rice University in 2014.

Myriam Sekkat

Sekkat earned her MEM in environmental leadership through the Duke Environmental Leadership program for working professionals.

Her Master’s Project was “Ecotourism for Conservation: A Case Study of the Maputo Special Reserve, Mozambique.”

Since 2006, Sekkat has served as a private sector, trade and green economy officer, partnership coordinator or programme officer at the European Commission’s regional offices in Tunisia, Mozambique and the Occupied Palestine Territories. Much of her recent work has focused on developing strategies to promote sustainable ecotourism that benefits conservation in Mozambique’s Maputo Special Reserve, which is home of one of Africa’s largest herds of coastal elephants and thousands of other native wildlife species, some recently re-introduced.

She earned a Master’s degree in economics from the University of Regensburg in Germany in 2001.