The First Cohort of iMEP Students Graduates at Duke | Duke Kunshan University

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The First Cohort of iMEP Students Graduates at Duke


The iMEP graduating Class of 2019 are no strangers to being the first, and this past weekend they were the first students to graduate from the international Master of Environmental Policy (iMEP) program. This pioneering and charismatic cohort has recreated themselves through their hard work, and helped shape the iMEP program in the process. They received a newly designed degree signed by both the Dean of the Nicholas School Toddi Steelman and the Dean of the Sanford School Judith Kelley.  This joint degree is the first of its kind on campus!

The iMEP students walked in the Sanford School Graduation Ceremony on Saturday, May 11 along with Sanford’s other graduate degree programs: MPP, MIDP, and PhD.  Read more here about the Sanford ceremony in which Sanford’s new Dean Judith Kelley urged students to put their new knowledge to work, whether in public service or the private sector.

iMEP graduates celebrated their achievements with family and friends on Friday May 10 at their graduation party. The Dean of the Sanford School Judith Kelley opened the celebration with her own story of living in China in the 1980’s, when she formed such close bonds with friends that they were practically family.  She went on to express the profound need for a program like iMEP that addresses the environmental concerns not only of China, but of the world, and the wisdom of learning from the Chinese experience with environmental degradation.

Erika Weinthal, the co-founder of the iMEP program, built on this message emphasizing the importance of the Chinese perspective in developing environmental policy, and also told her own story of wearing a hard hat on the early construction site of DKU before the iMEP program existed.  She reflected on the rewards of her personal experience of seeing the iMEP program through from first discussing it with co-founder Billy Pizer and now watching the first students graduate.

iMEP Director Junjie Zhang made everyone smile with his anecdotes of each of the eight graduating students present at the party.  Professor Zhang’s intimate knowledge of each student clearly portrayed the close connections that the iMEP faculty and students have formed during their time together both inside and outside the classroom.

Along with all the other firsts, iMEP Program Coordinator Tatiana Sherman announced the creation of awards that will be given every graduation to recognize the exceptional students and faculty that have helped shape the program.  Professor David Schanzer was awarded the Best Teaching Award through iMEP student nominations.  Professor Schanzer spent spring 2018 term teaching the Policy Practicum at DKU, and in the span of one semester he made such an impression on the iMEP cohort that Liuyang said, “David is my lifelong example.”

Yan Gao was nominated by her iMEP peers for the first Student Leadership Award, which recognizes a student who has demonstrated extraordinary leadership and service to others through character, collaboration and citizenship in their curricular and co-curricular endeavors.  Read more about Yan’s nomination here (scroll down to the bottom).

Fanyu Wang won the Highest Achieving Student Award for highest GPA. By recognizing Fanyu’s academic achievement in the program, we also recognize her work ethic, passion for intellectual pursuit, and engagement in the classroom.  The iMEP students were delighted to see that Fanyu had sent a video accepting this award so that she could be present in spirit at the party.

In future, iMEP students will normally graduate at DKU with the community they have spent three semesters with.  However, it has been a special moment for the Duke community to celebrate the graduation of the inaugural class of iMEP, welcoming the first iMEP graduates into the community of Duke Alumni.  Duke degree in hand, our first iMEP graduates walk out into the world with a new set of skills and the iMEP family behind them to support their career in environmental protection.  We are so excited to see where they go!