by Emma Frantz and Tatiana Sherman
While the start of a new semester always brings excitement, reunions, and uncertainties, the beginning of this spring semester 2019 has been a time of extraordinary change for inaugural International Master of Environmental Policy (iMEP) students. After three semesters at their home campus Duke Kunshan University (DKU) in China, eight iMEP students will spend the final semester of their program in Durham, splitting time between the Sanford School of Public Policy and the Nicholas School of the Environment (NSOE). On Monday, January 14th, students, faculty, and staff from all across the Duke community came together to show support and welcome the inaugural class to campus.
Jackson Ewing, iMEP Faculty lead at Duke and a Nicholas Institute Fellow, welcomed the students by thanking them for actively shaping the iMEP program and predicting that their “imprint will be on the program for years to come.” The students’ self-introductions painted a picture of an ambitious group of young environmentalists who joined the iMEP program to prepare themselves for changing the world. Each student identified his or her particular interests and goals in studying environmental policy, with many citing poor environmental conditions in their hometowns as the primary impetus for pursuing studies that could help them make a difference. The students also spoke of their goals for getting involved in student and local life in Durham. “I want to enjoy the diversity at Duke University,” says Cui Liu, and Liuyang He “would like to exercise every day to take advantage of the great gym resources here.”
Provost Sally Kornbluth expressed her excitement to have a group of individuals interested not just in important environmental problems, but also with a wide range of personal ambitions, from exploring local breweries and learning Japanese to joining the chapel choir. The iMEP program at DKU was developed to provide “interactions with students all over the world in a place that was Duke, but yet not Duke,” Provost Kornbluth explained about the DKU mission. She emphasized Duke’s commitment to DKU’s success, and cited a common interest in a partnership that is “an experience of rooted globalism.” Toddi Steelman, Stanback Dean of the Nicholas School, built on the message that this program is an opportunity for innovation and diversity, which could yield “leaders of global consequence...whether it is on climate, on energy, on air, on environmental health.”
Senior Associate Dean of the Sanford School and architect of the iMEP program, Billy Pizer, lauded the iMEP students for embodying Terry Sanford’s catch phrase, “outrageous ambition” in their efforts to enact local and global change through environmental policy in a world that is increasingly less open to working together. He continued, “it’s really wonderful to have this cooperative venture in China that can continue to promote global cooperation even if it’s challenged elsewhere.”
In addition to introducing the Duke community to this new group of students on campus, the welcome reception was the culmination of a series of events meant to support the students’ transition from China and help them integrate into the Sanford and Nicholas communities. Between the welcome reception, a welcome lunch at Sanford, a community coffee at NSOE, and a two-day orientation with presenters from all across Duke’s campus, the students have described their arrival as warm and welcoming. The faculty and staff at both Duke and DKU are excited to see how the program and the students grow during their time at Duke, and to see how Duke grows from this international exchange. Welcome iMEP 2019!