From left: Kathinka Furst, associate director of the Environmental Research Center; Toddi Steelman, dean of Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment; Gao Haiyan, inaugural vice chancellor for academic affairs; Marcia France, dean of undergraduate studies; and Katherine Robertson, director of faculty affairs.
With China’s rapid development bringing enormous environmental challenges, graduates of Duke Kunshan’s international master of environmental policy (iMEP) program are well positioned to help the country – and the wider world – tackle the issues head on.
That was the assessment by Toddi Steelman, dean of Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment, after seeing presentations by several iMEP students during her first visit to the joint-venture university.
“I was really impressed with these students. They are going to be the next generation of environmental policy managers in a country that sorely needs them,” she said.
“While the pace of development in China is impressive, it has created enormous environmental challenges. This group of students is poised to tackle these issues head on. I very much look forward to seeing where they go and how they influence the direction of the country in future years.”
Since graduating in late April, several students from iMEP’s inaugural class have landed coveted spots at leading research institutes or companies, with one accepted onto a Ph.D. program at the National University of Singapore and another recruited as a senior analyst at Scott Madden, the global management consulting firm.
“Our connections with DKU will be very important to the Nicholas School given the iMEP program and the significant challenges China faces on this environmental front,” she said. “I want to encourage more of our faculty to contribute to what is happening on this exciting new campus.”
Steelman, who received a Ph.D. from the Nicholas School in 1996, has been recognized internationally for her expertise in environmental and natural resource policy. She was appointed dean in the summer of 2018.
She said the school has faculty conducting research all over the world, including in West Africa, the Middle East, South America, Southeast Asia, and even the Antarctic. “We do drone work down there to document whale behavior,” she explained.
Making her first visit to Duke Kunshan in the spring, she said she was surprised by the pace of change in China and the scale of development, particularly in terms of infrastructure.
“We took the bullet train from Hangzhou to Shanghai, and I was amazed that you could build something like that in this day and age,” she said.
“China is also thinking more deliberately about its environmental challenges. While we were there, President Xi Jinping talked about the need to find ‘harmony’ with the environment, which I took to be a statement of sustainability – how to balance economic, social and environmental values.”
To learn more about the iMEP program, watch an introductory video below.