DURHAM, N.C. – “Leading the Change,” a new speaker series launched this fall at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment, aims to help students – and young alums – learn how to lead.

“Our school has a mission to train a new breed of environmental professionals who not only possess exceptional technical and analytical skills but are also skilled at teambuilding, decision making, problem-solving, empowerment, empathy and communication,” said Deborah Gallagher, professor of the practice of environmental and resource policy.

The new series offers students the chance to hone these so-called “soft skills” through a series of curated virtual learning experiences led by successful environmental management practitioners from the private, public and nonprofit sectors.

The Q&As and panel discussions, which will all be held on Thursday evenings from 7 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. to accommodate work and class schedules, are open to the entire Duke and Nicholas School communities, including alums. The daytime workshops are reserved just for current Master of Environmental Management students at the Nicholas School.

The series kicks off at on Sept. 24, with a panel discussion, “The Journey to Sustainability,” that showcases how effective soft skills have helped three Nicholas School alumni shape their careers and bring about change in their organizations.

Valeria Orozco, MEM’03, director of sustainability at Indeed.com, will be joined on the panel by Jamie Harkins, MEM ’09, mayor of Lafayette, Colo., and sustainability coordinator for the nearby city of Boulder, and Andrew Hutson, MEM ’01, vice president of the National Audubon Society and executive director of Audubon North Carolina.

On October 22, Megan Mullin, associate professor of environmental politics, will lead a community discussion, “The Mechanics of an Election.”  With the national election looming, Mullin will field questions about how the political process works and how environmental decision making is affected by it.

On Oct. 29, conservationist and executive coach Mamie Parker, the first Black woman to head a regional agency at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, will lead a panel discussion on “Navigating Diversity and Inclusion.” 

Parker, a member of the Nicholas School’s Board of Visitors, and her co-panelists will share how strong interpersonal and team-building skills can help students become influential leaders, work effectively with diverse stakeholders, and create a workplace community that promotes equity and belonging.

On Nov. 12, Mullin will join forces with Robert Bonnie, MEM/MF ’94, former Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to lead a post-election community discussion, “Election 2020: What Now.” Bonnie is currently an executive-in-residence at Duke’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.

Events slated for spring semester include discussions on environmental justice, reducing organizational environmental footprints, and becoming a better communicator.  

Leading the Change is supported with funding from the Nicholas School Dean’s Office, and is presented by the Leading the Change Faculty and Staff Work Group, the Career and Professional Development Center, the Office of Development and Alumni Relations and the Board of Visitors’ Business and Professional Development Committee.

Gallagher developed the series with Sonia Nelson, a third-year MEM/MBA student.

Although all event scheduled for this fall will be virtual,  on-campus in-person events will be added in the future, as COVID safety precautions allow.