What is your previous work experience?
I have worked at the intersection of environmental conservation and socioeconomic development. As an undergraduate at the University of Virginia and an exchange student at Sciences Po in Paris, I majored in Global Development Studies and French to understand the human dimensions of conservation in developing regions, with a thesis on human-elephant conflict in eastern and southern Africa. I worked in Tanzania over the course of five summers, first as an English teacher in partnership with Tanzanian NGO Carpenter’s Kids, and later as a UVa-funded water purification researcher. I led a team of fellow students in introducing the MadiDrop, a household water purification device that contributed to improvements in community health. In 2019, I moved to Hanoi, Viet Nam as a Luce Scholar working to prevent illegal wildlife trade between Africa and Asia with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). In 2021 I began working with TRAFFIC on the USAID-funded Wildlife TRAPS project. Based in Hanoi, I worked to reduce the risk of zoonotic disease emergence via wildlife trade in Cameroon, China, Tanzania, and Viet Nam.
Why did you choose the Nicholas School?
As I have worked on One Health issues over the past year and a half, I have become increasingly conscious of the deep-rooted connections among human, animal and environmental health. I am eager to explore how my understanding of wildlife conservation connects with a range of other pertinent environmental challenges, from environmental policymaking to climate change to renewable energy. I want to learn about these topics not just from my own perspective as an environmentalist, but through the lenses of businesspeople, policymakers, lawyers, and public health experts. The Nicholas School’s interdisciplinary approach and its connections to other Duke graduate schools create the ideal platform for me to dive into these connections.
What are you looking forward to as a new Nicholas School student?
In addition to the opportunities to explore courses across the Nicholas School and other Duke schools, I look forward to the diverse environmental community within the Nicholas School. I considered other programs where I would be focusing on environmental issues within a broader school of policy, or focusing specifically on conservation, but I was particularly drawn to finding my place within a dedicated school of the environment where my fellow students’ focuses would range from energy to policy to business to wildlife. I believe that environmental issues are the most pressing set of challenges for my generation to address, and the more we can connect practitioners across these diverse issues, the better. I look forward to forming such connections in my time at the Nicholas School.
Do you have any areas of interest or special focus you will undertake during your time at the Nicholas School?
I first applied to graduate schools for the fall of 2021 with a firm focus on wildlife conservation. With a new job opportunity and ongoing COVID restrictions, I decided it made sense to work for another year and reapply for fall 2022. The additional year of work experience helped to broaden my perspective as I start my master’s; I am no less fascinated with wildlife conservation, but I recognize that it can be seen as a secondary priority next to broader environmental issues like climate change, and environmental issues in general are already an infrequent political priority. While at the Nicholas School, I am excited to explore my work’s connections with other environmental challenges.
What plans do you have for your career after the Nicholas School?
Having worked in the NGO sector, I’m interested to explore options for working within government agencies or the private sector, where there can be greater capacity and resources to achieve societal-level impact. Noting that wildlife conservation tends to mainly affect a subset of the human population, I’m also interested to try my hand at working on issues that affect more people on a daily basis, such as access to renewable energy, sound environmental policy, and corporate sustainability.