Aggregating Authenticity

A Nicholas School Thanksgiving
by Tawnee Milko -- November 22nd, 2011

Though hundreds of miles from home this Thanksgiving, I was able to celebrate the holiday at a Pre-Thanksgiving feast with my Nicholas School family.

With the Thanksgiving holiday upon us, I thought it fitting to list the things for which I have been grateful during my time at the Nicholas School. And so, in no particular order…

My Classmates

A cliche short list candidate, yes, but without a doubt true nonetheless. Despite our large cohort size, my class is a fun and close-knit bunch. We study together; we celebrate together; we hike, explore and party together.

The diversity of backgrounds amongst my fellow MEMs is nothing short of staggering, and I’ve enjoyed learning from the experts I call my classmates. In any given course, I can find economists, biologists, ecologists, policymakers, engineers, and past and future lawyers and entrepreneurs, all united by a common desire to advance the wise and prudent stewardship of our planet’s natural resources.

I can also guarantee that most any student you meet here will have some pretty fascinating stories to share from their journeys toward the MEM program.

“You did what?” I often have to repeat when I learn about many of my friends’ “lives before the Nicholas School.” Included are such activities ranging from traversing South America, working for Google, playing rugby in Australia, and running large universities’ departments of sustainability. That all of these fantastic individuals are now focusing their energy on solving the world’s environmental problems is certainly something for which I am grateful.

Delicious homemade olive bread with honey butter, courtesy of an adroit MEM chef.

My Upcoming Spring Semester Schedule

Seriously. Have you seen the diversity of classes being offered next semester? I had a hard time narrowing down my choices to a manageable credit load. I’m psyched about several courses covering the environmental arts, philosophy, and ethics.

If that’s not your cup of tea, my Energy and Environment friends were having difficulty choosing between a plethora of applied energy classes, while ESCs, EEPs, and CEMs were trying to work their schedules around field trip courses to Singapore, Hawaii, the Pacific Northwest, and California. If that isn’t a good dilemma to face, I don’t know what is!

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread, Brownies, and Grilled Cheese Sandwiches from the Refectory Cafe

Trust me on this one… especially as dependable pick-me-ups in the midst of a very hectic day or week!

MEM chef Victoria Shelus displays her dessert masterpieces: miniature pumpkin pies!

The Opportunities

…are here in flocks, if you seize them. I entered the Nicholas School with a strong interest in communications but, with a hard science background, was in desperate need of actually developing my professional communications portfolio.

I was lucky enough that, after placing a lot of inquiries, the wonderful folks at the Nicholas School Communications Office took me under their wing. My enthusiasm for the topic led to increased opportunities within my Assistantship, and ultimately to my job photo-blogging with the Nicholas School and my summer internship managing the communications of a grassroots campaign.

Case Study #2: A friend of mine was interested in a course that the Nicholas School didn’t offer. Next semester, he’ll be co-teaching the class. Many other students enrolled in the course and are excited about its material and the direction it will take.

Second years enjoy the scrumptious potluck dinner!

Elsewhere within the Nicholas School, there are business boot camps with Fuqua and start-up challenges galore, consistent speakers on a vast variety of biophysical topics, and “skills workshops” to get an inside look at Duke’s “Smart Home,” create engaging Prezi presentations, and use nVivo qualitative analysis software. The list goes on, the options are here, and I’m very glad for the many choices the school offers me to accumulate experiences and skills to support my career ambitions!

The Bostock Library Lounge Chairs

If you have not utilized these delightful oases of respite nestled along the first floor of West Campus’s Bostock Library, I recommend you expand your Duke experience immediately. Don’t be fooled by their perhaps antiquated appearance – they’re perfect for napping (in the few snippets of time we can steal away to this end) and acceptable for studying – if you can manage to stay awake long in them, that is!

More potluck desserts: homemade apple pie a la mode and pumpkin pie a la whipped cream. Little known fact about Nic School students: they’re quite the accomplished bakers!

“So I know a guy…” a.k.a Nicholas School Faculty and their Networks of Knowledge

For a class project, I recently presented on a marine ecosystem-based management initiative in Washington’s Puget Sound, and will soon be writing a follow-up paper. After the class, my professor approached me. He’d recently worked with one of the key organizations involved with the initiative, he said, and could get me in touch with a number of individuals there, if I was interested. I was, of course!

This is not an infrequent occurrence. Beyond disseminating knowledge in the classroom, the host of brilliant faculty here are collaborating with a mass of brilliant individuals outside Duke. My professors’ incontestable skills at what they do and the extended networks to which they have access have often provided me with defining opportunities I’d never even anticipated.

The Quick Replies

One indication of a really good Enrollment Services Office (or that you ask more questions than the average person) is when the Academic and Enrollment Service officers recognize you by voice on a phone call.

A typical phone exchange I have during registration periods and approaching Masters Project deadlines: “Nicholas School Academic and Enrollment Services; can I help you?” “Hi, I have a quick question about the number of credits for Natural Disasters Policy and Planning.” “Is this Tawnee?” “…Yes…”

When I am trying to discern the details of a registration deadline, graduation requirements, financial aid, or career inquiry etiquette, whether by email or telephone, the fine folks at the Nicholas School Offices of Academic and Enrollment Services and Career Services have never let me down in their response time and depth of assistance. To these individuals – know that I very much appreciate the help you have given me!

And finally…

A sunny late November day on campus.

An Endless Parade of Sunny North Carolinian Days

I come from one of this country’s decidedly colder states. I do miss my mounds of snow, but I’m not gonna lie – it’s been nice having two years straight of 70+ degree autumn weather stretching until the end of November, cheerfully sunshine-filled “winter” days, and afternoons warm enough to get a sunburn starting in February.

So there you have it – a sampling of only some of the things for which I have been grateful during my year and a half at Duke University.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

1 Comment

  1. Sue Smith
    Nov 28, 2011

    lovely, Tawnee

    So glad some of you NIC school folks got to celebrate Thanksgiving–and yes, we all have lots to be so thankful for…a Very Happy Thanksgiving, Tawnee!

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