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What’s going on in this guy’s head?
by -- September 23rd, 2011

In the whirlwind of a new start, it’s important to keep things straight…if not in your head, at least in your heart.

For the average American, the first words that come to mind when they look at my Duke ID are: handsome, fiercely determined, confused, very handsome, excited, and a little overwhelmed. The more discerning few tend to agree on the latter two observations.

You see, it’s a tall task to ask a crisp new Nic School student to start writing about his experiences here, especially a month into classes starting and almost two months after he first moved to this deceptively amazing city.

So much has happened already. From day trips to the beach, the privilege of incredible people surrounding you at all times, participating in and not adequately preparing for a triathlon, tremendous challenges and inspiration in class and in our work, discovering hiking trails and swimming holes just minutes away from home, mingling with top energy industry executives, salsa dancing at night on the steps of the Duke chapel…where was I going with this again?

Forgive me for not keeping things straight in my head, but if you answered “excited” and/or “overwhelmed” at the top of the page, then congratulations! You win! (Prize TBD)

During the Duke Graduate and Professional Student Convocation, Nicholas School Dean Bill Chameides truly summed up this sentiment of nervous awe and opportunity in his keynote address. He quoted a line from the play, Master Class, by Faye Dunaway. In the play Maria Callas, a colorful and accomplished opera singer, criticized a prodigy for singing only because he could, rather than for the love and life he drew from it. Callas explained to the young man: “The older I get, the less I know but I am certain that what we do matters.”

The field of environmental management, no matter our focus, can be overwhelming for many reasons and we can be in it for many more. However, it’s the precise affirmation that “what we do matters,” which rings so true in this place and will no doubt carry us through to our next adventure. In the whirlwind of a new start, it can be hard to keep track of the what going on around us and in our heads. The depth of our need to learn can feel heavy at times. We will do right, however, as long as we don’t lose sight of the why.

It also helps to have a heck-of-a-good-looking ID card.


  1. Sue Smith
    Sep 28, 2011

    Well said

    Hi, Peter
    Great job on your first post. I’m steering prospectives at schools all over the place to your blog posts, and I think they’ll enjoy hearing your perspective on life as a student at the NIC School. Good to hear you’re getting acclimated.

  2. Jessica Lam
    Sep 30, 2011

    Moving Mountians

    After reading your eloquent post, I feel like I can move mountains! It’s easy to lose sight of what we are fighting for, thank you for reminding us what we already know in our hearts.

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