Jen's MEM Journey

The Elusive Question
by Jennifer Weiss -- January 29th, 2012

Finally finding the answer to the question “WHY?”

For the last two years, maybe longer, I’ve known the answers to the easy questions:

Who?  Well, me of course. A non-traditional student with two kids looking to change careers – and possibly life style – from banker to environmentalist.

What?  A Master of Environmental Management to partner with an MBA I received years ago.

Where?  Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University – is there anywhere else?

How?  Two years of hard work, partnership with my family and a lot of help from my friends (new and old).

Why?  Hmmmm …. I wrote what I thought was a pretty good answer to this question in my Nicholas School application essay.  But now that answer seems so far away.  Let me try again.

Being an environmentalist is not an easy thing to describe.  For any of us really.  And, especially not for someone like me that for most of my life had pretty much ignored the environment.  Oh sure, I recycled, I ate local foods (most of the time), I kept my programmable thermostat at reasonable temperatures.  But, was I really what one might call an environmentalist?  Probably not.

In my last semester at the Nicholas School, at a time when I am supposed to be wrapping everything up in a neat little bow and preparing myself for the “real world” once again, I have decided to slow myself down and think about the WHY.  Why am I here at this great institution and why (or maybe how) will I be able to make a difference.

I am currently taking not just one, but two, environmental ethics courses.  That wasn’t the original plan, but to tell you the truth, it has worked out just perfectly.  Because, as anyone who has ever taken an ethics course can tell you, it makes you think.  About your own values, about your own beliefs, and to some extent, about your own (and in this case, our Earth’s) future.  Two weeks into classes and I am already down the road to some pretty ethical thought experiments in my own mind.  And, here’s what I’ve discovered.

Why am I here at the Nicholas School?  To understand enough about the environment so that I will be able teach others in a passionate, informational way.  And by environment, I mean the good, the bad and the ugly.  I want to embrace all the wonderful  people and things in the world that are making the right changes and moving us forward in sustainable ways.  I want to understand the facts about global climate change and be able to explain them in a non-confrontational way to third graders … or to my neighbors … or to someone I meet at the grocery store.  I want to appreciate the urgency of our global situation and help to influence change.

In short, I want to educate others about environmentalism by doing what I do best.  By writing about it, by teaching about it, and by living it.  I am smart enough to know that I cannot individually change the world.  But, I can start by influencing the people that surround me.  And that, at the very least, is a start.

1 Comment

  1. Tawnee
    Jan 31, 2012

    Re: The Elusive Question

    You’ve shared some wonderful insight, Jen! We all come to the Nicholas School with aims and ambitions, but I think the “why” behind those goals is often overlooked by many of us – not the many little “why’s,” but the more subtle, core “why” that at some intrinsic level drove us here in there first place, and that aligns best with who we are and what we’re good at. I’m glad you’ve been able to take this semester to explore and understand the heart of what’s driving you. And I’m glad I’ve been able to share one of those classes with you! 🙂

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