New Year’s Eve in the City of Oaks

New Year’s Eve has long been my favorite holiday, along with the few days of quiet that follow. The global pause to mark the passage of time provides a moment for calm and reflection before the normal bustle of the year ramps back up.

The past year was one of huge changes for me: I left my job, got engaged, moved across the country for the first time, and finally started in a graduate program I’d been contemplating and working toward for much of the past 6 years. At the risk of sounding corny, I’ll say that I’ve felt like I’m in the right place here. Duke has turned out to be pretty much exactly what I was hoping for, and I’m surrounded by people doing amazing and creative work in the environmental policy sphere and beyond. I’m grateful to have this chance to learn, work hard and dig into the topics I am passionate about, more deeply than ever before.


After a quick trip home to see family in Texas, I came back to the Triangle for the rest of winter break hoping to straighten out my schedule and commitments for the semester. I’m starting to apply to internships for the summer and working out the extent to which I’ll be involved in other research projects or on-campus initiatives in the coming months and year. As fired up as I was about possibly getting to work in the environmental law and policy clinic, I ended pretty low on the waiting list for this semester (gotta be faster with that registration button next time!). So instead, I found an opportunity to participate in one of the Bass Connections groups on campus.

Without sounding too much like a brochure: Bass Connections classes bring together faculty, graduate students and undergraduates across a wide range of academic interests and disciplines into an interdisciplinary research team for one or more semesters. The group I’ll be joining is taking a detailed look into how major environmental policy decisions are made, through the lens of the historic international responses and treaties related to ozone layer degradation by CFCs (and with involved members whose disciplines range from engineering to economics to English). The class will likely culminate in the development of materials to help teach about the case research we do, and recommendations for improving the complex process of translating science into sound policy. I’m really excited to get involved with a project that aligns so well with so many of my interests – policy, research translation, economics, journalism and communication of science.


My partner and I decided to check out Raleigh for New Year’s Eve. The city put on a really cool all-day festival downtown; a relatively cheap entry ticket gave us access to a whole day of art, music and comedy performances in museums, community centers and other venues scattered within about a 10-block radius from the capitol building.

That was in addition to Christmas lights, carnival rides, and art installations . . .

. . . as well as other goings-on, like the evening parade of environmental and social justice puppets we stumbled upon:

At midnight, a huge crowd gathered to watch the lowering of the Giant Acorn in one of the downtown squares:

The tradition, one of the many spinoffs of the Times Square midnight ball drop, highlights Raleigh’s reputation as ‘the City of Oaks’ (As a native of live-oak-covered Houston, I’m not fully convinced this is warranted, but . . . when in Rome). The acorn itself apparently hangs out in a park during the rest of the year, then gets hoisted up by a crane for its big night.

Happy 2018! Hope your year is nuts holds the seeds of good things to come.