Four Must-Take Classes Before You Graduate

I am so grateful for  everything I’ve learned at Duke and the classes I’ve taken. I am often asked for advice on choosing classes by younger Nic School undergrads and friends outside of the major who want to dabble in environmental sciences. Here, I write about four of my favorite Nic School classes so far, though there have been so many other fantastic courses that I do not have space for.

Economics and the Environment (ENV 155): Dr. Martin Smith’s instruction was one of the most impressive intersections of interesting and jam-packed while still being easy to understand. This introductory economics class taught me information applicable to so many aspects of life, focusing on topics that do not usually get covered in the environmental classes I’ve taken or in typically intro economics classes. We frequently played simulation games, which made the class engaging and tangible.

US Environmental Politics (ENV 212): The most unique aspect of this class, taught by Professor Elizabeth Albright, was the final project. We wrote policy memos throughout the class, but for the final, we worked on teams, taking on stakeholder roles, and hosting debates/hearings on topics we care about. This was a fantastic way to research and communicate from points-of-view we may not usually explore. While listening to the other groups’ debates, I often found the arguments so nuanced that I had trouble choosing sides. The debates were a great lesson in the complexity of environmental policy.

Life Cycle Analysis (ENV 338S): This class, taught by Dr. Dalia Patino Echeverri, was part of the Food Systems DukeImmerse program. We wound up taking this class in a 3-week, daily intensive, but I can’t imagine a better course to learn this way. From this class, I learned a computer program (OpenLCA) and a whole new way of approaching production, consumption, and waste. Few classes have fundamentally changed the way I think like this one did.

Global Warming (EOS 355): If for no other reason, I recommend this class as a chance to learn from Dr. Drew Shindell. Not only is he a great professor, but Dr. Shindell is a very important researcher in the climate change field. It is so special to take a class from someone who has been an author on reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). He approaches climate change through many lenses so that you leave the class with a holistic understanding of the issue. Dr. Shindell also does an excellent job of ensuring that all students understand the course material regularly.

Outside from these four classes, I want to give a shout-out to GIS and Geospatial Analysis (EOS 359), a class that teaches an invaluable and useful skill. I also want to mention two classes outside of the Nic School that I can’t imagine my Duke experience without: The Science of Cooking First-Year Seminar (CHEM 89S) and Meet the Beatles and the 1960s (MUS 144). They both taught me such unique information and exposed me to new corners of Duke.