Courses: 2016-2017 Academic Year

Educating the next generation of environmental leaders is one of the many ways Duke's Nicholas Institute helps bridge the gap between science and policy. During Duke's 2016-2017 academic year, staff members are aiding in this mission by teaching courses across campus. For more information on these courses, visit

Fall 2016


Energy Law
This course examines the legal framework governing energy production and consumption in the United States, and policy approaches for balancing energy needs with other societal goals. The course includes three main modules: (1) electricity sector regulation; (2) energy resources for electricity generation; and (3) oil and gas law. It focuses on the historic origins of public utility regulation, the major U.S. laws that govern energy production and use, the distinct roles of the federal and state governments, and efforts to manage competing societal interests. (Energy Law 327.01)

Instructor: Amy Pickle, director of the State Policy Program at the Nicholas Institute.

U.N. Climate Change Negotiation Practicum
The U.N. Climate Change Negotiation Practicum is a one-credit independent study that examines the negotiation of international climate change agreements under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Since the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, the UNFCCC has been the primary forum for the negotiation of international agreements concerning climate change. After the landmark Paris Agreement in 2015, the UNFCCC has a new framework through which to address climate change at the international level. This unique course will provide students with a comprehensive understanding of the fundamental issues, negotiation process, and political dynamics of the UNFCCC, as well as provide students an opportunity to attend the negotiations while working for a client organization. (ENVIRON 593.65)

Instructors: Billy Pizer, faculty fellow at the Nicholas Institute, and Jonathan Wiener, professor, Duke School of Law.

Political Economy of Public Policy
This course introduces students to a core set of social science ideas relevant to public policy. These include theories of collective action, institutions and governance, all of which draw from economics, political science, sociology or psychology. The goal is to provide students with a broad framework for evaluating market, political, and social failures; identifying possible policy interventions; and predicting the ways in which such interventions would translate into policy outcomes. (PubPol 901)

Instructors: Billy Pizer, faculty fellow at the Nicholas Institute, and Candace Odgers, professor in the Sanford School of Public Policy. 


Social Movements and Collective Behavior This course studies the non-routine collective actions such as demonstrations, strikes, riots, social movements, and revolutions, with emphasis on recent and contemporary movements. (SOCI 411)

Instructor: Kay Jowers, senior policy associate at the Nicholas Institute.

Spring 2017


Introduction to Ecosystem Services and Methods for their Quantification
This course will introduce students to the concept of ecosystem services, which is increasingly recognized as a useful concept for decision-making, and provide an overview of the suite of methods that are used to quantify them. It will also introduce a suite of skills/courses needed for ecosystem services assessment that are taught across the Nicholas School and show how they contribute to quantifying ecosystem services.

Instructor: Lydia Olander, director of the Ecosystem Services Program at the Nicholas Institute.

Ethics of Public Policy
This course introduces students to normative frameworks for evaluating public policies and governance processes. It draws on social choice theory, political theory, and social theory. The goal is to provide students with normative and analytical bases to evaluate tradeoffs between efficiency on the one hand and equity, political legitimacy, and justice on the other. (PubPol 902)

Instructor: Billy Pizer, faculty fellow at the Nicholas Institute. 


Formal Organizations and Bureaucracy In this course, students learn about the varieties of organizational forms, their structures and processes, creation, persistence, transformation, and demise, as well as the role of organizations in contemporary society. (SOCI 410)

Instructor: Kay Jowers, senior policy associate at the Nicholas Institute.