December 12, 2011

Nicholas Institute to Strengthen Ties With Campus

Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, December 12, 2011

CONTACT: Erin McKenzie
(919) 613-3652

DURHAM, N.C. – A new five-year strategic plan for the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University will strengthen the Institute's ties with the university, focus its research on the University’s core competencies, and encourage outreach to new audiences.

At the heart of the plan, which was just recently approved by the Provost, are investments in areas aimed at furthering the Institute’s mission to help decision makers create timely, effective solutions to the world’s most pressing environmental challenges.

“This strategic document is intended to serve as a map to grow further  the important work we have already been doing—and are known for,” said Tim Profeta, founding director of the Nicholas Institute. “These goals will help expand the focus we set out with when Duke established us in 2005 and better encompass some of the major strengths of the University as a whole.”

Highlights of the 24-page plan:

  • Faculty Collaboration: To foster deeper engagement with Duke faculty, the plan calls for the Institute to establish new working groups in early 2012 that encourage collaboration among University researchers in the areas of climate policy, corporate sustainability and oceans. The Institute will build on existing successes and use the groups they’ve already established for ecosystemseconomics and freshwater as models. As an incentive, the Institute will provide $25,000 startup research grants annually to help spur innovation and promote the interdisciplinary work of these groups.
  • Student Engagement: The plan finds that faculty appreciate having both students and Institute researchers engaging in their work. To further such opportunities, the Institute has established a year-long assistantship program partnering second-year students with Institute researchers and Duke faculty. The program will provide real-world experience beyond the classroom and target students from Duke's Fuqua School of Business, Sanford School of Public Policy, Pratt School of Engineering, Nicholas School of the Environment and Duke Law School.
  • Research Focus: During the next five years, the Institute will focus on its core strengths in energy, climate, oceans and freshwater-related work. This concentration will help contribute to the larger University research mission and align with areas where the campus is strongest academically.
  • New Audiences: With gridlock in Washington, the Institute will expand outreach to better capture a wider audience of decision makers that may benefit from timely nonpartisan analysis. This new outreach will target individuals in the private sector as well as those making important environmental decisions in the Southeast and internationally.
  • Impact: The methods used to gauge performance will also be further developed in an effort to better assess the overall reach and impact of the Institute’s work.

The plan’s approval marks more than a year of research and planning by Institute staff, Duke faculty and administrators. It aims at helping align the work of Institute staff in Durham and Washington, D.C., with other initiatives on campus.

Work on the plan was funded by a grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. To view a copy, visit