For most people, clicking “accept” on their admission offer is the culminating step in a long and arduous journey to attend Fuqua. However, when I made that selection in 2022, there was still one more decision left for me to make—whether to simultaneously pursue a Master of Environmental Management (MEM) degree at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment.

Earning a dual degree meant I would delay the start of my MBA education for a year. Instead of two years of MBA classes, I would have a year of MEM classes, followed by a year of MBA classes, and then a year of classes at both schools. When I made that choice, however, I was still uncertain. Was I making the right decision for me?

I’m now a first-year MBA student but in the second year of my dual degree program, and I can say, unequivocally, that I made the right decision. Have there been costs associated with the decision to pursue the MEM/MBA degree? Of course. However, in my experience, the benefits have greatly exceeded them. Let me explain.

A Rewarding Education

The classes at the Nic School (our abbreviation for the Nicholas School of the Environment) are quite different from Fuqua. The MBA program exposes students to a broad array of subjects in a short period of time. The MEM program, on the other hand, allows us to dive deep into the science and specific issues in our area of study.

A group of Duke students sit on a grassy hillside in Kruger National Park in South Africa
My classmates and I exploring Kruger National Park in South Africa as part of the Biodiversity and Climate Change class

My concentration at the Nic School is energy and environment. So, my classes have stretched from building power grid optimization models to traveling to Kruger National Park in South Africa to conduct experiments on how climate change impacts biodiversity. Although it will cost one more year of time and expense, I believe the dual degree has allowed me to make the most of my educational experience.

Expanding My Network

One thing that is consistent across both schools is the quality of people. The students and faculty here are wonderful. I’m constantly impressed by the accomplishments of those around me. People here have launched social impact enterprises, fought forest fires, ran international businesses, and led global environmental movements. It’s awe-inspiring.

More importantly, people at both programs truly care about one another. It’s this characteristic that has enabled me to make close friends at both the Nic School and Fuqua. If for no other reason, the decision to pursue the MEM/MBA program has paid off by enabling me to build relationships with more people at Duke.

The social experience for dual degree students is quite different because we get the best of both worlds. At Fuqua, I’ve enjoyed attending a wide range of big and small events, including the Fuqua Fridays, an end-of-term party in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, a Día de Los Muertos party hosted by the Latin American Student Association (LASA), Durham Bulls baseball games, and swimming in the Eno River with my classmates and their partners.

A large group of students and their partners/families at a social gathering
Gathering for Friendsgiving with my Fuqua section classmates and their partners

At the Nic School, big events I have attended include a beach weekend at the Duke Marine Lab, a lumberjack party in the Duke Forest, and Nic School Field Day. Smaller events include hiking in Asheville, whitewater rafting in the New River Gorge, and relaxing at Duke Gardens.

A large group of MEM/MBA students pose for photo at New River Gorge
Taking a trip to hike, climb and raft at the New River Gorge in West Virginia with the MEM/MBA Club

Extended Timeline Means More Opportunities

The dual degree program doesn’t slow down time, but it does stretch it out. So far, that’s meant I have been able to do things in the first semester of my MBA (second overall year at Duke) that normally I would have needed to wait until the second year of my MBA to do, such as being a startup analyst for NC IDEA or being co-chair of the Duke University Energy Conference.

Now, after a year and a half at Duke, I am entering my second half of the program, instead of entering my final semester. That’s both daunting and exciting! While there’s much work still ahead of me, there are also many opportunities. On the horizon are entrepreneurial startup competitions, Global Academic Travel Experiences (GATE), a second summer internship, and another year and a half with friends!