Zhijie Zhou will join the graduation festivities on May 12 to mark his second master’s degree -- an international Master of Environmental Policy (iMEP).
iMEP is a joint offering from Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy and Nicholas School of the Environment. Students are based at Duke Kunshan University in China, and they also spend time taking classes in Durham for their Duke semester.
Although the iMEP program was a challenging two-year journey, the adventures and possibilities along the way made it all worth the effort to Zhijie.
“Your thesis may have the chance to be published in a top-tier journal, your coursework may be presented at international/domestic academic conferences, your research project may be part of a national natural science foundation project, and your classmates and professors may provide valuable field research and internship opportunities,” he says.
Zhijie adds that the opportunities outside the classroom were outstanding, in part because of the two classroom locations – China and the US.
“You can witness the sunrise and sunset over snowy mountains and the East China Sea, search for answers to conservation species recovery in bamboo forests and reed beds, peek into the future of national parks from panda excrement, meet migratory birds at the mouth of the Yangtze River, or study changes in seabird populations with the founders of conservation biology on a remote island in a national park off the coast of Florida.”
Zhijie previously earned a master’s degree in Urban Spatial Analytics from the University of Pennsylvania.
You can witness the sunrise and sunset over snowy mountains and the East China Sea, search for answers to conservation species recovery in bamboo forests and reed beds, peek into the future of national parks from panda excrement, meet migratory birds at the mouth of the Yangtze River, or study changes in seabird populations with the founders of conservation biology on a remote island in a national park off the coast of Florida.
Teasing Out Solutions
During his time in the iMEP program, Zhijie studied and evaluated environmental policies with a geospatial lens with his master’s project advisor, Prof. Binbin Li, who is a Duke Nicholas alumnus (PhD 17’). Through this work they were able to explore important questions about environmental policy. How effective are conservation programs and protected areas? What are the potential interactions or conflicts between biodiversity protection and other methods of sustainable development like renewable energy planning, restoration of farmland, or forest management? The answers are entangled in the social-environmental nexus, and Zhijie, together with his peers in Prof. Li’s Biodiversity and Sustainability Lab, are striving to tease out the solutions.
Zhijie is quick to point out that the program highlight, for him, was learning from Professor Stuart Pimm at the Nicholas School. Pimm is a world leader in the study of present-day extinctions and preservation. Zhijie took Professor Pimm’s seabird field research course and went along on a “once-in-a-lifetime” trip to the Dry Tortugas during spring break.
Dry Tortugas National Park is a remote area 70 miles from Key West. Only accessible by boat or seaplane, the seven small islands are home to a wide variety of living creatures.
Zhijie worked with other faculty members, including Sanford’s Dr. Jackson Ewing, who helped him extend his master’s project to broaden contexts.
He also worked closely with founding director of the international Master of Environmental Policy Program, Professor Junjie Zhang, who emphasized that the program’s goal is to cultivate future environmental leaders, no matter what industry the students end up in.
Zhijie hopes the program is training global environmental leaders who will be cooperative, not competitive; leaders that will “maintain respect and awe for the natural environment and ecology, and maintain the pursuit and longing for vast skies and lands, regardless of which industry one is in.”
The iMEP program, he says, cultivates leaders who are able to imagine what needs to be done, can use qualitative and quantitative methods, and are skilled at implementing interdisciplinary approaches to problem-solving.
After graduation, Zhijie Zhou will pursue a Phd in Geography/GIS at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
GRADUATION STORIES & DETAILS
We will be sharing graduation stories throughout the week leading up to graduation on Sanford's website, and on our social channels. Need the graduation details? Check out the official 2023 Graduation Page to find parking info, live streams and more.