Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment is poised to take an international approach after undergoing two major transitions.

Within this past year, the Nicholas School appointed a new dean—Alan Townsend, who replaced former Dean William Chameides—and the school's Environment Hall was completed and and opened for use. With its new leadership and an environmentally-friendly space in which to operate, the Nicholas School hopes to expand by undertaking worldwide initiatives and furthering its interdisciplinary programs.

“We have emerging initiatives coming out of the school that really reach broadly to think about how we can group talent in the University,” Townsend said. “I just see a good chance to build on the things that are happening here.”

Townsend said he sees an exciting future ahead for the Nicholas School as it goes global. He said he wants the school to continue expanding entrepreneurship programs and to increase collaboration with the Medical School and the Duke Global Health Institute. He also said he wants the school to focus on the tropics and other specific areas around the globe.

“We continue to devote tremendous energy in helping students gain international experiences, either through holding events at the Nicholas School or providing opportunities for students to go overseas,” said Erika Weinthal, associate professor of environmental policy and the associate dean for international programs at the Nicholas School.

Weinthal also noted that the Nicholas School has been interested in environmental issues and policy in China, especially with the opening of Duke Kunshan University.

Townsend's arrival as dean also coincides with the school's first full year in the LEED Platinum-rated Environment Hall, located adjacent to the Levine Science Research Center.

“I think a lot people are really happy that we a have a new and bigger space where folks can come together in ways they haven’t before,” Townsend said.

Several students, faculty and staff have also had positive reactions to the building.

“They are still finishing up things, but I still enjoy having the new space,said Andrew Pericak, a first-year student in the Master of Environmental Management program.

Others praised the building's emphasis on sustainability.

“Since we are the school of the environment it's a good thing to aspire towards,” said Katheryne Doughty, who works in information technology at the Nicholas School.