Paige Swofford is pursuing dual graduate degrees at Duke University: a Master of Environmental Management (MEM) degree from the Nicholas School of the Environment and Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree from the Fuqua School of Business. Here Paige describes her pathway as an energy student at Duke—including how she has tapped into the interdisciplinary community and opportunities cultivated by the Duke University Energy Initiative (http://energy.duke.edu).
Cassidee Kido is a May 2017 Duke University graduate with a bachelor's degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering and a certificate in Energy and Environment. Here she describes her pathway as an energy student at Duke—including how she tapped into the interdisciplinary community and opportunities cultivated by the Duke University Energy Initiative.
Liz Arnason is pursuing dual graduate degrees at Duke University: a Master of Environmental Management (MEM) degree from the Nicholas School of the Environment and Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree from the Fuqua School of Business. Here she describes her pathway as an energy student at Duke—including how she's tapped into the interdisciplinary community and opportunities cultivated by the Duke University Energy Initiative.
Ask Leah Louis-Prescott (MEM'18) why she's in graduate school and you'll get a straightforward answer: "I want my career to make a direct impact on climate change."
“My bachelor’s degrees in geology and environmental science exposed me to how the United States lags behind when it comes to renewable energy,” said Louis-Prescott, who worked for the Bureau of Land Management after graduating from the University of Michigan. “I decided to go to grad school because I needed to better understand the nuances of how the energy system functions, why progress has been slow, and how we can advance renewables through policy.”
“The interdisciplinary overview of energy systems I encountered during my first year at the Nicholas School of the Environment helped me to realize that I may be able to make the most impact at the center of the Venn diagram—where technology meets policy meets culture meets business factors,” explained Louis-Prescott, whose 2016-2017 graduate assistantship at the Energy Initiative included research on transportation efficiency and energy data analytics. “That could take the form of renewable project development, although I’m considering other directions, too.”
This summer, a Rudd Mayer Fellowship from the national Women in Renewable Industries and Sustainable Energy (WRISE) organization helped Louis-Prescott explore the possibilities by attending WindPower, the annual conference of the American Wind Industry Association. During the four-day event last month, Louis-Prescott visited industry booths and attended talks on everything from energy prices at high wind levels to regulation promoting the zero-carbon attributes of wind.
“The big takeaway for me was that the wind industry is growing and will continue to grow—even after the federal wind tax credit goes away,” Louis-Prescott notes. “I also gained exposure to the breadth of the industry, all the different actors who are moving wind power forward—whether they work for development firms, utilities, manufacturers of turbine parts, or even ExxonMobil, which provides the oil that greases the turbines.”
“Being able to interact with these professionals, talk with them about how they got where they are, seek advice, and network is so helpful as I consider what to do when I graduate,” Louis-Prescott said. She is grateful that the Rudd Mayer Fellowship also includes access to the nationwide WRISE network of female professionals in renewable energy.
Louis-Prescott was encouraged to apply by Duke alumna April Christensen (MEM’16), now a business development associate at Invenergy. “I was a Rudd Mayer Fellow last year," says Christensen, "and those networking opportunities have been invaluable in launching my career—as has the Energy Initiative.”
While Louis-Prescott is increasingly intrigued by renewable project development (and the wind industry in particular), she continues to explore a range of options, maximizing opportunities across Duke University.
Last fall, for example, Louis-Prescott was co-organizer of the Nicholas School Energy Club's Denver Career Trek, which enabled graduate students from the Nicholas School, Fuqua School of Business, and Pratt School of Engineering to spend fall break visiting Denver-area energy companies and organizations.
Louis-Prescott also took part in an interdisciplinary Bass Connections in Energy research team on best management practices for offshore wind development in the United States. “That project had a lot to do with my decision to apply for the Rudd Mayer Fellowship,” Louis-Prescott explained. “And—since our Bass Connections team looked at big trends in both onshore and offshore wind—I was knowledgeable enough to be able to ask interesting questions and have productive conversations with the industry pros I met.”
This summer, Duke’s Stanback Internship program is supporting Louis-Prescott as an intern at the Rocky Mountain Institute in Boulder, Colorado, which she first visited as part of the Denver Career Trek. She is working on an RMI study of when, where, and how residential customers can save money and reduce carbon emissions by switching from fossil fuel-powered household devices to electric devices.
In the fall, she is looking forward to energy coursework offered by the Fuqua School of Business and Duke Law School—along with participating in a Bass Connections in Energy project addressing the regulation of autonomous vehicles. Louis-Prescott will also serve as co-president of the Nicholas School Energy Club.
“The great thing about studying energy at Duke—in addition to the high caliber of professors and comprehensive curriculum—is the variety of out-of-classroom opportunities the school offers, including significant industry exposure,” remarks Louis-Prescott. “I am confident that my education and experiences at Duke are preparing me to make a true impact in the energy sector after I graduate.”
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Lori Snyder Bennear, associate professor of environmental economics and policy at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment, has been named the university’s inaugural Juli Plant Grainger Associate Professor of Energy Economics and Policy.
She will assume the Grainger Professorship and begin a concurrent one-year term as associate director for educational programs at the Duke University Energy Initiative on July 1.
Bennear is widely cited for her research and scholarship on quantitative measures to assess the effectiveness of environmental policies and regulatory regimes.
As part of her new appointments, she will apply her expertise to helping direct and develop interdisciplinary faculty-student research projects for Duke’s Bass Connections in Energy program, which is designed to provide students at all levels and in all programs of study the knowledge, skills and experience needed to play leadership roles in a rapidly evolving clean energy future.
“Through her unbiased and clear-eyed scholarship, Lori is helping reshape how we evaluate the real-world impacts of environmental regulations and measure their successes and shortcomings. She challenges herself, her colleagues and her students to ask the tough questions,” said Jeffrey Vincent, Stanback Dean at the Nicholas School. “Her unwavering integrity and ingenuity, and her passion for teaching and mentoring, make her an exemplary choice as our inaugural Grainger Associate Professor.”
“Lori Bennear is deeply deserving of this recognition. She is an accomplished scholar, a terrific teacher and a wonderful citizen of Duke. As the Energy Initiative’s associate director for educational programs, she has helped strengthen the Bass Connections Energy theme and many other dimensions of energy education at Duke,” said Brian Murray, interim director of the Energy Initiative and director of the Environmental Economics Program at Duke’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.
“Lori Bennear has led several highly successful Bass Connections research teams, helped to reconstruct the Nicholas School’s gateway course on Environmental Science & Policy around collaborative, problem-centered research modules, and provided superb leadership as the head of the Bass Connections program’s Energy Theme,” said Edward Balleisen, vice provost for interdisciplinary studies. “She is a fantastic choice for the Grainger Chair, one of the first Bass Connections chairs ready to be awarded.”
Bennear received a Ph.D. in public policy from Harvard University in 2004, a Master of Arts degree in economics from Yale University in 1996, and dual Bachelor of Arts degrees in economics and environmental studies from Occidental College in 1995.
Her research focuses on evaluating the effectiveness of flexible environmental policies including information disclosure regulations, management-based regulations, liability regimes, and demand-side management programs. She has applied these evaluations across a range of environmental domains including energy, toxics and drinking water. Her work has been published in Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences (PNAS), Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Environment and Development Economics, Marine Resource Economics and Nature: Ecology and Evolution, among other leading peer-reviewed journals.
Bennear joined Duke’s faculty in 2004 as assistant professor of environmental economics and policy. She was promoted to associate professor in 2013.
In addition to her primary appointment at the Nicholas School, Bennear holds secondary faculty appointments at Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy and its Economics Department. She also serves as faculty co-director of the Rethinking Regulation Program at the Kenan Institute for Ethics.
Story by Tim Lucas, Nicholas School of the Environment