Faculty Spotlight: Dan Mathis
Dan Mathis is currently an assistant professor at Columbia University Sustainability management program and a policy fellow at Next100, a think tank supported by the Qaran Foundation. At Next100, his work focuses on the intersection of housing and climate policy, particularly federal and state climate adaptation policies and disaster recovery efforts.
Mathis has a wide range of experience as a housing and community development advocate working in communities across the country. Prior to joining Next100, she helped found the Center for Racial Equity in the Florida Housing Coalition, a statewide initiative aimed at addressing the legacy of housing discrimination and closing the state’s homeownership gap.
He is a graduate of Florida A&M University, the Huff School of Business at the University of Florida, and the University of Michigan Law School. He is an avid amateur photographer and loves to walk the unknown in the city.
What initially led you to pursue the field of sustainability?
I grew up in Florida in a community that is almost 90% black (88.7% according to the last census). I have vivid memories of the fallout after Hurricane Andrew in the 1990s and question whether my home community is prepared for a weather-related disaster of this scale. I became interested in sustainability when I started thinking about policies, programs and funding mechanisms designed to support communities like mine. We have the opportunity to use sustainability efforts to not only adapt to our changing environment, but also to address the legacy of discrimination and segregation that has made communities of color physically and socially more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Let’s face it.
What attracted you to Columbia’s School of Climate and School of Professional Studies?
Colombia has a strong community of scholars, researchers, practitioners and advocates who are deeply involved in the work of addressing our global climate crisis from one of the most dynamic cities on the planet. What more could I ask for?
What course are you teaching this fall and what are you most excited about?
I will teach justice, politics, and sustainability. I am excited because this course focuses on equity and is reflective of a global pursuit to create a more livable planet that is fair and just, regardless of racial/ethnic, gender, or socioeconomic identities. This course is designed to help students learn more about how to incorporate equity into their sustainability efforts and introduce them to equity frameworks and their applications in public policy. I look forward to helping to cultivate a pool of sustainability practitioners skilled in this critical area of practice – equipped to identify and respond to today’s challenges and ready to work to promote a more just and sustainable future.
What changes do you hope to see in the future in the field of sustainability?
I find it hard to imagine a sustainable future without collective attention to climate change. Our climate crisis requires continued efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to a changing planet. Like it or not, we must deal with the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, the increasing magnitude of climate-related displacements, and fundamental inequalities that exacerbate the impacts on specific populations. The opportunity here is to use the climate crisis as an entry point to become more critical about how we can undo past mistakes and envision alternative futures. I hope that in the field of sustainability, we will continue to examine disparities in climate vulnerability, raise awareness of disparities in our climate disaster preparedness and responses, and develop policies and programs that can better address these disparities—especially About blacks and other communities of color
What advice do you have for students looking for a career in sustainability?
Each of us brings knowledge, experience and skills in this field. Sustainability is about people and we need different perspectives and ideas to help develop more thoughtful solutions. In the policy-making sector, more effective policies are created as a result of recognizing and enhancing lived realities. I think the same participatory principle applies to sustainability more broadly: when we begin to audit for the intersection of issues, we critically question how we engage, what we value, and where we align our resources. , we learn to coexist better – with the planet and with each other.