Faculty Spotlight: Nicholas Rolder
Nicholas Rohholder, an adjunct professor in the School of Professional Studies, is the co-founder of Climate Commodities, a technology-based commodity trader focused on enabling the climate economy.
In addition to his role at Climate Commodities, Rohlder is the Chief Investment Officer of New American Energy, a private investment and foundation firm focused on the economic impacts of the energy transition in the United States. He holds board positions at Clean Earth Acquisitions Corp, EnergyLink, Ardor Capital, American Hydrogen, and Renovare Environmental.
Outside of his professional commitments, Rohholder serves as a graduate board member at the Earth Institute and School of Climate at Columbia University, as a member of the production team for the Energy Policy Now podcast at the University of Pennsylvania, and as a member of the Energy . Technology Leadership Council at the Tulsa Innovation Lab.
He holds a Master of Environmental Studies with a concentration in Environmental Engineering and Technology from the University of Pennsylvania, a Master of Science in Sustainability Management with a concentration in Environmental Finance from Columbia University, and is a former Forbes 30 Under 30 Award winner.
In the beginning, what motivated you to pursue the field of sustainability?
I grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma in a family that worked primarily in the oil and gas industry. When I grew up, I worked as a manual laborer in the oil field to learn the trade, and I saw first-hand the damage this industry does to the environment. With my roots in Oklahoma and the oil and gas industry combined with education and work in the Northeast, I felt uniquely positioned to bridge the gap between the past and future of energy and make a positive impact on the climate.
What attracted you to the sustainable management program?
As an institution, Colombia has set up a comprehensive program with a focus on sustainability, which has been in place for more than a decade now, and includes an adequate focus on the technical aspects of the sector. This is complemented by an excellent peer network focused across the sustainability value chain. When I visited, I felt that the breadth and depth of the curriculum combined with the student body would be the perfect launching pad to achieve my goals.
What course are you teaching this fall and what are you most excited about?
I am teaching theory and practice of life cycle assessment. What excites me most about this course is the opportunity to provide a solid technical background in sustainability for students looking to enter the field. The structure of the course allows for a combination of focus on technical areas of sustainability critical to the job market, while providing a good primer on the basic workings of the various sectors in which students will eventually be employed.
What changes do you hope to see in the future in the field of sustainability?
I hope to see more focus on technology and exponential impact. If we are to achieve our stated global climate goals, we must mobilize the human and financial capital to dramatically accelerate the pace of addressing these challenges. I believe that most of these challenges will be solved through technology, some of which have not yet been commercialized or invented, and that is where the human and financial capital gap lies.
What advice do you have for students looking for a career in sustainability?
First and foremost, focus on what interests you the most and what you really enjoy. Second, I believe that the greatest opportunity for impact and economic benefit lies at the intersection of economics, policy, and engineering in the context of climate and sustainability technology. Most organizations bifurcate these skill sets, which is a very inefficient practice. I believe that by positioning yourself as a sustainability expert with general competence in the previously mentioned areas, there is no limit to what you can achieve in this field.