Meet businessman Rashawn from the Climate and Society Class of 2023
This fall, the Columbia School of Climate is welcoming a new class of students Master’s program in climate and society. This 12-month interdisciplinary program teaches students to understand and address the impacts of climate change and climate variability on society and the environment.
The incoming class of 2023 includes 80 students with diverse backgrounds and career paths, impressive skill sets, and big plans to help people and the environment.
State of the Planet will be interviewing some of these extraordinary students in the coming weeks. In the Q&A below, you can meet Rashawn Merchant, who wants to help make climate change information more accessible to non-scientists, especially in urban settings.
Can you tell us a little about your background and how you became interested in studying climate?
Last year I completed my bachelor’s degree in environmental science from the University of Georgia. While I grew up in Atlanta, GA, my family is from Harlem, NY, so I’ve always had a close relationship with city life. Through my studies and research experience in the field of water resources, I have come to understand the importance of climate change and to ensure that people within cities are educated about the right tools to build a sustainable future.
Cities are important for a sustainable future because they can contribute to an unstable future. Urban environments play an important role in excessive consumption, waste generation and habitat loss. With so many people now living in cities and even more migrating, these challenges could get worse. Fortunately, this also creates an opportunity for positive change as more residents can learn about positive changes.
What role do you think education plays in the fight against climate change? Is there anything you wish you could do differently about how you teach climate change?
Education plays a major role in the fight against climate change. We are now at the point where most people are aware that climate change is happening. However, no information is available on how the planet changes and its effects. I believe that when people learn about its effects, they are more willing to contribute to solutions as well as spread the word. I would like to teach climate change with a more visual emphasis. As a society, we have rapidly moved to a situation where our main sources of information are based on images. While trying to reach a wider audience, it can be helpful to put more emphasis on graphics and less on words that are difficult for those outside the scientific community to understand.
What specifically drew you to the Climate and Community program?
I saw an opportunity to grow. I truly believe that climate change is the greatest modern crisis facing humanity and being able to study at a world-renowned institution gives me the best opportunity to enhance my skills to contribute to the solution.
What are you most excited to learn about while you’re here?
I am very excited to learn how to interpret climate data so that it can be presented in ways that are accessible to everyone.
How does the program align with your career goals?
I want to become a meteorologist and that starts with further education. Climate change is a problem that affects everyone regardless of age, race, and socioeconomic status. I hope to connect with people of all backgrounds to make a global effort for change. I would love to work in an urban environment and even one day at Columbia University.
Congratulations on receiving A Diamonstein-Spielvogel Scholarship. Could you explain a little about what that means to you?
I am very happy to be a recipient of the Diamonstein-Spielvogel Scholarship. I think that most importantly it shows a commitment to investing in the future of climate scientists. I am motivated to make the most of this opportunity by excelling at the university and contributing to the department.
Anything else you want to add?
I can’t wait to meet my peers!