August 16, 2022

Preparation for professional careers in sustainability

Preparation for professional careers in sustainability

Since the 1980s, I have been involved in the education of environmental professionals, and as the planet continues to deteriorate, the complexity and urgency of this work has increased.

In 1987, I began an environmental policy concentration at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. In 2002, I led a team at Columbia’s Earth Institute and School of International and Public Affairs that MPA in Environmental Science and Policy: environmental policy degree that requires students to enroll in environmental science courses. Our goal was to train a new type of sustainability professional who can translate environmental science to non-scientific managers. Last year we welcomed our 20th class to that program. In 2008 and 2009, I began to combine my work in environmental policy with the study of organizational management. Columbia University Press published my book, Sustainability management, And in 2010, Columbia’s Earth Institute (now the School of Climate) and School of Continuing Education (now the School of Professional Studies) welcomed our first master’s students in sustainability management. This fall, we welcome our 13th grade, and our total enrollment now exceeds 400 students. About two-thirds of our students attend evening classes part-time and work during the day, and our students are diverse, talented, and mission-driven. The professional context in which we prepare our students to work has evolved in many ways since we started the program, as has our course offerings.

Despite this change, the basic principle of the sustainability management program remains the same. The field of management itself has changed and CEOs need to understand not only strategy, marketing, finance, human resources, performance measurement and globalization, but also the physical dimensions of sustainability: the organization’s use of energy and other resources, waste management. , and environmental risks and impacts. As the field of sustainability management has evolved, environmental Sustainability remains a subset of this broader structure. In the past decade, other subfields have been added to sustainability management. The first is diversity, equity, inclusion and access. In the brain-based economy, managers of sustainable organizations must attract and retain talent. To do this, xenophobia, racism, homophobia, sexism, and religious bigotry such as anti-Semitism must be eliminated from the organizational culture. It should be replaced by a welcoming culture of tolerance, kindness and inclusion. The second sub-branch is organizational governance that requires transparency and diversity. The third subfield in sustainability management is community impact. What effect does the organization have on the society, cities and countries in which it operates? Each of these plays a role in organizational and planetary stability.

Complex private, public and non-profit organizations are looking for people who understand the various sub-disciplines of sustainability management. Over the past decade, our program has added several courses to address these issues. We currently offer over 60 courses, including the following classes:

  • circular economy
  • Life cycle analysis
  • Green accounting
  • The company’s sustainability report,
  • Measurement of greenhouse gas emissions
  • Energy and sustainable development
  • Innovative sustainability leadership
  • Environmental and Social Governance (ESG) – Aligned Corporate Governance
  • Environmental law and justice in New York City
  • Applied social responsibility in the clothing industry
  • Fashion politics and social change politics
  • Art and sustainability
  • Sustainability criteria
  • Earth’s climate system
  • Financial impact
  • Geographies of environmental justice and sustainability
  • Reversing the biodiversity crisis

And many, many more. Our Fall Sustainability Management course offerings have been found HereThe courses we offer this summer have been posted Hereand while we are still revising next spring’s course schedule, the courses we offered last semester are Here.

Our structure Sustainability management The Master’s curriculum is designed to evolve with the discipline. While we require our students to complete courses in specific fields of study, the master’s program only includes two specific required courses. Our curriculum is built around disciplines where students shape their course of study to meet the diverse and growing needs of our discipline. Our courses are organized in the following five subcategories:

  1. Integrated courses in sustainability management
  2. Economic and quantitative analysis
  3. Physical dimensions of sustainability management
  4. Public policy
  5. General and financial management

Our goal is to equip students with a conceptual framework for understanding their evolving field and a general understanding of organizational management, finance, and quantitative analysis. We also hope to provide a deep understanding of specific sustainability issues and skills. Finally, we strive to provide experiential learning through project teamwork and special services to non-profit and government organizations on our major client projects.

From the very beginning, our students have been career-oriented and mission-oriented. They host conferences and invite leading sustainability professionals to come to campus. With over 1,000 alumni, we seem to be at the center of constant engagement with a dedicated and highly capable community of sustainability practitioners. When we saw a surge in student interest in our program last year, we were able to recruit more than a dozen alumni to teach additional sections of high-demand courses, as well as new courses designed by some talented and experienced alumni. attract program .

At its heart, sustainability management is a management degree. Our goal is to equip professionals to lead organizations that are evolving as the 21st century evolves. Climate change, loss of biodiversity, covid-19, disruption of global supply chains, and wars of aggression by authoritarian leaders such as Vladimir Putin in Russia and Bashar Hafez al-Assad in Syria present an array of challenges and risks for modern managers. has it. In the United States, we are witnessing political polarization and the breakdown of social consensus. All this makes the work of organizational management even more complicated. Our sustainability management program requires a course in public policy because all organizations—public and private—must navigate the political environment. Organizations are regulated and limited by public opinion.

A key message from our curriculum and program is the need to develop agility to deal with constant change. Traditional academic majors are slow to change. Professional education requires constant change and experimentation. While the basic principles of management remain the same, the application of those concepts continues to change. Of the 12 courses in the sustainability management program, only the first and last courses are required. The first course is the Survey Course in Sustainability Management and the last is the Capstone Client Workshop. I teach the Sustainability Management course – which changes every year. In recent years I have added sessions on diversity and environmental justice, professional development and supply chains. Every year I remove four or five items that are out of date and replace them with new ones. This year I will also include reading the book I am still writing on “Realistic Transition to Environmental Sustainability”.

In addition to the sustainability management program’s focus on flexibility and part-time students, another carefully designed pathway to professional careers in sustainability is the MPA in Environmental Science and Policy program that I offer in the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA). ) I guide. That MPA program requires a year of intensive dedicated study and, unlike the Sustainability Management program, its curriculum is highly prescriptive and includes a summer of environmental science courses taught by faculty and researchers from the Earth Institute/School of Climate. This approach to professional preparation differs from the sustainability management program, although many MPA students enroll in electives offered by the sustainability management program. The SIPA program requires a traditional public policy core: one year of economics, quantitative analysis, management and financial management courses, along with courses in policy, politics, and public ethics. The MPA in Environmental Science and Policy offers its own core courses that are distinct from the school-wide SIPA core and thus students learn. sustainability Management, environmental Economy and finance and environmental Ethics are the same core concepts as a typical policy program but applied to issues of environmental sustainability. The program also features a three-semester integrated workshop sequence that includes a two-semester management simulation and a client-based capstone project. Students learn how to integrate science, policy, and management to solve difficult environmental sustainability issues. They work in small groups and learn how to work together under the same tight deadlines they will face as sustainability professionals.

The program has a cohort that stays together for most of the program’s courses during an intensive year of full-time study that begins in late May and ends the following May. During these three semesters, the group completes a 54-point degree. Its alumni include a number of prominent sustainability leaders in the public, private and nonprofit sectors. Its curriculum has evolved along with the field over the past two decades. We added urban ecology, toxic risk analysis, a focus on equity and diversity inclusion, and our course in public management has evolved into a course in sustainability management. Originally, the program had no choice. Today, it has three that enable students to focus on sustainability management sub-disciplines.

For me, the most inspiring part of leading both Columbia’s MA in Sustainability Management and MPA in Environmental Science and Policy is the dedication and spirit of our students. In both programs—one more focused on the private sector and the other more focused on the public sector—our students are committed, idealistic, and caring. They care about their student community as well as the well-being of the planet. One of the reasons I am optimistic about my future is being able to teach and learn from these talented, visionary and hardworking students. If anyone can save the world, these students will be amazing and extraordinary. Our graduates are well-prepared sustainability professionals with a track record that demonstrates both the success of our educational experiment and their exceptional talent.


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