Students from the undergraduate special concentration in sustainable development celebrated their graduation from Columbia College and the School of General Studies on May 18 at a special breakfast held for them in Columbia’s Faculty House.
Family, friends and faculty gathered with students who reflected on the achievements of the last four years and recalled sustainable development projects they worked on that impacted their college experience.
Emily Wilson, a French and Francophone studies major, who was joined at the reception by parents David and Karen Wilson, hopes to work this summer with a small NYC-based non-governmental organization that gives scholarships to students from Haiti. Emily collaborated on a “white roofs” project with fellow graduate David Raisler, a history major who has worked with Michael Gerrard, director of the Center for Climate Change Law.
Working with Professor Stuart Gaffin and the Department of Buildings on the Mayor’s initiative to whiten roofs in New York City, David, Emily and other classmates examined the cost-benefit of installing a white roof, where a roof is painted white with a special paint that can help curb the heat island effect, among other benefits. Other classmates used green roofs in their study, which also help cool cities, but cost considerably more. Emily and David used the online grocery giant Fresh Direct’s warehouse in Queens as a case study. “When you are talking about huge, expansive roofs,” said Emily, “it’s a lot more cost effective to have a roof painted white.”
Sustainable development concentrators also had the opportunity to travel abroad for their studies. David and fellow graduate Semee Yoon, an economics major, collaborated during a trip to Japan in 2009 to examine the use of desalination methods and how they negatively impact surrounding ecosystems.
The special concentration in sustainable development, supported by donors Joe and Barbara Ellis, who have also been strong advocates of the undergraduate major in sustainable development (to be offered beginning in fall 2010) continues to appeal to a wide range of students in the College and the School of General Studies. There are currently 109 students who have declared the sustainable development concentration, and we anticipate that a large number of students will choose it as a major in the fall.