MS Student Seeks to Make Sustainability an Indispensable Business Practice

by | 1.23.2012 at 6:12pm
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MS in Sustainability Management student Jon Cain

The need for organizations across all sectors to address sustainability issues has fostered a growing demand for trained professionals. Columbia University’s MS in Sustainability Management program, designed by the Earth Institute and the School of Continuing Education, trains students to fill this growing demand.

MS in Sustainability Management student, Jonathan Cain, recently discussed his experience in the program. Prior to his enrollment as a full-time graduate student, Jon worked in the Warfighter Readiness Research Division of the United States Air Force Research Laboratory and was later a project manager at two mid-sized consulting companies. Jon is currently an intern for the Office of Academic Research and Programs at the Earth Institute, where he helps to coordinate corporate participation for Sustainability Management program sponsored events. Jon entered the program in spring 2011.

What drew you to the Master of Science in Sustainability Management (MSSM)?

I was drawn to the MSSM program by its core areas of study. In my opinion, combining the physical dimensions of sustainability, management, quantitative analysis, policy, and general finance is the most practical way to learn how to apply sustainability.

What do you intend to do professionally once you achieve your degree?

I am considering entrepreneurial opportunities and openings to implement sustainability strategy within private companies.

What do you think is the most important sustainability challenge?

I think the most important challenges facing sustainability are coordination, behavioral change and lack of awareness. You cannot change behavior without making people aware of how sustainability can benefit them. And you cannot do either of these things if there is not a clear, coordinated effort to address challenging issues. “Sustainability” risks becoming a buzzword if it is not clearly defined and efforts to apply it are not coordinated.

What skills and tools have you acquired through the program so far?

I have learned a lot in the MSSM program so far – definitely too much to list in one place – but some of the things that I have enjoyed the most are corporate sustainability metrics and reporting, energy efficiency, green accounting, greenhouse gas emission reporting, the foundations and principles of environmental law, U.S. environmental regulations (CAA, CERCLA, RCRA, TSCA, etc.), carbon, electricity, and natural resources markets, life-cycle analysis, environmental conflict resolution, global environmental markets…

How have you applied what you’ve learned in the program so far?

I have had two internships through the MSSM program and have gotten the opportunity to apply different skills that I learned in the classroom during each. I have also had several opportunities to speak about sustainability in a variety of public forums.

Beyond the classroom, what extracurricular sustainability related have you engaged in with your fellow Sustainability Management students?

Beyond the classroom I work with fellow MSSM students as the President of the Sustainability Management Student Association (SUMASA). Of all the extracurricular activities SUMASA hosts, the most notable is probably the Sustainable Perspective Symposium we organize each spring. We have also arranged a variety of networking events and developed clubs to help other students in the program achieve larger sustainability goals.

What is your favorite class in the MSSM program so far and why?

If I had to choose a favorite class, I would probably say Global Environmental Markets. I think the class did an outstanding job of using hands-on exercises like a computer-based carbon trading simulation to drive home important concepts.

How do you intend to utilize your degree from the MSSM program to further your career?

I intend to use my MSSM degree to enhance my prior experience as a project manager. I would especially like to use the new concepts that I have learned in the MSSM program to help promote sustainability as an indispensable business practice.

How has collaborating with your fellow students in projects in the classroom benefitted you professionally and personally?

The MSSM program places a special emphasis on teamwork and collaboration. I have met some remarkable people through class projects. I know that I will continue to benefit from these relationships both personally and professionally in the future because we have used our time in the MSSM program to develop common goals regarding sustainability. I also know that the people I have had the fortune to work with in the classroom will be the same professionals I will be working with in the field.

The 36 credit Master of Science in Sustainability Management program, jointly offered by the Earth Institute and the School of Continuing Education, is designed to meet the growing demand for sustainability managers and train leaders to bridge the gap between the principle of sustainable development and its practice. Please visit the program’s website to learn more, or contact Alyssa Dubov, Program Coordinator.


Learn more about our Master of Science in Sustainability Management Program.


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