Sustainability Management Student Inspired to Combat Climate Change

by | 2.22.2013 at 5:15pm
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M.S. in Sustainability Management Student Emily Dawson

Current M.S. in Sustainability Management (MSSM) student Emily Dawson credits her parents and undergraduate studies at Middlebury College with instilling an interest in sustainability and sense of urgency for our warming planet.  As a student in the program, Emily hopes to gain the practical skills and managerial training necessary to launch a career in climate science.

1. What drew you to the Master of Science in Sustainability Management program?

My interest in sustainability stems from two major influences on my life: (1) my parents, who opted to create a home environment for my siblings and me that involved raising chickens, keeping bees, growing vegetables, and composting; and (2), my undergraduate experience as a Geology major at Middlebury College in Vermont, which exposed me to the world of earth sciences research and to prominent environmental leaders like Bill McKibben. I was drawn to this program in particular because of its flexible and interdisciplinary curriculum that permits students to focus on their area of interest – for me, that meant climate science – while instilling in them practical skills and managerial training. Additionally, the caliber of professors and researchers at the Earth Institute is hard to come by elsewhere!

2. What inspired you to work in sustainability?

I was inspired to pursue a career in sustainability by the predicament of our warming planet. Climate change is the most pressing issue my generation is likely to face, and I therefore feel compelled to play a role in addressing this. Working in sustainability helps to reduce, even if on a small scale, the stressors we currently place on our planet.

3. What is an example of how you have applied something specific you have learned in the program thus far to your professional endeavors?

This past summer, I worked as a Stewardship Development intern at a land investment, development, and conservation firm in Denver, Colorado. In this capacity, I was tasked with conducting a feasibility assessment for a regenerative agriculture institute. I drew upon my knowledge of ecosystems interactions, sustainable farming, economic principles, and organizational frameworks, much of which I had acquired through my education here at Columbia, in completing this assessment. My memo writing skills even came in handy!

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

Now that I am in my final semester, I can say with confidence that my favorite class in the MSSM program was the Earth Institute Practicum. This class was unique in that it exposed students to the wide variety of world-class research going on here at Columbia. The breadth of knowledge – or at the very least – awareness, about sustainability issues and strategies for addressing them that students acquire through this class is at the heart of the MSSM program. Even now, a year and a half later, I still refer to my notes from this class in referencing researchers’ work. The opportunity to take classes like the Earth Institute Practicum, in my mind, is what sets our program apart from others.

5. What aspect of the MSSM program do you think will be the most beneficial with regard to your career?

I think the aspect of the MSSM program that will be most beneficial to my career is the Capstone Workshop. This class is an exercise in teamwork, dedication, and patience – all of which come into play in the working world. The Workshop also requires students to problem-solve using less-than-perfect information and under significant time constraints, which offers many valuable lessons.   

The M.S. in Sustainability Management, co-sponsored by the Earth Institute and Columbia’s School of Continuing Education, trains students to tackle complex and pressing environmental and managerial challenges. The M.S. in Sustainability Management program requires the successful completion of 36 credit points. Those credit points are divided among five comprehensive content areas: integrative sustainability management, economics and quantitative analysis, the physical dimensions of sustainability, the public policy environment of sustainability management, and general and financial management. Please visit our website to learn more about the program.


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


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