Student Profile: Victoria Wagner Mastrobuono

by |January 29, 2016

VWM_PicBy combining her legal experience in her native Brazil with skills developed in the MPA in Environmental Science and Policy program, Victoria Wagner Mastrobuono hopes to work to promote tangible improvements in governance and more equitable and sustainable practices.

1. What drew you to the Master of Public Administration in Environmental Science and Policy program (MPA-ESP)?
In my work as a lawyer in the environmental field in the private sector in Brazil I have experienced first-hand the complex challenges faced by the public and private sectors in implementing and complying with environmental policies and regulations. A clearly evident and important challenge is that implementation of a great number of environmental regulations is hindered by a lack of clarity on technical definitions and policies. My career vision is to participate in the ongoing dialogue between stakeholders to create new solutions for related environmental issues and in the implementation of the ideas that arise from it, playing a meaningful role in more targeted and effective environmental regulation and policy making to help overcome these challenges. To accomplish this I needed to complement my legal and regulatory background with a comprehensive understanding of policy-making tools, which drove my decision to pursue the MPA ESP Program. The science component of the Program was also a decisive factor, since it provided me with knowledge on the fundamental science behind environmental problems, necessary to guide effective policy making and regulation.

2. What were you doing before you started the program?
Prior to coming to Columbia University I was head of environmental practice of a law firm in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where I advised national and international clients in matters pertaining to environmental liability, licensing, forestry legislation, pollution control, solid waste, and social and environmental legal compliance of energy, mining, and port infrastructure projects, amongst others. I also completed a master’s program in infrastructure law in 2014, which gave me a strong understanding of the environmental challenges faced by the public and private sectors in planning and executing infrastructure and development projects that have significant impact on the planet, as well as the economic and financial aspects related to these projects.

3. What area of environmental policy and management are you most interested in?
I am most interested in the areas of energy, water and sanitation, and resource management, in which Brazil still faces great challenges, and that are directly related to issues of development and equity. Access to natural resources, energy, water, and sanitation evoke questions such as what are the levels of ecological and social impacts society is willing to tolerate, what should be the direction of national energy policies, who is entitled to decide on usage of natural resources and so on, matters which need to be addressed at a policy level.

4. What skills and tools do you hope to acquire through the program?
I hope to solidify skills of working with multidisciplinary teams, and the capacity to integrate different perspectives needed for working towards building solutions for environmental challenges. I also seek a deep understanding of the decision making processes behind the formulation of policies and regulation.

5. What is your favorite class in the MPA-ESP program so far, and why?
The science courses in the summer semester gave a solid and comprehensive background of the fundamental science behind environmental issues in a short period of time. For me, another big attraction of the Program is the wide range of electives to be chosen from, which include courses on energy, urban planning, water management, and leadership skills, taught by professors with great practical skills and experiences beyond the strict academic sphere, giving students invaluable insights.

6. How do you intend to utilize your degree from the MPA-ESP program to further your career?
Combining my background and the skills acquired through the Program, I intend to seek opportunities in the environmental and energy fields that combine strategical thinking and planning, and holistic approaches to problem solving, structuring intelligent and effective solutions for complex issues of public interest such as energy, water and sanitation, and transportation infrastructure implementation and management, natural resource management, or urban planning, to promote tangible improvements in governance and more equitable and sustainable practices.

After the program I will be headed to Geneva, Switzerland for a summer internship with global policy as part of the Duke University Program on Global Policy and Governance, in the Environment, Energy, and Economics track, and the MPA-ESP was an important factor to enable this important next step.


Students in the MPA in Environmental Science and Policy program enroll in a year-long, 54-credit program offered at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, in partnership with the Earth Institute.

Since it began in 2002, the MPA in Environmental Science and Policy program has given students the hands-on experience, and the analytical and decision-making tools to implement effective environmental and sustainable management policies. The program’s 741 graduates have advanced to jobs in domestic and international environmental policy, working in government, private and non-profit sectors. Their work involves issues of sustainability, resource use and global change, in fields focused on air, water, climate, energy efficiency, food, agriculture, transportation and waste management. They work as consultants, advisers, project managers, program directors, policy analysts, teachers, researchers and environmental scientists and engineers.

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