Sustainability Management Alum Transitions to Career in Public Sector
Master of Science in Sustainability Management alum Harry McLellan (’14) has always had an interest in the built environment. Prior to joining the program, he worked as a construction lawyer for 25 years. Now, working as a Senior Counsel in the Law Department of the City of New York’s Commercial and Real Estate Litigation Division, Harry hopes to integrate environmental concerns by promoting public works projects.
1. What is your current job?
After working as a construction lawyer in private law practice for 25 years, I recently accepted a position in the public sector on the legal staff of the Law Department of the City of New York as a Senior Counsel in the Commercial and Real Estate Litigation Division. In addition, I am an advocate of green building and sustainable design teaching construction law as an adjunct professor at Seton Hall University School of Law and New York University, and serving as General Counsel to the New Jersey Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council.
2. Do your current job responsibilities align with the professional goals that you originally had when you began the MSSM program?
Yes. I enrolled in the MSSM program to broaden my knowledge of sustainability, and to gain employment opportunities in a major organization committed to sustainability in the built environment. My focus was predominantly on the legal aspects of green building and sustainable design, and my influence was limited because I worked in a small private law firm. Now, representing the City of New York I am afforded a broad platform from which I may address sustainability issues, and I am provided the opportunity to offer solutions for sustainability initiatives that could significantly benefit the community.
3. What skills has the MSSM program taught you that you think have proven useful to your current position?
The interdisciplinary approach of the MSSM program expanded my perspective on sustainability and provided me with a deeper understanding of the issues related to construction. By exploring cutting-edge technologies and solutions I am current with the latest advances in sustainable development. For example, through one of my classes I became certified as a LEED accredited professional, furnishing me with an additional level of expertise relating to LEED certified projects. This is particularly useful in my current position because of the requirement that certain NYC funded new construction and reconstruction projects must meet LEED Certification standards.
4. What skills and tools do you hope to acquire through this job?
I hope to acquire the skills necessary to become a persuasive public advocate and an effective public manager. I look forward to developing these tools to make sustainability an ordinary part of how the Law Department represents the City of New York.
5. How has collaborating with your fellow students in class projects benefitted you professionally and personally?
Throughout my career, I have been mostly involved with local and regional issues. In the MSSM program, I was fortunate to meet and work with Columbia’s diverse student body which has widened my point of view on how environmental concerns affect the national and world communities. This experience has encouraged me to apply my skills on a larger scale, and I believe it will assist me in representing the City of New York with its diverse groups of stakeholders. I also feel personally enriched by the relationships that I have fostered with like-minded professionals seeking to influence their respective industries.
6. What kinds of environmental initiatives do you hope to start in your new position?
I hope to integrate environmental concerns in the Commercial and Real Estate Litigation Division of the New York City Law Department by promoting extraordinary public works projects. This could change the way people use and think about the built environment. Prominent green buildings serve as models of sustainability by representing commitments to environmental stewardship, healthy communities, and economic success. The design, construction, and operation of green buildings drive change by positively affecting those who work there, benefitting communities, and influencing private developers to build sustainably.
7. How do you intend to utilize your degree from the MSSM program to further your career?
I wish to stay connected with the MSSM program and my fellow Alumni to serve as career resources and potential partners in promoting the importance of sustainability in society.
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 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. Visit our website to learn more.