Students Learn from Leading Sustainability Practitioners In Practicum Course

by |November 22, 2019
George Sarrinikolaou teaches the Practicum in Innovative Sustainability Leadership

George Sarrinikolaou teaches the Practicum in Innovative Sustainability Leadership

A dozen leading sustainability practitioners are coming to Columbia University in the Spring 2020 semester to take up a fundamental question of sustainability management: how to change organizations by integrating sustainability concerns in the way that they operate.

The question is at the center of the Practicum in Innovative Sustainability Leadership, a course in the Master of Science in Sustainability Management program. Over the last six years, the course has hosted tens of practitioners, who are at the forefront of sustainability practice in business, government and public sector.

Each class meeting begins with practitioners and students discussing the work that it takes to make sustainability a strategic consideration of organization. In the second hour, George Sarrinikolaou, the course instructor, leads a student-only discussion, which is geared toward identifying the management strategies that practitioners use to improve sustainability performance.

“We focus on the application of management to advance sustainability, but we also think critically about the role of management is achieving the kind of transformation that’s necessary,” says Sarrinikolaou, who is himself a longtime sustainability manager.

By the end of the course, the students gain an understanding of management tools and strategies that they themselves can use to integrate sustainability in organizations. A 10-minute break between the first and second hour of class time provides an opportunity to students to speak informally with the guest practitioners.

In the Spring 2020 semester, the practitioners who will address the practicum will represent an array of sectors, including city government, technology, publishing, consulting, and community development. They will include sustainability veterans such as Steve Nicholas, the former sustainability director of the City of Seattle, as well as members of a new generation of practitioners, such as Lacey Shaver of the World Resources Institute and Emmanuelle Humblet of Apple.

The course is open to graduate students and undergraduates who want to learn how successful sustainability practitioners work, and who are eager to engage them in discussion. Students in the Sustainability Management program must take the course for three credits. Other students have one-credit and a three-credit options.

Here is the complete list of practicum speakers for Spring 2020:

  • Steve Nicholas, Vice President, U.S. Program, Institute for Sustainable Communities
  • Bill Barry & John Sargent, Macmillan
  • Al Iannuzzi, Vice President, Sustainability, Estee Lauder Companies
  • Stefan Knupfer, Senior Partner, McInsey & Company
  • Raghu Sudhakara, Section Manager, Regulatory Strategy and Stakeholder Engagement, Con Edison
  • Donna Givens, CEO and President, Eastside Community Network
  • Lisa McNeilly, Director of Sustainability, City of Baltimore
  • Meredith McDermott, Director of Sustainability, NYC Department of Education
  • Joseph Daniel, Senior Energy Analyst, Union of Concerned Scientists
  • Dr. Renee Lertzman
  • Lacey Shaver, City Renewable Energy Manager, World Resources Institute
  • Emmanuelle Humblet, Environment, Policy & Social Initiatives, Apple

The M.S. in Sustainability Management, co-sponsored by the Earth Institute and Columbia’s School of Professional Studies, trains students to tackle complex and pressing environmental and managerial challenges. Visit the website to learn more.

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