Alumni Spotlight: Diana McCarthy-Bercury Leads Sustainability in Branford, CT

by Chandler Precht |August 18, 2020

The Alumni Spotlight series includes interviews with Earth Institute alumni about their career paths, how they became interested in Earth Institute programs, and any advice that would be useful to current and future students.

Diana McCarthy-Bercury portrait

Diana McCarthy-Bercury is an alum of the MS in Sustainability Management program at Columbia University.

Diana McCarthy-Bercury, an alumna of the Master of Science in Sustainability Management Program (‘16), has more than 15 years of professional experience with renewable energy programs and community outreach. She recently became the sustainability and compliance manager for the Town of Branford, CT. Combining her robust training in utility projects and successful work with municipalities, she is motivated to develop and implement comprehensive sustainability goals with communities in mind. In the interview below, she discusses her new job and sustainability work for the Town of Branford, provides career advice for students, and describes how she applies her Columbia education and capstone experience every day.

What do you enjoy the most about your current position? 

The best thing about my new role is the people I get to work with on projects. This town is very progressive and intentional. They are planning 100 years out for climate change and impacts on coastal resiliency, energy, natural resources and water.

What projects or goals are you currently working on? 

I am helping the town earn its first sustainability certification — stay tuned! Presently, I am working on a special project to develop a sustainability incubator to help emerging sustainability professionals develop their future career paths.

What aspects of the  Sustainability Management program do you feel best prepared you for the workforce? 

Getting to know my fellow SUMA peers has helped build my professional network. I speak with a classmate at least once a day about my work. Whether I am working on a local project in agriculture, energy, water and recycling, financing renewables, microgrids—I can call a SUMA colleague to help me find the answers I need.

Are you able to utilize any skills/knowledge from the program in your day-to-day activities? 

Yes, everyday! Capstone project management skills are used every day as I collaborate with many groups and committees on a variety of topics. Having had the option to study a wide array of subjects and courses like greenhouse gas accounting, sustainable agriculture, sustainability management, science of sustainable water, energy and sustainable development, and sustainable cities, the Integrative Capstone Workshop was a great experience for me, and I apply those project management skills daily.

How did you find your current position? 

I stumbled upon the job posting on the Connecticut Council of Municipalities website when doing research for a client. I also own my sustainability management firm with fellow SUMA graduates.

What resources/methods did you find most useful when searching for a job?

I liked to check out jobs listed on the green jobs network. I would craft my resume and cover letter using jobscan.co, which helps you match your experience with the key skills of the job description. I always use my CU email address.

What tips do you have for students currently in the program? 

Work on building strong relationships with your classmates, who will be the foundation of your professional network. Always reach out to SUMA alumni to broaden your network. I have reached out for help from SUMA alumni [who attended the program] before my time at CU and mentored SUMA students who are currently in school.

Chandler Precht is a program manager at the Earth Institute and a current graduate student in Columbia University’s M.S. in Sustainability Science Program.

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