2014 Course and Program Highlights


The Earth Institute offers a cadre of unique and innovative programs in support of student objectives in fulfillment of its mission to devise solutions for global sustainable development. Fellowship and internship programs offer students hands-on opportunities to utilize their growing skill set on the ground, and innovative educational events promote a wider public understanding of the issues of sustainability in addition to further educating and engaging Columbia students.

This year, the Columbia University community achieved unprecedented access to information on the critical Clean Air Act of 1970 and how the lessons of its passage can inform future legislative efforts in the United States. In their first undertaking as professors, authors of the Clean Air Act Thomas Jorling and Leon Billings taught Origins of Environmental Law during the Fall semester, in addition to being featured as speakers in a public panel discussion at the School of International and Public Affairs.

In the semester-long Practicum in Innovative Sustainability Leadership, Earth Institute Executive Director Steven Cohen gave students a front-row seat to a variety of careers in sustainable development with weekly guest speakers from various industries and organizations that have prioritized sustainability. The Spring semester’s speakers included Howard Buffett, executive director of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation and a former policy adviser in the Executive Office of the President of the United States, and Al Iannuzzi, senior director of Environment, Health, and Sustainability at Johnson & Johnson. The Practicum speakers were chosen based on their expertise in the field of innovative solutions to management concerns.

Students eager to apply the skills and knowledge gleaned from such courses as these were given ample opportunity through the multiple fellowship and internship programs the Earth Institute offers in partnership with other Columbia schools. In the fall, 14 graduate students studying sustainability management were selected for the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) Climate Corps Fellowship program, where they worked for 10 weeks this summer as part of esteemed organizations, companies, and cities. Climate Corps fellows endeavor to be energy managers, and it has been measured that, since the program’s inception in 2008, Climate Corps fellows have found opportunities to cut 1.7 billion kilowatt hours of electricity.

Recognizing the value of international field experience, the Global Fellowship in Sustainable Development offers undergraduates in Columbia’s sustainable development program the ability to put their ideas into practice in the field, thanks to a generous gift to the Earth Institute from Steven and Roberta Denning. Projects include sustainable development special concentrator Shayna Orens’s fellowship in Argentina, where she conducted research on the expansion of the soy model, and sustainable development major Alyssa Menz’s research in Kenya, where she examined the country’s farming practices and relationship with wildlife.

For graduate students, the Pulitzer Internship program gives burgeoning experts the chance to conduct international fieldwork and assist with projects in Millennium Villages. This year’s projects took seven students to four different Millennium Villages across Africa, in Malawi, Senegal, Rwanda, and Uganda. Toyah Barigye, a sustainability management student, assisted with an infrastructure development project in Uganda, while Lindsee Gregory, a Teachers College student, used her educational and research background to conduct an assessment of high drop-out rates among boys in Uganda.

Through projects such as these, Columbia University and the Earth Institute are training the next generation of leaders in the field of sustainable development and management, in addition to educating the public.

The Earth Institute is grateful to its supporters for making these and other educational initiatives possible.