Letter from the Executive Director of the Earth Institute

Over the last few years I have witnessed and helped lead the growth of sustainability and environmentally focused programs here at the Earth Institute and Columbia University. These programs include an undergraduate major in sustainable development, multiple professional masters programs, a Ph.D. in sustainable development and master’s level certificates in sustainability analytics, sustainable water management, and coming soon, sustainable finance. The growth of these programs represents a larger transformation already under way in society. Although I may be biased from my position as an educator in these programs, it is undeniable that a societal shift in thought is taking place. Young people, in particular, are increasingly accepting both the realities of the crisis in sustainability and the opportunities that sustainability generates.

steve headshot

Steven Cohen, Executive Director

The development of these education programs is a key element of the transition to a sustainable economy. Our students become leaders in every field, helping make this critical change. Unique among interdisciplinary environmental programs, we require our students to understand the physical dimensions of sustainability (science, engineering and architecture) so that they are equipped to tackle the complex challenges facing our planet, devising, implementing, managing and communicating solutions to these problems.

This growing interest in sustainability education indicates a positive trend not just for those individuals in the programs, but also for the nation and the world.  As an educator, I see students every day who are dedicated to learning the theories and craft of sustainable development. My job is to provide students the tools to drive sustainable change. These students are energized, mission-driven, smart, and equipped with the skills to succeed where past efforts have failed— and for these reasons, I am optimistic about the future of the discipline and for the health of our planet.

In the fiscal year 2014, the Earth Institute launched and continued to grow programs in sustainability education that are changing the way the next generation of sustainability professionals will go about their work, especially as the green job market continues to grow. I hope you’ll enjoy learning more about the impact of this expansive and thriving field on the job market and our nation’s future.