State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

MPA Student Prepares for Green Building Career

MPA-ESP Class of 2012 member Alyssa Zucker joined the program because she wanted to redirect her environmental focus towards energy efficiency in order to prepare for a career in green buildings.

After receiving her B.A. in Environmental Science from Washington University, Alyssa Zucker went on to work as a Sustainability Strategist with Triangle Services, and later as a Business Development Associate at a renewable energy company called Rentricity. Alyssa Zucker joined the MPA in Environmental Science and Policy Class of 2012 because she wanted to redirect her environmental focus towards energy efficiency. After graduation this May, Alyssa aims to pursue a career in New York City related to green buildings and energy efficiency so that she can put into practice the industry-specific skills and policy and management experience that she learned in the MPA-ESP program.

1. What drew you to the Master of Public Administration in Environmental Science and Policy program (MPA-ESP)?

I was attracted to the curriculum design of the MPA-ESP program because it was divided evenly between environmental science and domestic and international policy.  I also appreciate the opportunity to take business courses and explore alternative approaches to the environmental field.

2. What were you doing before you started the program?

I was working at a renewable energy company in New York called Rentricity that specializes in-pipe hydrokinetic energy recovery systems to capture energy generally lost through water utility distribution systems.  My work focused on project analysis and feasibility studies as well as research into the policy incentives available in various states for this class of renewable technology.

3. What area of environmental policy and management are you most interested in?

I’m most interested in energy efficiency and green building design – especially in NYC where the built environment has proven to serve as functional structures, in addition to providing a beautiful landscape and an engineered ecosystem!

4. What skills and tools do you hope to acquire through the program?

Through the program, I have become more familiar with the functional nuts and bolts of policy formation and implementation as well as the research and data collection required in formulating specific policies and program initiatives.

5. What is your favorite class in the MPA-ESP program so far, and why?

I would have to say that it is a tie between the Climatology course taught by Jason Smerdon, and my elective this semester, Dynamics of Energy Efficiency with Luke Falk.  In Climatology, it was fascinating to learn about the physical and chemical relationships governing our planet because it put real truths behind the scenarios and events we observe everyday.  With regard to Dynamics of Energy Efficiency, I like that the class offers such a thorough account of how and why buildings operate and are constructed as they are. This class is also great because I can take what I learn and apply it to the context of the NYC skyline!

6. How has collaborating with your fellow students in class projects benefitted you professionally and personally?

Group collaboration is one of my favorite aspects of the MPA-ESP program.  I think it’s an incredibly valuable exercise to prepare us for professional working environments, especially in our field where collaboration and inter-agency work is so essential in achieving success.  I also have a sense of personal pride for all of the incredibly accomplished and brilliant colleagues I have had the opportunity to work with throughout the program.  Everyone has such diverse backgrounds and knowledge that just speaking with everyone is a learning experience within itself.

7. Beyond the classroom, what, if any, extracurricular sustainability-related activities have you engaged in with your fellow Environmental Science and Policy students?

In addition to the class field trips we went on including the renowned Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, and sustainably engineered Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, I have attended fascinating speaker series and panel discussions. Take for instance, the Columbia University Energy Symposium where experts from the public, non-profit, and private sectors shared their perspectives and experiences in addressing the most prominent social and environmental issues facing our planet like climate change, natural resource shortages, and energy crises.

8. How do you intend to utilize your degree from the MPA-ESP program to further your career?

I hope to combine the technical, industry-specific skills with the policy and management experience that I have gained from the program to pursue a career here in NYC working with green buildings and energy efficiency. Having been exposed to the degree of collaboration between government agencies and local businesses, I intend to utilize city policies and incentives in order to maximize sustainable enterprise in the private sector.

Students in the MPA in Environmental Science & Policy program enroll in a year-long, 54-credit program offered at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, in partnership with the Earth Institute. Throughout this one year program, students are immersed in courses that combine Columbia University’s hands-on approach to teaching public policy and administration with pioneering thinking about the environment. During the summer semester, students learn the fundamentals of environmental science, while the fall and spring semesters focus on teaching the policy and economics necessary to becoming successful environmental analysts and managers. The 62 students come from a wide variety of backgrounds ranging from Sociology to Engineering and come to us from 17 different countries. Please visit our website to learn more about the program.


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