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Faculty Profile: Adela Gondek

MS in Sustainability Management Professor Adela Gondek

MS in Sustainability Management professor Adela Gondek has taught at Columbia University for over twenty years, with cross-disciplinary appointments in Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs, School of Continuing Education, and the Earth Institute. She has designed and taught ethics courses with distinct emphases on sustainability, environmentalism, public leadership and organizational management and will be teaching Ethics and Values for Sustainability Management for the fall 2012 semester.

1.  What course do you teach for the MS in Sustainability Management program?

I teach SUMA K4700: Ethics and Values for Sustainability Management.  This course addresses a new group of ethics and values that have evolved in recent times and serve as pillars of sustainability.  If management is squarely balanced upon these pillars, it can be expected to help achieve the sustainability of healthy human lives and societies in correspondingly vital environments.  The course looks at several important dimensions of sustainability management, including its global, ecosystem, regional, organizational, workplace and personal dimensions, and allows students to examine the new ethics, ranging from eco-justice to regional equity to the ethics of care and others, to see what human decisions and actions they demand.

2.  Can you describe the professional skills that students learn in your course?

The professional skills students learn are primarily how to establish, frame and articulate organizational goals in a way that accommodates and respects the new ethics.  Using a template of twelve new ethics, students learn how to identify, assess and rank the stakeholders in organizational decisions, behaviors and actions, namely what the stakeholders’ claims are likely to be; what monitoring mechanisms are apt to demand organizational accountability in relation to these claims; and how such accountability can be realized through the proper formulation and implementation of organizational goals.

3.  What is your professional background?

My academic training is in the field of political science, including both public policy and political thought.  I have taught at Columbia for over twenty years, primarily as an adjunct professor and more recently as a full-time lecturer, with cross-disciplinary appointments in Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), School of Continuing Education (SCE), and the Earth Institute.  I have designed and taught ethics courses with distinct emphases on sustainability, environmentalism, public leadership and organizational management.  Previously I worked in state government, as a legislative aide in the Massachusetts Senate, where I helped to conduct investigations relative to corrections reform and consumer product safety.  While teaching at Columbia, I have continued with consultancy projects in the field of ethics instruction, most recently with the Earth Charter Initiative and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Currently I am working to create an international network of young professionals who are highly involved with the articulation and implementation of ethics, including anti-corruption measures, in both public and private domains of human activity.

4.  What are the most significant trends that you see as a professor in the field of sustainability management?

I would say that the most significant trend in academia is the increased presence of ethics courses, instruction, and centers across a broad spectrum of educational institutions, ranging from values-based lessons taught to schoolchildren to the inclusion of ethics courses within university programs, such as the MS in Sustainability Management. Ethics used to be considerably sequestered in philosophy and religion departments. Now, with the evolution of new ethics and the worldwide demand for ethics in the increasingly wide array of professions and organizations, ethics courses have been developed across many university programs. Ethics are practically inextricable from sustainability management because their predominant concern has been people’s fair share in the environment. The field of sustainability has prompted the recognition and standardization of these ethics, with the rise of monitoring mechanisms by which organizations are held accountable for meeting ethical demands.

5.  What professional advice would you give to your sustainability management students who are not already working in the field of sustainability?

For students who are not currently working in sustainability, my advice would be to seek how their jobs can become more aligned and united with the field.  One can safely posit that any field of endeavor, from hospital administration to fine arts to military activity, can be hugely reformed and improved by attentiveness to sustainability management. This process typically requires creative, imaginative re-thinking. The MS in Sustainability Management program teaches students the skills necessary to accomplish this transformation in organizations, through a combination of internal initiative and external consultation. For students who are not presently employed in the workforce, my advice would be to pursue their dream job but to do so with the hope, aim and dedication to align and unite it with the ethical demands of sustainability practice.

The MS in Sustainability Management, co-sponsored by the Earth Institute and Columbia’s School of Continuing Education, trains students to tackle complex and pressing environmental and managerial challenges. The MS in Sustainability Management program requires the successful completion of 36 credit points. Those credit points are divided among five comprehensive content areas: integrative sustainability management, economics and quantitative analysis, the physical dimensions of sustainability, the public policy environment of sustainability management, and general and financial management. Please visit our website to learn more about the program.

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