State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

MPA Students Engage with Professionals

career development panel
MPA ESP students engage with professionals from a variety of sectors.

On July 31, students from the Master of Public Administration in Environmental Science and Policy program (MPA-ESP) met with representatives from diverse professional fields for a Career Development Panel. Moderated by Monica Pham (MPA-ESP ’13 Alum), this panel displayed the breadth of career opportunities available to those pursuing this degree and allowed students the opportunity to see how their ESP degree will have them interacting with professionals across a variety of sectors. It gave the students the opportunity to see the potential far-reaching applications of a degree in Environmental Science and Policy.

The panel began with presentations by Benjamin Bostick, a Lamont associate research professor and the environmental chemistry instructor for MPA ESP, and Beizhan Yan, from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. They focused on the application of science to solving global issues related to sustainability as well as on tips for continuing a scientific education after graduation. Bostick and Yan displayed the critical links between scientific inquiry and the development of rational and responsible policy solutions.

Jay Safer, a partner from Locke Lord LLP, then delivered a presentation on the good done by lawyers, and the importance of their involvement in the formulation of policy. “While Shakespeare famously wrote that a good first step is killing all the lawyers,” said Safer, “I’m not sure he took into account the protection they supply to the poor and repressed in the world.”  Safer also spoke about his experiences in a large, multinational law firm and the great potential for change that large firms can wield.

While hedge fund management does not immediately jump to mind when one thinks of an MPA, Meaghan Mahoney of River Birch Capital LLC showed how financial management can be a crucial aspect of sustainable development and public welfare. “I felt a little morally conflicted when I first began my career,” said Mahoney, “but I soon saw how financial institutions could be a powerful force for change in the world.”

Matthew Gorton of the NYC Mayor’s Office gave valuable advice to students regarding finding their preferred careers, stating “While it’s unlikely you’ll ever find the ‘perfect’ job, put yourself in the situations where you want to be and you’ll be surprised at how lucky you can get.”  Gorton serves as a senior advisor for intergovernmental affairs for the City of New York.

The panel ended with MSNBC host Veronica De La Cruz, who spoke about the power of personal stories to drive activism. Veronica’s direct experiences of dealing with the health care issues faced by her brother as well as single motherhood drove her to development campaigns such as the Stand Up, Man Up Initiative, and she demonstrated how passion and personal involvement in an issue can be incredible tools for motivating others.

“It was nice to get some insight into multiple career fields, but I also appreciated the panelists’ confirmation that you don’t need to find your dream job immediately, but that putting yourself in an environment where you are motivated and personally involved will lead you to something special down the road,” said Katie Edmond, a member of the MPA ESP Class of 2014.

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