State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School


Student Profile: Victoria Rosoff

When you hear “Client Service Manager for JPMorgan Chase,” you may not think of the interactions between climate and society. Yet, that is the position that Victoria Rosoff held when she applied for the M.A. Program in Climate and Society. Victoria said, “My classes and my program-related internship throughout the year at Columbia’s International Research Institute for Climate and Society definitely inspired me to work in a field that focuses on ways to mitigate and adapt to climate change,” says Victoria.

Advances in climate modeling and prediction have changed the landscape of human knowledge. For drought-stricken farmers of the developing world, shantytown dwellers at the mercy of hurricanes and mud slides, governments trying to make the most of limited resources as they strive for development, and the multibillion dollar insurance and food industries, this new scientific knowledge can offer better ways to respond to the problems and opportunities created by a varying climate. But decision makers must understand how to make effective use of this new knowledge. The director of the M.A. Program in Climate and Society, Mark Cane, asserts, “The need for professionals who understand the links between climate and society is acute, and grows ever more so as human activity alters the global atmosphere. The Columbia M.A. in Climate and Society will give you the knowledge and skills to meet this need.”

The M.A. Program in Climate and Society, housed in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University, is a unique 12-month interdisciplinary master’s program that offers its students the opportunity to learn about climate science and policy from the physical and social science perspectives. Students take electives within various schools at Columbia, including public health, international affairs and engineering, in order to gain a better understanding of the impacts of climate variability and climate change on society and the environment.

A set of tailor-made core courses provides a scientific basis for inquiry, and stress interdisciplinary problem-solving. The core courses include: Dynamics of Climate Variability and Change; Regional Climate and Climate Impacts; Quantitative Models of Climate-Sensitive Natural and Human Systems; and Seminar: Managing and Adapting to Climate. A professional development seminar and a choice between a summer internship or research thesis complete the required core.

Victoria Rosoff completed her summer internship requirement as a finance intern at Trickle Up, a nonprofit organization based in New York that provides business training and seed capital grants to help the extreme poor launch microenterprises. Trickle Up starts or expands more than 10,000 businesses every year. When she finishes her internship at Trickle Up, Victoria plans to look for a job in which she can apply the skills and knowledge she gains in the M.A. program.

“The program surpassed my expectations. The most surprising element of the degree program was the flexibility to choose from any electives that you wanted.  This is what I think made the program unique; you could really tailor it to focus on your specific interests, coupled with an interesting core curriculum that taught you everything about climate change, the science behind it and climate forecasting,” says Victoria.

The M.A. Program in Climate and Society teaches students how to apply climate-related knowledge to societal problem-solving, explain the workings of the climate system and communicate effectively with scientists and policymakers. Students in the program gain these skills and knowledge through a customized set of core courses, one social science elective in the fall semester and three electives from any relevant discipline in the spring semester.

“What interested me the most about the Earth Institute was also that which appealed to me about the Climate and Society program, which was the application of science to policy and development,” says Victoria. She notes that she enjoyed taking advantage of the rich variety of programming, especially the regular lectures offered by Columbia University, the Earth Institute and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, a unit of the Earth Institute. “The approach of both the program and the Earth Institute is all-encompassing and takes into account the perspectives and knowledge from different fields and specialties that should be working together towards sustainable development worldwide.”

With the graduation of the Class of 2008, the program has now graduated a total of 74 students from all over the world who go on to pursue careers in nonprofit, public and private organizations, as well as continue their academic careers. Some organizations that alumni are working for include: United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Global Village Energy Partnership, the Climate Group, California Climate Action Registry, Pew Center on Global Climate Change, Irwin Engineers, and Clean Tech Group, LLC.  Alumni have also gone on to Ph.D. programs in Public Health (UCLA), Political Science (UC Irvine), and Atmospheric Science (MIT), Environmental Engineering (Columbia), and Geography (UC Santa Barbara, Michigan State, Rutgers).


The M.A. in Climate and Society is offered through the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Columbia University.

For more information on the M.A. in Climate and Society Program, visit

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Recent record-breaking heat waves have affected communities across the world. The Extreme Heat Workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners to advance the state of knowledge, identify community needs, and develop a framework for evaluating risks with a focus on climate justice. Register by June 15

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