State of the Planet

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MS Student Makes the Case for a More Sustainable Future

MS in Sustainability Management student Mikael Amar
MS in Sustainability Management student Mikael Amar

Prior to joining the M.S. in Sustainability Management program, current student Mikael Amar was working for the corporate culture reform and strategic business development efforts for the Abdul Latif Jameel Group, the largest independent distributor of Toyota in the world. While working for ALJ, Mikael   witnessed how the economic climate can negatively affect people’s willingness to focus resources on sustainability. Mikael chose the MSSM program because he believed that its focus on quantitative, scientific, and managerial skills would allow him to achieve his ultimate goal which is to increase the awareness and endorsement of sustainability and long-term planning in organizations.

1. What is your current job and what are the responsibilities associated with your position?

I recently completed an eight-month internship with the NYC Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability (OLTPS), during which I worked on the final Inventory of New York City Greenhouse Gas Emissions published under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Using the GHG accounting and reporting skills that I acquired in Jon Dickinson’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Measuring and Minimizing the Carbon Footprint course, I was responsible for the procurement, analysis, and visualization of complex consumption and emissions datasets from dozens of municipal government and community sources. I also spearheaded PlaNYC’s first GIS spatial analysis of building emissions-intensity and emissions from household consumption.

2. What drew you to the Master of Science in Sustainability Management program?

While working in Europe and the MENA region on the corporate culture reform and strategic business development efforts for the Abdul Latif Jameel Group, the largest independent distributor of Toyota in the world, I witnessed the economic climate that negatively affects people’s willingness to focus resources on environmental amelioration. I applied to MSSM because I wanted to inspire people to strive for more while augmenting their confidence in sustainability-focused initiatives.

3. What is your favorite class, and how have you applied what you’ve learned in the MSSM program thus far?

The courses teaching transferable, quantitative, research-oriented, hard skills are especially enjoyable for me. I took Dara Mendeloff’s GIS for Sustainability Management class during my internship at OLTPS and was able to immediately apply new mapping techniques at work each week. Lucius Riccio’s Decision Models and Management course teaches organizational and process optimization, as well as the importance of maintaining functional data management systems, allowing me to innovate at OLTPS by creating a new automated data-input template to facilitate the creation of NYC’s future GHG Inventories. Such valuable classes provide instant validation that their lessons are giving you a competitive advantage.

4. What do you think is the most important sustainability challenge?

There are people who accept climate change as an anthropogenic issue but may not know what they should do about it. Others disbelieve its existence entirely. Combating the inaccuracies—like when “Where’s your global warming now?” is asked during a harsh winter—is a daily struggle for sustainability’s proponents. Future sustainability managers need to make this technical subject more accessible to the common person through effective communication, and MSSM teaches just that. Due to its complexity, however, climate change could be replaced by air-quality or energy-savings as the motivating factor when inspiring people to take action and mitigate climate change risks.

5. What do you intend to do professionally once you achieve your degree?

Having worked in both the private and the public sectors, I could see myself continuing in either one. “All jobs are green jobs,” a concept taught in MSSM, means that any individual in any type of organization can learn to treat others equitably, conserve resources, and optimize operations. My goal, similar to what drew me to MSSM, is to contribute to the advancement of the global population’s awareness and endorsement of sustainability, resiliency, long-term planning, and continuous improvement. I plan to capitalize on my passions for communication and engagement efforts, creative marketing, and educational social media outreach wherever I am.

6. What do you think is the most beneficial aspect of the MSSM program with regard to your career?

MSSM surrounds students with the most influential people in the field of sustainability—and classmates who have resolved to become nothing less—at a prestigious Ivy-League institution in the “Capital of the World.” The Sustainability Leadership Practicum taught by George Sarrinikolaou and Steven Cohen enlightens us as to potential career paths and the skills needed to effect change. Susanne DesRoches, my Capstone team’s Advisor, challenges us to think innovatively but with purpose throughout the problem-solving process of working with real-world clients. Ultimately, MSSM transforms individual students into a network of mavens eager to spread their knowledge and make a difference.

7. Beyond the classroom, what extracurricular sustainability related activities have you engaged in with your fellow Sustainability Management students?

As the inaugural VP of Marketing and Communication for the Sustainability Management chapter of Net Impact (SUMANI), I helped to plan Columbia’s first Hult Prize Qualifier Competition and other cross-disciplinary collaborative events. I also manage the SUMANI website and facebook page while creating captivating marketing materials that advertise our social gatherings and educational symposiums.

The M.S. 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 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. Visit our website to learn more.  

Banner featuring a collage of extreme heat images.

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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