State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Sustainability Management Student Association Welcomes New President

M.S. in Sustainability Management student Prerna Chatterjee
M.S. in Sustainability Management student Prerna Chatterjee

Current M.S. in Sustainability Management student Prerna Chatterjee first became interested in sustainability when she worked as a Carbon Footprint Analyst in Germany after earning her undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering. Recently, Prerna was elected to be the President of the Sustainability Management Student Association where she and her fellow board members work to keep MSSM students connected to the field outside of the classroom through organizing a variety of professional and networking events throughout the academic year. Prerna believes that sustainability should be considered a way of life and hopes that the program will prepare her to bring this philosophy to the work she does after graduation.

1. Are you currently working in the field of Sustainability? If so, what are the responsibilities associated with your position?  

I am working as an intern at the Dow Chemical Company, in Michigan, as a Life Cycle Assessment expert. My mandate is to create LCA models for one of their products across North America, formulate a report, get it verified and publish the findings as an Environmental Product Declaration. 

2. What drew you to the Master of Science in Sustainability Management (MSSM)?

After graduating with a B.Tech degree in Mechanical Engineering from India, I worked for a year as a Carbon Footprint Analyst in Germany. That’s where I became totally committed to Sustainability and realized how much there was to learn in this vast field. When I found out about this program at Columbia, I knew instantly that this was the program for me.

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

After completing the program, I would like to advise and rate companies in terms of their sustainability. I do feel I will have gained the required skill sets to do so after the completion of this program. Sustainability Reporting is another area I intend to explore.

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

In my opinion, the most important sustainability challenge is how the world perceives “sustainability”. Sustainability doesn’t always mean expensive or green or another marketing strategy or term. Rather, it should be looked upon as a way of life. There has definitely been progress but the sustainable lifestyle still has a long way to go.

5. What skills and tools have you acquired through the program so far?

So far, I have taken away a lot of valuable tools from the program. I have learned about the financial skill sets required to analyze a corporation’s green project, as well as how to project the net savings and its potential impact on the corporation’s share price. In addition, I have had experience designing a net zero green building, calculating energy costs from different sources and projecting the benefits and growth of various technological advancements in the field. Lastly, I have gained a lot of practice writing Reports in accordance with GRI guidelines.

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

Our program provides numerous extracurricular activities for the benefit of students, like the Sustainability Management Student Association (SUMASA) of which I am currently the president. The SUMASA Board conducts a wide range of professional and networking events throughout the year. Events like the Edible Plant Walking tour, GRI training program and various symposiums help students stay connected to the field outside the classroom.

7. What is your favorite class in the MSSM program so far and why?

Even though I do not come from a finance background, I enjoyed the Sustainable Finance class taught by Bruce Kahn the most. The class started as finance 101, and then got deeper into the concepts of finance. It was very interesting to see how finance played such a crucial role in sustainability. Another fantastic class was Energy Markets and Innovation taught by Travis Bradford. This class gave me insight into the various markets in the energy sector as well as their market hold and experience curves.

8. How has collaborating with your fellow students in projects in the classroom benefitted you professionally and personally?

This program attracts students of all age groups and from different disciplines enabling us to learn from others’ experiences and see different perspectives. Moreover, the projects presented several leadership opportunities and honed my interpersonal skills tremendously. Personally, the intermingling in the projects provided a great platform to learn about other cultures while broadening my own horizons.

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.

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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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