State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

MPA Alum Named to City and State’s 40 Under 40

alison millerAlison Miller, a 2011 alumna of the MPA in Environmental Science and Policy program, was recently named one of 2014 City & State’s top 40 under 40 Rising Stars. The media company, devoted to covering New York politics and policies, nominates 40 exceptional individuals each year who are leaving their mark on New York City.

Alison had a successful career in finance before joining the MPA-ESP program in 2010. As the daughter of an environmental engineer, she knew her interests lay in environmental issues, but she learned at a young age that she didn’t necessarily want a career as a scientist. This led her to Columbia, where she has made a name for herself as the deputy executive director of The Earth Institute. In her role at The Earth Institute, Alison helps to manage the largest research institute at the university, with nearly 800 full-time employees and an annual budget of roughly $135 million. Her work includes undertaking financial and organizational analyses relating to core operations, identifying best practices and opportunities for growth, and ensuring the execution of the Institute’s short- and long-term priorities. She also develops and maintains key relationships across the university, and identifies strategic external and internal opportunities and partnerships.

In addition, Alison serves as associate director of the Research Program on Sustainability Policy and Management, where she engages directly in sustainability research, fundraising and public outreach. As part of this role, she has recently co-authored a book, Sustainability Policy: Hastening the Transition to a Cleaner Economy, (forthcoming in January 2015) with Steven Cohen, director of the ESP program and executive director of The Earth Institute, and William Eimicke, professor of professional practice in the School of International and Public Affairs. This work highlights innovative sustainability initiatives and explores the elements that constitute effective policy and the factors that can help or hinder implementation and adoption.

For Alison, one of the draws of the MPA-ESP program was the semester devoted to environmental science courses. “The science curriculum was immediately the first thing that attracted me to the program. I knew that I needed the environmental science to transition from a career in finance to a career in environmental policy,” she said. She credits the program and its curriculum for her ability to communicate with scientists and translate technical information, whether it’s a grant proposal or a journal article, into formats that are accessible to general audiences.

“The mission of public outreach and application of knowledge is a key priority here at The Earth Institute,” she said. “On a day-to-day basis, I work closely with faculty, scientists, staff and students on projects and programs across all areas of environmental sustainability. I am able to combine my experience in project management, research and communication to make the greatest impact possible.”

While not working in the public sector directly, she engages in activity that is policy applicable and supports the scientific foundation for current and future policies at the local, state, federal and global levels.

Alison joins 39 other successful New Yorkers in City & State’s annual list, comprised of men and women from diverse careers in the public and private sectors. Chosen from over 600 nominations, the 40 under 40 Rising Stars are journalists, lobbyists, tech leaders and elected officials.

Students in the MPA in Environmental Science and Policy program enroll in a year-long, 54-credit program offered at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, in partnership with the Earth Institute.

Since it began in 2002, the MPA in Environmental Science and Policy program has given students the hands-on experience, and the analytical and decision-making tools to implement effective environmental and sustainable management policies. The program’s 682 graduates have advanced to jobs in domestic and international environmental policy, working in government, private and non-profit sectors. Their work involves issues of sustainability, resource use and global change, in fields focused on air, water, climate, energy efficiency, food, agriculture, transportation and waste management. They work as consultants, advisers, project managers, program directors, policy analysts, teachers, researchers, and environmental scientists and engineers.

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