State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School


Alumna Finds Good Fit for Communication Skills

Kathy Zhang 300Kathy Zhang CC ’13, is a graduate of the undergraduate sustainable development major program.

What’s your current job, and how long have you been in the position?

I’ve worked as the communications associate at the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) for over a year. To get updates on SDSN’s work, sign up for our newsletter and connect with us on Facebook & Twitter!

How did you find your current position? What resources and methods did you find most useful?

I learned about SDSN via my internship at the Earth Institute as a student. There aren’t any special secrets in the job hunt [that I’ve found]. Explore your interests via classes, student groups and internships; take advantage of pre-professional resources at Columbia (EI, CCE, alumni mixers, etc); and reach out to professionals doing interesting work.

What do you enjoy the most and what do you find the most challenging in your current position/program?

I greatly enjoy continuously learning about sustainable development, the UN, post-2015 processes, etc., and discussing these issues with brilliant and passionate colleagues, especially when the speed and volume of information pose a challenge.

Are you able to utilize any skills and knowledge from the program in your day-to-day activities?  

I’m fortunate to be working in a position that is directly relevant to and in many ways a continuation of Columbia’s program in sustainable development. SDSN has a wide range of activities covering all aspects of sustainable development, so I’ve certainly been able to utilize the solid academic foundation provided by the sustainable development program, especially as it pertains to research, writing and project management.

What was your favorite course in the program, and why?

Ethics of Sustainable Development. This course introduces values and motivation and provides historical context to the major pillars of sustainable development, with fantastically guided class discussions. Shout out to Professor Adela Gondek, who teaches several ethics courses at Columbia and is objectively awesome.

What post-graduation advice would you give students in the program?

Take full advantage of your time at Columbia to explore your options, and talk to as many people as possible while you’re still on campus. As Steve Jobs said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” As sustainable development becomes increasingly mainstreamed in our society, there will be sustainability applications across all industries and sectors.

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