State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School


Sustainability Students Explore Jobs in the Built Environment

By Lin Ye

What jobs are available to students with a sustainability degree, who are interested in the built environment? What can students to do to land, or create, a job in this field? These questions and more were answered at a mini-career workshop on March 23, which focused on “Innovation and the Built Environment.” Speakers included a professor, a current student and an alumnus of the M.S. in Sustainability Management program (MSSM): Professor Lynnette Widder, principal and co-founder of aardvarchitecture; Brian Wennersten, director, Global Facilities at NBC Universal; and Robert Fischman, director, Commercial Energy Programs at Energize New York (MSSM ’13).

The purpose of the mini-career workshops, which are part of the Earth Institute’s Professional Development program, is to give students access to sustainability practitioners, who can speak to job opportunities in specific areas in the field of sustainability. “The speakers were very knowledgeable about the built environment and came from different backgrounds, which was beneficial to the discussion,” said Theresa Formato, an MSSM alumna, who attended the workshop. “This workshop, she added, “gave me a good idea of different career paths.”

From left: Brian Wennersten, director, global facilities at NBC Universal; Robert Fischman, director, commercial energy programs at Energize New York; Professor Lynnette Widder, principal and co-founder of aardvarchitecture.

One student asked Brian Wennersten how he landed his job at NBC Universal as director of global facilities. Wennersten said that his background in energy efficiency, combined with the skills he is acquiring in the MSSM program, helped make him a strong candidate for NBC Universal. He said that “although in today’s job market it is difficult to find a position which is solely responsible for a company’s sustainability practices, sustainability positions are being created at an exponential rate.”

Robert Fischman said that students interested in jobs in renewable energy ought to understand financing mechanisms, such as the power purchasing agreement. Fischman said that cities offered opportunities in this area, including the City of New York.

Widder advised students to pursue interesting projects, while still at school, to increase their professional credibility. Widder also said that conducting research projects and publishing papers help to distinguish students and lend credibility in the job market. There were opportunities, she said, for students to innovate in the field and to create job opportunities for themselves.

Mini-career workshops are open to students and alumni of Earth Institute-affiliated programs, including: the M.S. in Sustainability Management and associated certificates in Sustainable Water ManagementSustainability Analytics and Sustainable Finance; the MPA in Environmental Science and Policy; the MA in Climate and Society; the MPA in Development Practice; and the Sustainable Development undergraduate program.

Lin Ye is an intern for the Office of Academic and Research Programs at the Earth Institute, Columbia University. He is an alumnus of the Master of Science in Sustainability Management program.

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Congratulations to our Columbia Climate School MA in Climate & Society Class of 2024! Learn about our May 10 Class Day celebration. #ColumbiaClimate2024

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