State of the Planet

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MPA Student Hopes to Bridge Gaps in Environmental Policy

P1070804For Adrian Ang, the MPA in Environmental Science and Policy program presents a unique blend of skills that he hopes to apply to a future career in environmental policy and leadership. Building on his undergraduate degree in environmental engineering, Ang looks to focus on water issues after graduation.

1. What drew you to the Master of Public Administration in Environmental Science and Policy program?

I was drawn to the program because of its explicit focus on environmental issues, and the academic challenge it presented as an accelerated degree.

2. What were you doing before you started the program?

I was earning my undergraduate degree in environmental engineering in Canada at the University of Waterloo.

3. What area of environmental policy and management are you most interested in?

I am most interested in water resource governance and policy, and the role of science and politics in determining how we plan and use our water supplies.

4. What skills and tools do you hope to acquire through the program?

I hope to acquire the skills necessary to bridge gaps between stakeholders involved in environmental issues, from the technical divides between environmental ministers and water system operators, to the philosophical divides between urban societies and traditional indigenous communities. I’m working towards this goal by improving or gaining technical skills such as ethical impact analysis and water system optimization. On a higher level, I’m also improving my ability to effectively communicate environmental ideas, whether it be through technical writing or oral presentation.

5. What is your favorite class in the program so far, and why?

My favorite class is the Workshop in Applied Earth Systems Policy Analysis, which involves group projects on policy design and implementation. I think the class is a great combination of technical and social skills, and that it constantly challenges me to work on a high level both on my own and with my team.

6. How has collaborating with your fellow students in class projects benefited you professionally and personally?

I’m lucky to have been placed in group of uniquely qualified students who know how to balance the desire to learn with need to foster a healthy community within the class. Because of this, I’ve been able to make a lot of friends through my group projects. There’s a very unsurprising correlation with the time I spend working with a classmate and my relationship to them outside of school. As a professional, I’m always surprised at the knowledge that my classmates can bring to a project from their incredibly diverse backgrounds, and as a person, I benefit from the wealth of enthusiasm and camaraderie that I find both within the ESP class and SIPA.

7. Beyond the classroom, what, if any, extracurricular sustainability-related activities have you engaged in with your fellow Environmental Science and Policy students?

I help manage a recycling and waste audit program at Columbia, for which I receive a tremendous amount of support from my classmates. In the fall, we were able to quantify the waste separation habits of the general study body, and we hope to leave a positive impact on Columbia by changing the way people think of everyday waste. I also help plan sustainability-related events for my class throughout our year here at SIPA; we’ve enjoyed a series of hikes outside the city as part of an initiative to explore the environment outside of our college bubble.

8. How do you intend to utilize your degree to further your career and to make an impact?

I want to use my degree to project my recognition that the environmental problems we face today can only be met by interdisciplinary efforts, and my willingness to take a leadership role in sustainable development.  I hope my degree will help me make an impact on national or international environmental policy.


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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