State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

MPA Program Congratulates Graduates, Welcomes 52 New Students

class of 2015 grad
The MPA-ESP Class of 2015 in front of the International Affairs Building (Photo: Ron Bernstein)

The MPA in Environmental Science and Policy program is proud to congratulate the 59 members of the Class of 2015 who graduated from the School of International and Public Affairs on May 21 and welcomed 52 new students only five days later on May 26.

Faculty, family, and friends joined the Class of 2015 for multiple events celebrating their accomplishments, namely Columbia Commencement, a pre-ceremony breakfast reception, and most notably the SIPA commencement ceremony. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy passed along her wisdom to the Class of 2015 as the featured speaker at SIPA’s graduation ceremony. In addition to offering her congratulations, Kennedy stated that, “in today’s world, a degree in Public Policy and International Affairs is the most useful and important degree that you could possibly have.” She further urged the graduates to use their degrees to “increase international understanding and cooperation, which are so desperately needed.”

For the graduating students, the ceremony marks the end of what was an intensive year of study. “I loved graduation!” remarked Lauren Bernstein, MPA-ESP Class of 2015. “I think a graduation is one of the happiest milestones in a person’s life because it’s a celebration for everyone: friends, peers, professors, siblings, and parents. I thought our graduation was really cool -I had no idea that many people could fit on College Walk-  it was a great ending to a whirlwind year at Columbia!”

The MPA-ESP class of 2015 began their science-heavy summer semester a few days after the graduation celebrations. The new ESP-class consists of 52 students joining us from 11 different countries.

Alison Miller (ESP ’11) moderates a panel of ESP alumni discussing career success at Orientation on May 26.


“I’m thrilled at how quickly a collaborative and close-knit community has developed,” said Lauren Wolahan, one of the new students. “The first few weeks are a trial by fire, but I’ve felt encouraged and supported every step of the way. Everyone comes to this program with a unique passion and expertise, and I hope to learn as much outside of the classroom as within.”

The new students have already identified the fast-paced nature of the program, with multiple assignments due each week and an immersive science curriculum. New student, Scott Kjorlien, remarked: “It’s hard to believe we have been involved in this program for only three weeks. We have immersed ourselves in such a range and depth of discussion, I already am having a hard time remembering how I used to fill my days before my time here. It’s truly a joy to be among such dedicated individuals, and to engage with our professors, who are as brilliant and engaging as they are approachable.”

Over the next weeks, the students will continue learning about various environmental problems through their science-based curriculum. Additionally, field trips to places such as the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and a superfund site will further their understanding of these environmental problems.


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 741 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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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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