State of the Planet

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Bringing a Passion for Nature to the Business World

MS in Sustainability Management student Zach Bogoshian
MS in Sustainability Management student Zach Bogoshian

Inspired by his childhood fascination with the outdoors, current Sustainability Management student Zach Bogoshian joined the program to implement lessons from nature to our current environmental challenges.  In the program, this hopeful notion has manifested itself as a passion for creating innovative networks to connect people with sustainable solutions that don’t discount financial return.  As Zach says, “If sustainability doesn’t make economic sense, the intrinsic motivation generated by pursuing sound environmental outcomes simply is not enough to effect change on the scale we need.”

1. What drew you to the Master of Science in Sustainability Management (MSSM)?

The three-pronged focus: policy, hard science, and business. One thing that really separates MSSM from other sustainability programs is the focus on making the business case for sustainability programs and practices. If sustainability doesn’t make economic sense, the intrinsic motivation generated by pursuing sound environmental outcomes simply is not enough to effect change on the scale we need.

2. What inspired you to work in sustainability?

My parents shared the glory of the natural world with my siblings and me early on. We camped everywhere – hiked, swam, climbed, explored, learned – from Yosemite and Big Sur to Zion and Death Valley. I grew fascinated by the adaptability of Mother Nature. Her grace and strength and creativity in the face of change and challenge struck me as something we as humans should learn from and work with as we move forward as a society. And that hopeful notion is why I now work in sustainability.

3. What do you intend to do professionally once you achieve your degree?

I intend to work for an organization to maximize its resource efficiency today in building design and operations, supply chain, and product life cycle, while also seeking opportunities for future innovation using new technologies, best practices, and the power of networks and behavioral science.

4. What do you think is the most important sustainability challenge?

There are a lot of answers here – these are complex challenges humanity currently faces. But I think a few key challenges that can accelerate progress at scale are education and connectivity. A lot of smart, creative people are innovating and finding sustainable solutions, but being able to share what works and what doesn’t where it matters most is absolutely crucial.

5. What skills and tools have you acquired through the program so far?

I’ve been able to develop skills that align with my professional values. Specifically, the program has offered opportunities to sharpen my soft skills through the varied interactions with students, staff, guest lecturers, and the larger community through school projects, networking and professional development events, happy hours, IM sports, etc. But I’ve also collected a fantastic set of hard skills that are constantly evolving, in finance (company/portfolio building and analysis), understanding and anticipating market dynamics, accounting (NPV, IRR, ROI), energy efficiency (benchmarking, building envelope thermal and moisture analysis, energy procurement), etc.

6. Beyond the classroom, what extracurricular sustainability related have you engaged in with your fellow Sustainability Management students?

I am currently an EDF Climate Corps Fellow, working with EDF on two projects: energy efficiency retrofits for a LEED CI project at its Manhattan Headquarters and automating and standardizing the GHG Inventory for its entire portfolio. In the spring, I worked on a Living Building Challenge project with Closed Loop Advisors, a sustainability consulting firm founded by several incredible graduates of the MSSM program. It was a sweet opportunity to work on an ambitious green building standard for a really influential client (NRDC). I also worked with several fellow students and Professor Lynnette Widder on an independent research project for the Hunts Point Terminal Produce Market, the world’s largest wholesale produce market, in the Bronx. We worked with them to increase operational efficiency through analyses of product flows, fleet logistics, and supply chain management.

7. What is your favorite class in the MSSM program so far and why?

Sustainable Finance with Bruce Kahn. Professor Kahn is a true practitioner who curates expertise in finance, agriculture, and statistics, and delivers incredible energy and a comprehensive curriculum to his students. I went in with zero background in finance and came out with a competency and a fluency that will serve me well in future positions.

8. How has collaborating with your fellow students in projects in the classroom benefitted you professionally and personally?

The collaboration at the MSSM program is quite unique, and has been one of my favorite parts of the program. My fellow students are ridiculously impressive. The diversity of experiences and expertise they bring is astounding and makes for fantastic conversation and well-balanced projects. Not only do we, as students, get to craft our own Master’s program to suit our individual needs and ambitions, but also we get to see how our peers are designing their own futures.

9. What tips do you have for your fellow students who are looking for a job in sustainability?

Most of the jobs in the field of sustainability don’t exist yet. Don’t be afraid to carve out your own existence – figure out a way to justify your place now and position yourself to make a huge impact in the future.

 10. What do you think is the most beneficial aspect of the MSSM program with regard to your career?

I consider the emphasis on how to make a business case for sustainability to be the most beneficial aspect here. With that as the fulcrum for the program, each specific course can be framed in a way that adds value to the real world now. A secondary benefit is the community and network built around MSSM students/staff, the Columbia community, and New York industry. This is a hub of passion and grit, and it shows at every level.

The M.S. in Sustainability Management, co-sponsored by the Earth Institute and Columbia’s School of Continuing Education, trains students to tackle complex and pressing environmental and managerial challenges. The program requires the successful completion of 36 credit points. Those credit points are divided among five comprehensive content areas: integrative sustainability management, economics and quantitative analysis, the physical dimensions of sustainability, the public policy environment of sustainability management, and general and financial management. Visit our website to learn more.


Banner featuring a collage of extreme heat images.

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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