State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Teaching Assistant Positions for Spring 2016

The Undergraduate Program in Sustainable Development is currently accepting applications for spring 2016 teaching assistant positions.

Applicants must be current full-time Columbia University students enrolled in a degree granting program. Applications will only be accepted by graduate students and undergraduate juniors or seniors.

The teaching assistants will support the following courses:

  1. SDEV W1900 Intro to Sustainable Development Seminar
  2. SDEV W3280 Workshop in Sustainable Development (Section 1)
  3. SDEV W3310 Ethics of Sustainable Development
  4. SDEV W3390: GIS for Sustainable Development and Lab
  5. SDEV W3450 Spatial Analysis and Modeling for Sustainable Development
  6. SDEV W3360 Disasters & Development

teaching assistant snipFor all positions described below:

Time commitment and responsibilities

A teaching assistant must fulfill the responsibilities as identified by the assigned supervising instructor while maintaining conduct of the highest level of professionalism and confidentiality. The teaching assistant may be responsible for directing drills, recitations, discussions or laboratory sessions related to courses offered by an officer of higher rank. They will be responsible for meeting and coordinating with the instructor regularly and performing other course-related duties as assigned, like grading written coursework. This also may include developing, distributing and statistically analyzing “peer review” and “self review” forms.

To apply: Post your cover letter stating your interest in the position and a resume (both in PDF format) to

The deadline to apply is 11:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 20, 2015.

1. Teaching assistant for SDEV W1900: Introduction to Sustainable Development Seminar

This course will take place on Monday during the spring semester from 11:40 a.m.-12:55 p.m. and will be taught by Jason Smerdon.

The course is designed to be a free flowing discussion of the principals of sustainable development and the scope of this emerging discipline. This course will also serve to introduce the students to the requirements of the Undergraduate Program in Sustainable Development and the content of the required courses in both the special concentration and the major. The focus will be on the breadth of subject matter, the multidisciplinary nature of the scholarship and familiarity with the other key courses in the program.

Applicants should have knowledge of sustainable development, with previous coursework in the area and be familiar with the structure of the major and the special concentration in the undergraduate program in sustainable development.

2. Teaching assistant for SDEV W3280 Workshop in Sustainable Development (Section 1)

This course will take place on Tuesday and Thursday from 12:10-2 p.m. during the spring semester and will be taught by Professor Stuart Gaffin.

The upper level undergraduate Sustainable Development Workshop will be modeled on client based graduate-level workshops, but with more time devoted to methods of applied policy analysis and issues in sustainable development. The heart of the course is the group project on an issue of sustainable development with a faculty advisor providing guidance and ultimately grading student performance. Students will receive instruction on methodology, group work, communication and the context of policy analysis. Much of the reading in the course will be project-specific and identified by the student research teams.

Applicants should have strong project management skills and an interest in sustainable development.

3. Teaching assistant for SDEV W3310: Ethics of Sustainable Development

This course will take place on Tuesday and Thursday during the spring semester from 1:10-2:25 p.m. and will be taught by Adela Gondek.

This is an elective course for students in the undergraduate Sustainable Development program. With the aim of continued improvement of human conditions within many diverse environments, sustainable development seeks to create, increase and perpetuate benefit and to cease, rectify and reverse harm. Sustainable development is consequently inextricable from the fabric of ethics, woven with determinations of benefit and harm to the existence and well-being of both humans and nonhumans. Underlying such determinations are those of self- and other-regarding motivation and behavior; and underlying these are still others, of sensitivity and rationality in decision-making, whether individual, social or public. Sustainable development is interlaced with and contingent upon all these determinations, at once prescriptive and judgmental, which can be called the ethics of sustainable development.

This course is divided into four main sections, of which two are intended to show the ethical fallacies of unsustainable development, and two, the ethical pathways of sustainable development. The first section focuses upon ethically problematic basic assumptions, including human (species) hegemony, happy (hedonic) materialism, and selective (data) denial. The second focuses upon ethically problematic ensuing rationalizations, including those pertaining to damages, victims, consequences and situations of climatic, chemical, biological and ecological harm. The third section responds to these rationalizations with ethically vital considerations of earth justice, environmental justice, culturally-based ethics, and sector-based ethics (water, food, place and climate ethics). Finally, the fourth section responds to the initial, longstanding problematic assumptions with a newly emergent ethical paradigm, comprising biotic wholeness, environmental integrity and the deliberative zero-goal.

4. Teaching assistant for SDEV W3390: GIS for Sustainable Development

This course will take place on Mondays and Wednesdays from 1:10-2:25 p.m.  with a lab section following the class once a week during the spring semester. The course will be taught by Professor Dara Mendeloff.

This course is designed to provide students with a comprehensive overview of theoretical concepts underlying GIS systems and to give students a strong set of practical skills to use GIS for sustainable development research. Through a mixture of lectures, readings, focused discussions, and hands-on exercises, students will acquire an understanding of the variety and structure of spatial data and databases, gain knowledge of the principles behind raster and vector based spatial analysis, and learn basic cartographic principles for producing maps that effectively communicate a message. Student will also learn to use newly emerging web based mapping tools such as Google Earth, Google Maps and similar tools to develop online interactive maps and graphics.

Applicants for the teaching assistant should have advanced knowledge of geographic information systems software, with previous coursework in the area.

5. Teaching assistant for SDEV W3450: Spatial Analysis and Modeling for Sustainable Development

The day of this course has yet to be determined, with a lab section following the class once a week during the spring semester. The course will be taught by Professor Malanding Jaiteh.

This is an intermediate course in spatial modeling developed specifically for students in the Undergraduate Sustainable Development program. This course will provide a foundation for understanding a variety of issues related to spatial analysis and modeling. Students will explore the concepts, tools, and techniques of GIS modeling and review and critique modeling applications used for environmental planning and policy development. The course will also offer students the opportunity to design, build and evaluate their own spatial analysis models. The course will cover both vector and raster based methods of analysis with a strong focus on raster-based modeling. We will draw examples from a wide range of applications in such areas as modeling land use and land cover for biodiversity and conservation, hydrological modeling, and site suitability modeling. The course will consist of lectures, reading assignments, lab assignments and a final project.

Applicants should have advanced knowledge of geographic information systems software, with previous coursework in the area.

6. Teaching Assistant for SDEV W3360: Disasters and Development

This course will take place on Tuesday and Thursday during the spring semester from 6:10-7:25 p.m. and will be taught by John Mutter and Sonali Deraniyagala.

This course offers undergraduate students, for the first time, a comprehensive course on the link between natural disaster events and human development at all levels of welfare. It explores the role that natural disasters might have and have had in modulating development prospects. Any student seriously interested in sustainable development, especially in light of climate change, must study the nature of extreme events—their causes, global distribution and likelihood of future change. This course will cover not only the nature of extreme events, including earthquakes, hurricanes, floods and droughts, but also their transformation into disaster through social processes. It will ultimately help students to understand the link between such extreme events, the economic/social shock they represent and development outcomes. The course will combine careful analysis of the natural and social systems dynamics that give rise to disasters and examine through group learning case studies from the many disasters that have occurred in the first decade of the 21st century.

Applicants should have a basic knowledge of sustainable development, with previous coursework in the area.

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

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments