FROM THE FIELD
Environmental Sustainability in the Middle East
Meet the Students Studying Environmental Issues in the Middle East in 2019
By Cari Shimkus
Columbia University and Tel Aviv University will collaborate to send graduate students to the Middle East to learn about the environmental challenges facing communities in Jordan and Israel. From July 7-20, students will conduct fieldwork and explore the complex issues surrounding shared natural resources through meetings with practitioners, academics and policymakers. Students will be posting on State of the Planet about their experiences and you can also follow them on social media at #CUJordanIsrael2019.
The students will be led by professor Joshua Fisher from Columbia University and Shahar Sadeh, a visiting scholar and director of faculty engagement at New York University. Together they will teach students how to think critically about what they hear from different stakeholders, and will provide them with tools for conflict mapping and mediation. The fieldwork is an integral component of the course NECR PS5260 Regional Environmental Sustainability in the Middle East, which is part of the Negotiation and Conflict Resolution program at the School of Professional Studies.
Frances is originally from Adelaide, Australia but has lived in the UK, Timor Leste, Botswana, Spain and now the U.S. She is an Australia New Zealand chartered accountant and previously worked in finance and international development for more than 10 years before returning to study, completing her MBA at IE Business School and now undertaking the Sustainability Management program at Columbia University. Upon completing the Sustainability Management program with Columbia University’s School of Professional Studies, Frances is planning to work in sustainable development surrounding primary industries, conservation enterprises and the related financing required to protect natural capital.
Mehul is a graduate from Rutgers University with a bachelor’s in Materials Science and Engineering. He is currently working on his Master of Science in Sustainability Management at Columbia University. His past experiences include working for the Obama Administration’s White House Council on Environmental Quality as an Energy & Climate Change team intern as well as working more than three years at Tesla as a photovoltaic and energy storage design engineer. Mehul is an avid proponent of utilizing engineering and technology to solve climate change challenges, especially those affecting underserved populations. His interests include sustainability policymaking, design, and construction.
Hadil is a student in the Master of Science in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution program in Columbia’s School of Professional Studies. Before coming to New York City, Hadil has lived in Syria, Switzerland and Egypt and London, where she completed B.Sc. in Philosophy and Politics at the London School of Economics. Hadil is particularly interested in post-conflict institution building and the intersection of governance and community resilience. She looks forward to analyzing the intersection of conflict, resource politics and sustainability management in the Middle East. Most recently, Hadil worked as a consultant for the Konrad-Adenauer Foundation Regional Program South-Mediterranean in Tunis, focusing on subjects relating to economic development, local governance, and security issues. Hadil previously interned at the UNHCR’s Syrian Refugees unit in Cairo and has also worked as an assistant teacher and language tutor in Cape Town, South Africa.
Nathaniel is a Certified Public Accountant who started his career in Atlanta. After six years, Nathaniel decided to leave public accounting and transition to the nonprofit space. Nathaniel moved to New York to serve as director of finance at the American Friends of Rambam Medical Center, a fundraising nonprofit. Nathaniel is currently studying in Columbia University’s Masters in Nonprofit Management program through the School of Professional Studies.
Eyal has ten years of experience in the sustainability field with a particular interest in urban agro-ecology. Since stepping foot into an organic nursery in 2009, Eyal has completed two permaculture design courses and a B.Ed. in agriculture and environmental studies. Eyal also owns an eco-gardening business and has worked as a high school teacher for 4 years. Eyal is currently working on his master’s thesis, which investigates remediation of polluted soils using heavy metal hyper accumulator plants (Phytoremediation) and ways to promote this technology. Eyal looks forward to learning about the shared ecosystems between Israel and Jordan as well as opportunities for collaboration between the two countries.
Silvia Dahan Guetta
Silvia is committed to working toward international environmental sustainability and a clean environment to improve quality of life. For the last 30 years, Sylvia has worked in environmental waste management with the Association of Cities for the Environment in Ashdod in Hevel Yavne, Israel, and has helped achieve landfill waste reduction in Israel. Silvia also participates in community engagement activities to raise awareness about environmental sustainability. Silvia holds an undergraduate degree in management from the Open University and will soon hold a master’s degree in environmental studies from Tel Aviv University.
Michal Dolev Hashimshony
Michal has experience in environmental planning, architecture and design, and sustainable development research. Michal’s current role entails coordinating sustainable projects for clients that adhere to current regulations but also promote green designs, water recycling and energy efficiency. At Tel Aviv University, Michal’s academic research explores human environments and the implementation of United Nations Sustainable Development Goals with an emphasis on appropriate technologies for water treatment and utilization in developing countries.
Nir is currently completing a master’s degree at the Porter School for Environmental Studies at Tel Aviv University with a joint research focus on psychology and transportation. Nir has also been working with the Tel Aviv – Jaffa branch of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel for the past year. Simultaneously, Nir has been working as an instructor, photographer and a social media manager with D-MARS, a research organization that simulates missions to Mars in the Israeli desert. Before attending Porter, Nir worked as a GIS specialist for a municipal organization and received a B.A. in geography and environmental development.
Cynthia Leung is a master’s candidate for Sustainability Management at Columbia University. She is currently an intern with the Clinton Climate Initiative, focused on its Islands Energy Program and Women in Renewable Energy Network. Prior to Columbia, Cynthia was a project development manager on the Utility & Power Plants team at SunPower, where she worked on developing over 1 GW of solar power plants. She served as an advisory board member to Skyline High School’s Green Energy Academy, where she helped advise on curriculum development and budgets to focus on sustainability and green workforce development. She was a professional mentor and impact coach for the TechWomen Program and is a certified mentor under the Mentoring Standard. Cynthia is passionate about sustainability, building international connections, and empowering the next generation with the ability to address climate change.
Anna is a master’s student in the Sustainability Management program at Columbia University’s School of Professional Studies. Originally from Baku, Azerbaijan, Anna’s family was forced to relocate to Moscow, Russia during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in late 1980s. She has lived in NYC for the past 15 years. Anna has a personal interest in cross-border conflict resolution and a passion for environmental conservation. She holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting, and hopes that her extensive knowledge of budgets and financial statements will help with conservation and sustainable development efforts in places where it’s needed most, especially in conflict zones. She is looking forward to learning about environmental issues, conflicts, and peacebuilding efforts in the Middle East, as well as gaining an insight into how finding common ground among people can supersede a focus on the differences that cause conflict.
Siddaq is currently completing an M.A. in Environmental Studies with the Porter School at Tel-Aviv University. Before starting the environmental studies program, he received a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering and a master’s in business administration. Originally from Punjab, India, where over 65 percent of the population is engaged in agriculture, Siddaq understands the multitude of stressors on the agricultural system as well as the associated challenges of water pollution, land degradation, high energy requirements, and socio-economic pressure on farmers. Siddaq is interested in understanding the various perspectives and potential management solutions concerning water issues in the Middle East. This program will help inform Siddaq’s efforts to develop a combination of technological and policy solutions to address the complex environmental issues back home in India.
Ni is a native of Shanghai, China, currently studying public policy with a focus on sustainability with the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University. Before finding her way to the sustainability field, Ni majored in English Literature at the University of Shanghai. Ni has also worked as a program coordinator for Beijing Energy Week, an NGO connecting students and professionals looking to enhance sustainability efforts in the energy sector. Ni is passionate about creating a sustainable world with innovations in areas like environmental protection and urban development, and looks forward to learning with and from the students in this year’s field course.
Adi joined the Water Research Center at Tel Aviv University in 2017 and is now a first-year student in the master’s research program at the Porter School for Environmental Studies. Before coming to Tel Aviv University, Adi received her B.Sc in biology and environmental sciences from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She is currently conducting research on retreatment solutions for hospital wastewater, particularly with respect to chemotherapy medications. In this study Adi wants to promote the local and efficient treatment of wastewater in Israel’s hospitals before it is discharged into municipal treatment facilities, which will improve Israel’s water sector and reduce pollution of its water sources. Adi believes that current challenges surrounding clean water availability will persist, especially in arid places such as Israel and Jordan, and endeavors to help identify solutions.
This unique program is the product of a partnership between Columbia University’s Earth Institute and School of Professional Studies, and Tel Aviv University’s Porter School of Environmental Studies and Center for Innovation in Transportation. It was organized in collaboration with Columbia’s Global Center in Amman, and significant contributions were made to the curriculum by Shahar Sadeh, a visiting scholar and the director of the Faculty Engagement Initiative at New York University.