News from the Columbia Climate School

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Students Learn From Leading Sustainability Practitioners in Practicum Course

A dozen leading sustainability practitioners are returning to Columbia University — virtually — in the spring 2021 semester to take up a fundamental question of sustainability management: how to change organizations and more complex systems, such as communities, industries, and markets, by integrating sustainability concerns in the way that they operate.

sustainability management program 10 year anniversary logo
Celebrating its tenth anniversary in 2020, the M.S. in Sustainability Management, co-sponsored by the Earth Institute and Columbia’s School of Professional Studies, trains students to tackle complex and pressing environmental and managerial challenges. Visit the website to learn more.

The question is at the center of the Practicum in Innovative Sustainability Leadership, a course in the Master of Science in Sustainability Management program. Over the last seven years, the course has hosted tens of practitioners, who are at the forefront of sustainability practice in business, government and the public sector.

Each class meeting begins with practitioners sharing the work that it takes to make sustainability a strategic consideration of an organization. The now all-online format allows students extended time to ask questions and speak informally with the guest practitioners. Students will then participate in a class discussion, led by co-instructors Kelsie DeFrancia and Alix Schroder, which is geared toward identifying and assessing the management strategies that practitioners use to improve sustainability performance within diverse organizations.

The expert practitioners addressing the practicum this year will once again represent an array of sectors, including city government, technology, investing, consulting, and community development. They include sustainability veterans from companies such as Estee Lauder and McKinsey & Company, as well as members of a new generation of sustainability practitioners, from organizations including the World Resources Institute, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and Sidewalk Labs, an urban innovation company.

Through these guest lectures, class discussion, readings, and writing assignments, students will identify and simulate applying practical ways for transforming how organizations and complex systems work. By the end of the course, the students will gain an understanding of management tools and strategies that they themselves can use to integrate sustainability in organizations.

The course is open to graduate students and undergraduates who want to learn how successful sustainability practitioners work, and who are eager to engage them in discussion. Students in the Sustainability Management program must take the course for three credits. Other students have one-credit and a three-credit options.

For the full list of speakers and syllabus, click here.

Science for the Planet: In these short video explainers, discover how scientists and scholars across the Columbia Climate School are working to understand the effects of climate change and help solve the crisis.
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