On October 1, the Earth Institute hosted its 6th Annual Sustainability Careers Reception, which took place on Zoom for the second year running. Despite the restrictions of the online format, this year saw a 50% increase in attendance from last year, convening some 40 practitioners and more than 100 graduate and undergraduate students.
This attendance increase is a positive reflection of both the work that the Earth Institute staff has put into making the online event as successful as possible for the past two years, and the trend towards increased climate consciousness. Anne Therese Gennari, a panelist and the founder of The Climate Optimist, noted this development as well, and reflected that it was “incredibly exciting to see so many students choosing a path in sustainability, innovation, and positive growth. This is what makes me optimistic about the future!” The students who attended the event came prepared with questions and insights about the different career fields, which made for productive discussions throughout the entirety of the two-hour event.
Typically, the event is hosted at the Columbia Club in Midtown Manhattan, and conversation is held over dinner and drinks. In the online format, 3-4 panelists were assigned to each of three Zoom breakout rooms instead of a roundtable. For the first hour of the event, these groups of panelists rotated through the three breakout rooms in 20-minute intervals, and gave students information about their background and career path. For the last hour of the event, the speakers returned to their original breakout rooms while the students were able to move through rooms at their own discretion, forming connections with the sustainability professionals whose careers they found most aligned with their professional trajectory.
The COVID-19 international health crisis has coincided with the most extreme weather events we’ve seen in years, a trend that is only going to continue as climate change worsens. Chandler Precht, the organizer of the Sustainability Careers Reception, reflects that “there is no question that the climate crisis has pushed students to enroll in our programs, and with that comes the responsibility of providing students with the most worthwhile professional development events. This Sustainability Careers Reception is one of the many ways we help students network with practitioners at companies and in sustainability related roles that they hope to eventually enter upon completing their degrees.”
Despite the extra challenges that COVID-19 has presented, Columbia Climate School’s Earth Institute has worked hard to ensure that career resources are unaffected.
The Sustainability Careers Reception is primarily intended for students pursuing one of five sustainability degrees at Columbia Climate School’s Earth Institute: the Undergraduate Program in Sustainable Development, MA in Climate and Society, MS in Sustainability Management, MS in Sustainability Science, and MPA in Environmental Science and Policy. This year students had the opportunity to discover new career opportunities and engage with professionals in the sustainability field. Of the practitioners who attended this year’s event, their areas of employment ranged from large companies such as Converse, Accenture, and L’Oreal, to smaller ones, such as Another Tomorrow, The Climate Optimist, and Ocean Rescue Alliance.
The Earth Institute Professional Development Program offers students resources and programs that supplement the career services in their respective schools. The program includes skill-building seminars, networking opportunities, and tools that, together, better prepare students to pursue job opportunities in sustainability.