Columbia Climate School’s inaugural class of students will don their blue caps and robes for Commencement and Class Day this week. But while classes may be over, the students will be working at a variety of exciting internships this summer, before officially graduating in August.
Talia Resnick, one such student in the Climate School’s Climate and Society program, will spend the summer at a law firm, coordinating their efforts around environmental and social responsibility. She’ll receive internship credits for this role, then continue working there full time after graduation. In the Q&A below, she tells us more about what drew her to this line of work and her long-term plans for the future.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you got interested in studying climate?
I was always interested in environmental issues. Growing up, I spent almost all of my summers in the Northern Woods in Wisconsin, where I am from, and felt a great attachment to nature in general. It wasn’t until high school where I became more interested in environmental justice and the climate crisis. During my undergrad, I was in a school where every student designs their own major, which gave me the space to dedicate my studies to understanding the historical and colonial legacies that have resulted in environmental and climate injustices today, specifically focusing on the connection between North and Latin America. I wanted to better understand the scientific aspects of the climate crisis and use that knowledge in policy and corporate responsibility spaces — hence why I ended up in the Climate and Society program!
Where are you interning this summer? What will the work entail, and what attracted you to this area of work?
This summer I will be starting a full-time job at Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP as their new environmental and sustainability program coordinator. I will be in charge of the firm’s efforts to reduce its carbon footprint and support environmental- and climate-focused causes via pro bono work, bringing in guest speakers, reporting on greenhouse gas emissions, internal education and awareness days, and more.
While I hope to one day be doing work in the climate justice policy sphere, I am also greatly interested in the roles of companies/corporations in combating the climate crisis. I am really excited to learn how a law firm can play a role in this, and feel that experience in an ESG-related job will be very valuable for my long-term career goals.
How did the Climate and Society program help to prepare you for this role?
The Climate and Society program has helped me prepare for this role in numerous ways. For starters, having the scientific and mathematical background in climate dynamics and variability helps inform so much of my work and interests in the social implications of the climate crisis. Additionally, having had the opportunity to take courses on the social impacts of businesses and corporations really helped me to better understand the role of the private sector in influencing policy, which I did not understand beforehand.
Having been able to be part of such an incredible cohort of students in the Climate and Society program this year has been the most valuable thing. I feel that I have a network of the brightest minds in the most diverse academic and professional backgrounds that I can lean on.
What are you hoping to learn from this experience?
I am hoping to gain skills in creating partnerships and collaborations with organizations and companies as well as better understand the impacts the private sector has on the climate crisis. I am interested in gaining a better idea of responsibility sharing in the context of the climate crisis.
How does this work align with your career goals? What do you hope to do after graduation?
I aspire to one day work in the policy sector of climate justice, either through non-profit work or political work. While the job I was offered is not necessarily the same kind of work, I feel really grateful and excited to begin work in the ESG sector, as I feel I will learn some really important skills and gain knowledge on the interconnectedness of the private and public sectors.