In blue caps and gowns, the Columbia Climate School’s second class of graduating students marched across the stage at today’s school-wide Class Day ceremony. The Class of 2023 includes 79 students graduating from the MA in Climate and Society program. They come from a wide variety of backgrounds and specialities — including art, policy, mental health, technology — but share the same goal of advancing climate change solutions.
“The climate crisis and the world need new leaders, and you are those new leaders,” Climate School Founding Dean Alex Halliday told the graduating students during the ceremony. “I challenge you to use your knowledge and skills to create change in whatever ways you can, whether you work in policy, research, innovative startups, advocacy or major corporations. In any field, you have the power to make a difference.”
Although most of the students won’t officially graduate until they complete their summer internships in August, May marks the end of their classes, and a chance to celebrate in the school-wide and university-wide graduation ceremonies. While today’s celebration was specific to the Columbia Climate School, many students will also participate in Commencement on May 17, which honors graduates across all of Columbia University.
The Class Day keynote address was given by Jamaal Bowman, Representative for New York’s 16th Congressional District, which covers the north Bronx and the southern part of Westchester County. Congressman Bowman underlined the fact that climate change disproportionately impacts poor, Black, and brown people. He called on the graduates to advocate for change and hold their leaders accountable.
“We need brilliant minds and moral hearts, but we need revolutionary activism in your day-to-day lives,” said Bowman.
While Class Day celebrates each student’s individual accomplishments, it also recognizes all that they’ve achieved together — and will continue working on together in the future. Community and collaboration were strong themes throughout the ceremony.
Solving climate change “is work we can only do if we do it together,” said Ben Orlove, co-director of the MA in Climate and Society program.
“You’ve learned the importance of working together, supporting one another, and being a part of something bigger than yourselves,” said Mingfang Ting, co-director of the Climate and Society program. “These will serve you well as you continue your journey into the future. As we all know, the problem of climate change is just so big, and it really takes the entire world to work together…. Let us all work together to build a world that is not only livable but equitable and just for all.”