I’ve gotten a bunch of questions from newly accepted students about the Energy and Environment concentration. First off, thank goodness you guys are coming! I have nothing but the utmost respect for my colleagues who are willing to dedicate their lives to the energy crisis or solving global warming, because both of those problems scare the heck out of me! To answer your question, I turned to a braver soul- Risa Edelman, 2nd Year MPA Student and Program Assistant for the Energy and Environment Concentration: specifically in Environmental Policy and Management and Specializing in Applied Science.
What were you doing before SIPA?
Right before SIPA I was working as a paralegal in international trade law, but I’ve been interested in the environment since I was 4 years old. I used to get in fights with my 4th grade teacher because I wanted write assignments on the empty side of old worksheets in order to save paper. A friend recently told me she was in her kitchen and noticed she had started turning the water off while washing dishes and exclaimed “damnit Risa” because she knew this was due to my influence. SIPA was my way of making that loving annoyance a real career.
Besides the EE concentration how have been involved extracurricularly at SIPA?
I am the the former Finance Chair for the SIPA Environmental Coalition. I also do web development for the SIPA Energy Association. We put together a Brown Bag lunch series that included the Executive Director of the NRDC. We also helped plan high a impact career series with the Office of Career Services to help students interested in transitioning into non-traditional energy and environment careers.
What do you do as the Energy and Environment Program Assistant?
Well first of, I planned this year’s fall retreat to Surprise Lake. I also organize happy hrs, faculty lunches, and resume workshops as well as extra curricular activities. As the weather gets nicer we are planning a hike and trip to baseball game. Basically my job is to figure out how we can continue to make this a good program and give a good experience to the students we’re serving. I love it. I feel like I get paid to talk to people I would want to talk to anyway.
What has been your favorite class in EE Concentration?
Sustainability Management with Steve Cohen. It gives a really good overview of the field of sustainability and forced me to think about sustainability from different perspectives that I would not have otherwise. I also got a practical skill out of it, policy memo writing. Sustainability Management counts which is also a management core class, but doesn’t always get listed so make sure to ask!
What did you do this summer?
I worked for the Sierra Club in DC on their Beyond Oil Campaign. My job was getting students engaged in non-oil solutions and bringing alternative transportation to campuses. I helped students advocate for green transport alternatives recruited a new generation of student leaders. It was an unpaid internship, but I was able to get some funding from SIPA.
So tell me about this Earth Summit I’ve heard so much about.
Well since you asked, I am helping to organize the 2nd annual Columbia University Earth Summit. I did the budgeting logistics last year, which was kind of our trial run. This year we hope to make it THE student run enviro event at Columbia. The main event one day conference with panels a discussion groups. It was important to us to plan an event that is solution focused. We didn’t want it to be a conference where people just talk and talk and nothing comes of it. To help accomplish that goal, we’re hosting a social venture challenge run through the Resolution Project, a separate organization that awards funding and support to innovate student ventures. We’re also running a policy workshop the day after the summit. Attendees will create a real policy recommendation to submit to a legislative or deliberative body like the UN. We’re not just talking, creating action.
What are you most excited about?
Jeff Seabrite, the Chief Environmental Officer for CocaCola, is our closing plenary speaker. I’m excited because it’s so important to work across sectors and to talk about how we can all come together to solve these problems in a sustainable way. Private sector needs to be a leader in that conversation, so I am particularly excited to hear what Mr. Seabrite has to say.
Do you need to be a SIPA student to attend?
Absolutely not! I would definitely encourage prospective students and anyone else interested to register for the conference here. You can also volunteer to help at the event by emailing David MacDonald firstname.lastname@example.org.
What else should prospective EE students know?
I genuinely believe there is no better place to study these issues than at SIPA. Here, you able to get a exposure, not just people you agree with you or who care about these issues but even more importantly to debate and discuss with students who have different priorities. It’s a great time to come to SIPA because the we already run strong programs Energy and Environment, but the University has been investing in these programs at an unprecedented level so we new opportunities are arising and we are expanding all the time.