EI Hosts Alumni Environmental Career Panel for Undergraduates

EI Hosts Alumni Environmental Career Panel for Undergraduates

On Monday, October 15th, the Earth Institute at Columbia University, as part of its student programs, hosted an Environmental Career Panel featuring alumni panelists who work in private-sector environmental careers. This panel is part of a series of events the EI is hosting for undergraduates this year, and was designed to target issues specific to undergraduate students; for instance, the importance of major and course choices, internships and attending graduate school.

“It was interesting to hear the different routes the panelists took to end up in their respective environmental careers, and of course to hear about the field from inside perspectives,” said Laura Shurich, a GS economics major. “I was pleased that they were candid and specific with their advice, and I enjoyed listening to their opinions about the future economics of environmental work.”

Approximately thirty students attended the panel; the majority of these were from Columbia College, whose students accounted for more than half the attendees. Participants also came from other schools across the university including Barnard, General Studies, School of Engineering and Applied Science, School of International and Public Affairs, Graduate School of Arts and Science, and the Business School.

“Demand for students with environmental knowledge and skills to address the issues are growing, and more students have demand for learning about these opportunities” said Louise Rosen, Director of the EI’s Office of Academic and Research Programs.

The panelists included Samantha Unger (Barnard, ’01), who serves as the Director of California Emissions Markets for EvolutionMarkets, Inc. Ms. Unger, a specialist in California’s various emissions trading markets, manages Evolution Markets West Coast emissions brokerage practice. Evolution Markets provides brokerage services to companies participating in the South Coast Air Quality Management District’s Regional Clean Air Incentives Market (RECLAIM), California’s various emissions reduction credit (ERC) markets, and other emerging Western U.S. emissions markets.

Andy Dvoracek (MPA-ESP, ’05) also participated in the panel, and discussed his career as a Senior Client Manager for EcoSecurities. Mr. Dvoracek coordinates origination of renewable energy based Voluntary Emissions Reduction (VER) projects. He works with domestic and international companies to determine potential emissions reductions plans on a global level, and specializes in agricultural/industrial wastewater projects, methane avoidance based renewable energy projects, and managing US based companies with compliance projects to meet CDM targets.

Dave Westman (MPA-ESP, ’06) also sat on the panel. Mr. Westman is a Senior Specialist at Con Edison Company of New York. He oversees and manages Con Edison’s recycling and Resource Conservation program through the corporate Environment, Health and Safety Office. The company’s Resource Conservation program aims to reduce the volume of this waste stream, as well as to maximize or identify new recycling opportunities.  Additionally, the Resource Conservation program looks to identify and drive solutions for improving resource efficiency throughout company operations.

“The career panel gave me a new insight into this growing industry.  It was very helpful and inspiring to learn about these new opportunities to work with environmental issues,” said Bonnie Wolf, GS ’08. “There are finally jobs to help the environment that the world will take seriously and ways in which they can be truly effective.”

Panelists discussed their current positions, and how their educational background, and various internship and work experiences led them to these jobs. Internships and field experience were emphasized by all three panelists as the key to finding a job in the field after graduation, followed by taking advantage of networking opportunities.

“Many students today are pioneering new ways of thinking and learning about the environment, and as a result there are a lot of open questions regarding potential careers and opportunities that await these students after graduation,” said Kevin Griffin, Program Director for the Special Concentration in Sustainable Development. “I suspect there are many creative and perhaps even surprising answers to these questions, and providing a forum for students and professionals to meet and discuss their common goals is a fantastic way to foster the development of tomorrow's environmental leaders.”

For more information on environmental careers, please visit the environmental career page on the Earth Institute website,