Master of Public Administration in Environmental Science and Policy Faculty Highlights

Master of Public Administration in Environmental Science and Policy Faculty Highlights

The faculty of Columbia University’s Master of Public Administration in Environmental Science and Policy (MPA ESP) reflect the program’s desire to balance the practical skills necessary to understand the formulation and management of public policy with a strong theoretical background in environmental science.  They combine a myriad of private and public experiences with more traditional academic work. 

Incorporating more science than any other MPA, the program’s faculty work in a variety of fields in science. Hydrology instructor Dr. Tobias Siegfried is a research fellow at the Earth Institute and an Adjunct Assistant Professor at SIPA. He investigates the problems of freshwater depletion and degradation in the context of demographic and economic development. His work is focused on regions where resources such as soil and water are scarce and where the implementation of efficient and sustainable management strategies is difficult due to inadequate economic, political, and institutional environments. Professor Siegfried's current work centers around Upstream-/Downstream conflicts in the Aral Sea Basin, Syr Darya River; the current and future water challenge of India; and groundwater markets in India.

A new addition to the science faculty is Professor Jason Smerdon, Doherty Associate Research Scientist in Lamont’s Division of Ocean and Climate Physics. He will also serve a four-year term as a Storke-Doherty Lecturer, working jointly with the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO) and the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. LDEO scientists observe Earth on a global scale, from its deepest interior to the outer reaches of its atmosphere, on every continent and in every ocean. Professor Smerdon’s research focuses on global and hemispheric reconstructions of climate during the past several millennia. His research aims to test the precision and robustness of current climate reconstruction techniques. 

Professor Kathy Callahan comes to the program with over 30 years of experience working with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), having recently served as US EPA Deputy Regional Administrator for Region II (New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands).  Before managing the entire Regional Office Professor Callahan managed the toxic waste clean-up Superfund Program and also led the Region’s environmental planning division.  Her expertise is complemented by that of Professor Apsan who also brings a practical component to his public management class.  As the Director of Environmental Health and Safety at City University of New York (CUNY), he leads CUNY’s effort to measure and implement Mayor Bloomberg’s “30 in 10” challenge, aiming to reduce CO2 emissions by 30% in the next 10 years.  He was recently appointed to the Advisory Board of the New York/New Jersey Education and Resource Center for Occupational Safety and Health chaired by the Mt. Sinai Hospital School of Medicine. 

Other professionals who are part of the MPA ESP faculty include Gail Suchman, an environmental lawyer and a national expert in environmental justice and Paula Wilson, an acknowledged expert health care financing and financial management, who has deep experience as a public and non profit chief financial officer (CFO).  Professor Sara Tjossem teaches Earth Systems and Environmental Policy in the summer semester of the MPA program, Political Context of Public and Private Management in the fall, and teaches a workshop group during the spring Workshop in Applied Earth Systems Policy Analysis.  According to Professor Tjossem, her “current research explores the development of The Nature Conservancy as the premier land conservation organization in the US and its efforts to create a robust institution to conserve and preserve nature.  Its struggles illuminate the interplay of the development of ecology as a science in its own right with its application to the changing Professor Tanya Heikkila is an expert n water policy and in public management. In early 2008, The Earth Institute announced a $6 million grant from the PepsiCo Foundation. This sizeable donation establishes a new interdisciplinary research center at the Earth Institute called the Columbia Water Center where Dr. Heikkila serves as its Associate Director and  Senior Social Scientist.

Dr. Heikkila brings a strong background in water resource management, water policy, and decision-making analysis to CWC.  Dr. Heikkila has published several papers in recent years on water management and operational decision-making. She co-authored the book Common Waters, Diverging Streams: Linking Institutions and Water Management in Arizona, California, and Colorado (Resources for the Future Press, 2004). Her experience studying regional water systems, policy analysis, and stakeholder dialogue in these areas will serve the Earth Institute’s newest research center, the CWC, superbly. Professor Heikkila recently finished collecting data on a 3-year study funded by the National Science Foundation on the governance and boundary-related conflicts within interstate river basins in the western United States.  The project aimed to develop a better understanding of how linkages across different scales of governance (local, state, and regional) relate to conflicts that can develop over shared resources and to their resolutions. 

In addition to his role as the Director of the MPA ESP program, Professor Steven Cohen is also the Executive Director of Columbia’s world renknwn Earth Institute.   His forthcoming book, co-authored with William Eimicke, The Responsible Contract Manager: (Georgetown University Press, November, 2008) provides a straightforward and practical introduction to the best practices of contract management and also incorporates a discussion of issues of public ethics, governance and representation theory. The book is an indispensable guide for all public management scholars and is especially useful for students in MPA ESP and other MPA graduate programs and related fields.  The piece highlights the business sense and economic insentive behind environmental protection as well as the evolution of environmentalism. 

Another new book by Professors Cohen, William Eimicke, and Tanya Heikkila, The Effective Public Manager (Jossey-Bass Publishers, September, 2008), is an update of what has become a fundamental resource for public administrators and students.  This fourth edition synthesizes and comprehensively outlines the current mentality in the field and presents practical lessons and tools.  The text is focused on aiding real-world managers and potential managers in more easily and directly meeting the demands of their jobs rather than working around governmental obstacles and constraints.

In early February, 2008, The New York Observer, in collaboration with Columbia University, launched a new Green section called ‘The Green Channel.’  Professor Cohen has a blog on the Green Channel and comments on critical issues of environment and sustainable development—with a focus on New York City.

For a complete listing of the faculty and their current projects and academic interests, please see: