Practicum on Environment and Sustainable Development

Practicum on Environment and Sustainable Development

This year the Practicum on Environment and Sustainable Development, offered through the Earth Institute and the School of International Affairs (SIPA) at Columbia University, will be offered for a full 12 weeks in both the fall and spring semesters. The course highlights the way the mission of the Earth Institute is fulfilled through its different centers and programs. With 850 scientists, postdoctoral fellows and students working in and across more than 30 Columbia University research centers and programs, the Earth Institute is helping to advance nine interconnected global issues: water; climate and society; energy; urbanization; hazards and risk; global health; poverty; ecosystems health and monitoring; and food, ecology and nutrition.

“The practicum gives students the opportunity to discuss the ground-breaking work of the Earth Institute’s centers and programs with their directors, researchers and leaders in the field,” says course instructor Louise Rosen. “This course is an exciting opportunity for students to hear firsthand from researchers working on issues of environment and sustainable development and learn about the applications of their research to finding solutions to these global issues.”

The practicum provides a means through which students can receive an introduction to the multifaceted scope and mission of the Earth Institute and the ongoing research some of its faculty members are currently undertaking. Throughout the course, experts in environmental and sustainable development issues will speak to all students, and in particular to those enrolled in Earth Institute affiliated programs.

Some of the speakers that are scheduled to talk this fall include:
• Jeffrey D. Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute
• Steve Cohen, Executive Director of the Earth Institute
• Pedro Sanchez and Cheryl Palm, Directors of the Tropical Agriculture Program
• Klaus Lackner, Director of the Lenfest Center on Sustainable Energy
• Yochanan Kushnir, Director of the Cooperative Institute for Climate Applications and Research (CICAR)
• Richard Plunz, Director of Urban Design Lab for Sustainable Development
• David Krantz, Director of the Center for the Decision Sciences
• Patrick Kinney, Professor in the Environmental Health Sciences

The talks will cover topics including environmental policy frameworks, the influence of science on policy, urban design, tropical agriculture, global water policy, the impact of climate change on New York City, developing sustainable energy and sequestering carbon dioxide, climate change and public health, and much more. Each practicum session will feature a different guest speaker covering this wide spectrum of topics.

During the practicum, students will learn how current research is being used, its policy implications, and how it will it be made accessible to environmental and sustainable development work. Speakers will detail their integrative approaches to their work and how their work aligns with the Earth Institute’s mission of interdisciplinary research. The lectures will illustrate how the Earth Institute’s core biological, health and engineering sciences complement SIPA students’ social science research as well as a focus on poverty reduction and aid. Faculty will share any opportunities for participating in Earth Institute programs and projects and how students may contribute to ongoing research at the Earth Institute.  

In preparation for the class, students will be expected to read articles that will enable them to participate in discussions with faculty. The practicum will keep students engaged in learning about ongoing research and expand their knowledge on relevant and current issues that are facing our environment.

The practicum will run weekly on Tuesday afternoons from 4:10 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. in room 413 of the International Affairs Building and will be graded Pass/Fail based on attendance and participation in class discussions. Students who want a letter grade can submit an essay synthesizing the issues covered in the class. All interested students are encouraged to enroll.

For more information, please contact Audrey Lapiner, program manager for the Office of Academic and Research Programs at the Earth Institute, at or at 212-854-3142.