Earth Institute Profiles

Steve Cohen

Executive Director, The Earth Institute

Steve Cohen

Over the past three decades, Steve Cohen has been instrumental in the education and training of current and future leaders in environmental policy, public service and sustainable development. After spending several years with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and as an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of West Virginia in the late 1970s and 1980s, Cohen joined the Columbia University faculty and has played a crucial role in building programs at the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) and at the Earth Institute.

Today Cohen seamlessly juggles many roles at Columbia University. He serves as the executive director and chief operating officer of the Earth Institute, and he is chair of the Earth Institute’s management team. Cohen is a member of the Earth Institute faculty and sits on the steering committees of its Cross-Cutting Initiative and the Earth Clinic. Cohen is a Professor in the Practice of Public Affairs at SIPA, is director of the Master of Public Administration Program in Environmental Science and Policy (MPA-ESP) and of the Energy and Environmental Policy concentration, and teaches in both programs.  He is also the director of the Master of Science in Sustainable Management, a program offered by the Earth Institute and Columbia’s School of Continuing Education and teaches the program’s core course entitled Sustainability Management.

Cohen has shared his expertise with the Columbia community by teaching courses in public management, policy analysis, environmental policy and management innovation. Cohen developed Columbia's workshops in applied public management and applied policy analysis, bringing practical professional education into the center of Columbia's public administration graduate programs. He has conducted professional training seminars in total quality management, strategic planning, project management and management innovation; he currently teaches classes in applied earth systems management and public management.

In October 2008, Cohen and co-author William Eimicke, director of the Picker Center of Executive Education at SIPA, published The Responsible Contract Manager: Protecting the Public Interest in an Outsourced World (Georgetown University Press). His latest book, Sustainability Management, was published by Columbia University press this year. Cohen has also authored several other books, including:  The Effective Public Manager (1988) and Understanding Environmental Policy (2006). He is the co-author of Environmental Regulation Through Strategic Planning (1991), Total Quality Management in Government (1993), The New Effective Public Manager (1995),Tools for Innovators: Creative Strategies for Managing Public Sector Organizations(1998), The Effective Public Manager (3rd and 4th editions; 2002, 2008), and Strategic Planning in Environmental Regulation (2005). He has also authored numerous articles on public management innovation, public ethics, sustainability management, politics and environmental management.

As an integral part of his management of the Earth Institute and his contributions to SIPA, Cohen is currently involved in many research and education initiatives related to faculty and students. For example, in the Workshop in Applied Earth Systems Management course at SIPA, he advises students on innovative ways to address global warming and solid waste management. He has been instrumental in the creation of a numerous Earth Institute education programs offered by schools throughout Columbia University. Cohen is currently publishing a blog on sustainability and public policy issues on the Huffington Post.

Cohen earned his degrees from Franklin College of Indiana (B.A., 1974) and the State University of New York at Buffalo (M.A., 1977; Ph.D., 1979). In 1976-77 Cohen was a Ford Foundation fellow in urban environmental policy and in 1978-79 he was a Rockefeller Foundation fellow in public and environmental policy and implementation.