Practicum on Environment and Sustainable Development Now Offered in Spring Semester

Practicum on Environment and Sustainable Development Now Offered in Spring Semester

The Practicum on Environmental and Sustainable Development, sponsored by the Earth Institute, Columbia University, and the School of International and Public Affairs, introduces undergraduate and graduate students to cutting-edge research on climate and society, water, energy, poverty, ecosystems, and public health, as well as food and nutrition, environmental hazards, and urbanization.

“The Practicum provides students with a venue to learn about and discuss the ground-breaking work of the Earth Institute’s research centers and programs with their respective directors, researchers and leaders in the field,” said Louise Rosen, the course’s instructor and the director of the Office of Academic and Research Programs for the Earth Institute. “It is an extraordinary opportunity for students to hear from and engage firsthand with researchers working on issues of environmental and sustainable development, as well as the applications of that research in finding solutions to these global issues.”

The practicum exposes students to current research and its policy applications. The course is open to Columbia students throughout the University, in particular to students from the Undergraduate Special Concentration in Sustainable Development, the M.P.A. in Environmental Science and Policy, the M.A. in Climate and Society, the M.P.A. in Development Practice, and the M.I.A./M.P.A. Energy and Environment Concentration. 

Featuring a different guest speaker each week, the practicum covers a variety of topics such as climate change law, debates in science and religion, environmental engineering, wetland restoration, carbon management, and a practical approach to sustainable development. This spring, speakers from the Earth Institute’s research centers and units will include members of the executive staff, research scientists, and other senior scholars. Each lecture will engage the students in the class in discussion of the research and work; the structure of the course supports innovation and integration and reflects the cross-cutting initiatives that are essential to the Earth Institute’s mission.

It is through these collaborations that the world can become more sustainable and environmentally sound. The practicum embraces this notion as it covers topics including, but not limited to, 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, sequestering carbon dioxide, climate change, and public health.

Some of the speakers that are scheduled to present in the spring of 2010 include:

  • Steve Cohen, Executive Director of the Earth Institute and Director of the M.P.A. in Environmental Science and Policy, Director of the M.P.A./M.I.A. Concentration in Energy and Environment, and Director of the M.S. in Sustainability Management
  • Vijay Modi, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and a researcher in tropical climate systems and modeling
  • Michael Purdy, Director of Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences and Richard Seager, Palisades Geophysical Institute Senior Research Scientist for Ocean and Climate Physics, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
  • Dorothy Peteet, Adjunct Senior Research Scientist at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and Adjunct Professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences
  • Robin Bell, PGI Senior Research Scientist, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
  • Bob Pollack, Director and Founder of the Center for the Study of Science and Religion and Professor of biological sciences and psychiatry, and of science and religion at Union Theological Seminary

The Practicum on Environment and Sustainable Development opens doors for students to become involved in the advancement of sustainable development and to discover additional opportunities to contribute to ongoing research through Earth Institute programs. This course complements the Earth Institute’s larger goal to advance sustainable development through research, training, and global partnerships, while maintaining a special focus on those whose resources are limited, and lost if not ultimately sustained.
The practicum runs weekly on Tuesday afternoons from 4:20 p.m. to 6:10 p.m. in room 102 Jerome Greene Hall (Law). The course is offered Pass/Fail based on attendance and participation in class discussions or for a grade. Students who would like a grade for the course are required to submit an essay at the end of the semester synthesizing the issues covered in the class. The practicum is offered for a full 12 weeks in both the fall and spring semesters.

To read more details about the course, speakers, and their research centers and units, please go to:

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.