Columbia Climate School Celebrates Its First Class Day

students in blue robes

The Columbia Climate School’s class of 2022.

The Columbia Climate School at the moment celebrated its first-ever Class Day, a ceremony that honors the college’s 2022 graduates. These college students are the first group to graduate from the not too long ago launched Climate School.

After an intense yr of interdisciplinary local weather training, the 86 college students within the MA in Climate and Society program completed their lessons and donned their gentle blue caps and robes for the Class Day ceremony.

“It is tremendously thrilling to be graduating our first Climate School college students at the moment,” stated Alex Halliday, founding dean of the Climate School, whereas addressing the graduating class in Columbia’s Miller Theater. “This occasion marks the completion of your research right here at Columbia. More importantly, it marks the start of the important work you’ll undertake on the earth, outfitted with an understanding of how the local weather system works, the challenges it brings, and the methods to consider the sorts of options which can be wanted.”

The ceremony emphasised not solely the daunting challenges of fixing the local weather disaster, but in addition the potential for every graduate, and each individual, to make a contribution.

Environmental justice advocate Peggy Shepard gave a keynote handle through which she mentioned local weather change’s disproportionate impacts on communities of shade, Indigenous peoples, and low revenue communities, and the way the world can not transition away from fossil fuels with out additionally addressing inequity and systemic racism.

“Climate change is arguably some of the important social and political challenges of this century,” she stated. “But you all know that. The query is: What will you do about it? … Those of us who’ve been privileged to realize training, expertise and experiences, and even energy, we should be function fashions. We should be changemakers with the spirit of justice, collaboration and moral management. We can all be changemakers. That is our problem for you at the moment.”

Without a doubt, that problem couldn’t have fallen on extra prepared and succesful shoulders.

While the scholars nonetheless have summer time internships to finish earlier than they formally graduate, the primary class of the Columbia Climate School can even have a good time their achievements on the university-wide graduation ceremony for 2022 graduates on Wednesday, May 18.

The Climate School deans collect with environmental justice advocate Peggy Shepard (heart). Deans, from left to proper: Alex Halliday, Ruth DeFries, Maureen Raymo, and Jason Bordoff

Year in Review

While this can be the primary class to graduate from the Columbia Climate School, the MA in Climate and Society program has been producing impactful graduates because it was launched in 2005 by local weather scientist Mark Cane.

While many issues haven’t modified because the program got here beneath the Climate School umbrella — comparable to this system’s interdisciplinary concentrate on understanding and addressing local weather change — being a part of the Climate School has opened new alternatives and challenges for this system.

The Climate and Society program grew tremendously this yr, practically tripling in dimension to 86 college students.

“​​The visibility of the Climate School and the urgency of the local weather disaster each contributed to the explosion of curiosity in this system,” explains Mingfang Ting, one of many program’s co-directors.

Not solely did this system develop in dimension, but in addition in significance, identified Cynthia Thomson, director of graduate packages on the Climate School.

“We went from this tiny little program that type of existed in a nook of Shermerhorn Hall to this program that proper now could be the one training program within the Climate School. And so it was actually attention-grabbing to see all that focus on the scholars and this system.”

These modifications didn’t come with out some rising pains. Launching a brand new college, tripling enrollment, and pandemic precautions like social distancing and masks carrying meant the college yr received off to a tough begin, stated Thomson. But issues began to return collectively within the spring as college students and college might have extra face-to-face interactions.

“Despite the rise in dimension of this system, we have been capable of maintain the category dimension small as earlier than, by providing the core programs in a number of sections,” stated Ting. “The smaller class dimension helped to keep up the lively engagements of the scholars within the core lessons.”

Being a part of the Climate School additionally allowed this system to rent a profession improvement officer, Gerald Cotiangco, “who has been offering glorious skilled assist to our college students as they work out the subsequent steps of their lives,” stated Ting.

“It’s the primary time our college students have had very particular, tailor-made skilled improvement assist, and it has been super,” defined Thomson. “Gerald’s been implausible, serving mainly as a one-person profession workplace, assembly one-on-one with them, serving to them discover internships. Lots of them, greater than in years previous, have secured jobs for internships, in order that after the summer time internship, they’ll proceed in these jobs.”

Being a part of the Climate School additionally meant that, for the primary time, this system might design its personal elective programs to supply to college students, along with the lessons being taught at different Columbia colleges. That meant that local weather context might be “baked into” the programs, slightly than counting on the scholars to convey their very own local weather lens. The program launched a number of distinctive electives, together with Climate Mobility, Strategic Communications for Climate Change, Post Disaster Economic and Housing Recovery within the US, and Climate Change and Disaster Management.

Thomson added that being a part of the college means “we now have all these prime researchers and practitioners to faucet into to make this the flagship local weather grasp’s program not solely at Columbia, however within the nation.”

Continuing to evolve

In the approaching college yr, the Climate and Society program will probably be increasing its record of electives. Climate Change Mitigation will probably be supplied in fall 2022, and a course on local weather justice is in improvement.

Based on suggestions from college students, this system is working laborious to strengthen its concentrate on local weather justice and combine the theme of justice throughout the curriculum of this system, slightly than simply masking the subject in a single course, stated Ting.

She added that this system can be exploring creating areas of focus, the place the scholars might cluster three to 5 programs in particular disciplines that might flip into “tracks” sooner or later. This would enable college students to specialize, whereas nonetheless emphasizing this system’s interdisciplinary nature.

Whatever lies forward, Thomson hopes this system will proceed to be dynamic. “Climate change is such a fast-moving subject, in order the dial modifications, issues refocus, and sure issues turn into extra necessary. Columbia’s program will probably be responsive and actually faucet into the trade professionals who’re doing this work out in the actual world.”

Thomson commends the scholars for his or her resilience within the face of COVID, and their persistence and constructive suggestions as this system discovered its footing.

“I feel it’s actually superior that they’re without end going to be the primary college students of the Climate School,” she stated. “That’s a badge they’ll get to put on going ahead.”

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