2018 | Innovative and Resilient Cities

Thank you for joining us!

As natural disasters and extreme weather events become more intense and frequent every year, there lies an opportunity and challenge to rethink and rebuild cities to survive, thrive, and combat the effects of climate change. This year’s Sustainable Perspective Symposium, Innovative and Resilient Cities, explores our roles as individuals and sustainability professionals in driving new concepts and programs in energy sourcing and efficiency, waste reduction and management, and outreach and behavioral change.

Join SUMASA, the student association for Columbia’s Sustainability Management (SUMA) program, as we learn about local and global efforts to develop more robust planning to anticipate response to an ever-changing environment. Our expert panels and featured presentations with industry leaders provide a dynamic forum for solutions-based conversations and actions.

See the list of speakers who were featured at the event.

Don’t miss the Student-led Workshop at 12:00pm: Talking Climate Change? Let Climate Talk!

How would you talk about climate science to your boss in an executive meeting?  Or to a group of policymakers?  Join your fellow sustainability students for a workshop on climate change communication.  We know the science — now let’s learn what to say and how to say it to drive change in everyday scenarios.

2018 Symposium Speakers

 Welcome Remarks

Steven Cohen, August 11, 2015
Photo by Bruce Gilbert


Executive Director, Columbia University’s Earth Institute

Dr. Cohen is the Executive Director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute and a Professor in the Practice of Public Affairs at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. He is also Director of the Master of Public Administration Program in Environmental Science and Policy at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, Director of the Masters of Science in Sustainability Management at Columbia University’s School of Continuing Education, and the Director of the Research Program on Sustainability Policy and Management. Cohen received his B.A. in Political Science from Franklin College of Indiana, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Political Science from the State University of New York in Buffalo. In 1976-77, Cohen was a Ford Foundation Fellow in Urban Environmental Policy; in 1978-79, he was a Rockefeller Foundation Fellow in Public and Environmental Policy and Implementation. Dr. Cohen is a former policy analyst and consultant to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. He has served on numerous boards and committees; he currently serves on the Board of Directors of Homes for the Homeless, Board of Directors of the Willdan Group, Inc., Advisory Board of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment, and Steering Committee for the Porter School of Environmental Studies at Tel Aviv University. Dr. Cohen also sits on the Judging Committee for the Yidan Prize Foundation. Dr. Steve  Cohen is the author of several books and articles on public management, sustainability management, and environmental policy. His latest book, The Sustainable City, was published in 2017. Dr. Cohen also is a weekly contributor to The Huffington Post.

Panel: Innovative Approaches for an Inclusive, Resilient & Sustainable NYC


Senior Planning Analyst, Utility of the Future, Consolidated Edison of New York, Inc.

Andrew Reid is a Senior Planning Analyst in Con Edison’s Utility of the Future department in New York City. His primary focus is to design and support the management of processes that maximize the value of innovation at Con Edison and to identify new utility models related to growth of distributed energy resources.  Previously, he worked with the Research and Development Dept. of Con Edison where he primarily focused on managing projects that drive the adoption of new technologies that address strategic needs and operational sustainability for the electric business. Prior to Con Edison, Andrew worked at GE Global Research to generate innovative solutions in the Energy vertical. As the project lead in GE’s Controls, Electronics, & Signal Processing organization, his work areas included Control Communications Systems for Battery Energy Storage, Electric Vehicle Infrastructure for Smart Charging and embedded electronics for Distribution Network Observability & Controllability.   


Executive Director of Earth Day Initiative, 1990

John Oppermann is Executive Director of Earth Day Initiative, a 28-year-old environmental organization that puts together the most high-traffic Earth Day events in the country every spring and administers year-round environmental awareness programs, including a sustainable food toolkit and a green building publication. A graduate of Harvard Law School and Georgetown University, John is also a licensed attorney and has a real estate brokerage practice focused on green and healthy residential real estate.


Founder and CEO, Radiator Labs

Marshall Cox is the founder and CEO of Radiator Labs, a NYC startup that saves up to 45% in heating costs for radiator-heated buildings, which represent almost 15% of the US residential housing market. Radiator Labs has won numerous awards, including the MIT Clean Energy Prize, the Popular Science Innovation Award, and the Verizon Powerful Answers award. Marshall earned his M.S. in materials science and engineering from Cornell University in 2004 and his Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Columbia University in 2013. He holds six U.S. patents and has published eight peer-reviewed papers in semiconductor devices, processing and inorganic synthetic chemistry.


Senior Strategy Advisor, Executive Office, Department of Homeless Services, NY

Robert Cowan is a Senior Strategic Advisor for New York City’s Department of Homeless Services (DHS). Prior to DHS, Robert worked for the Mayor’s Office of Operations, where he helped establish the Shelter Repair Squad (SRS), a multiagency task force that routinely inspects all shelters across the five boroughs to ensure conditions are tracked, repaired, and publicly accessible. Previously, Robert worked as a project manager and analyst for New York City’s Department of Small Business Services (SBS), the London Ambulance Service, and New Zealand’s Ministry of Social Development. In all of these roles, Robert has focused on building strong and sustainable organizational governance structures. At DHS, Robert is now focused on developing Conscious Shelter Design, a set of guidelines and strategies that will enable shelter providers to utilize and maintain their physical shelter space in the most effective and sustainable ways possible.


Co-Founder, Think Zero LLC.

Sarah is Co-Founder of waste reduction and diversion consulting firm, Think Zero LLC, which helps corporations, building owners and institutions with waste reduction and diversion planning and implementation. Previously, Sarah ran the Solid Waste and Zero Waste Programs for the Mayor’s Office of NYC. Her area of focus was implementing the Zero Waste plan Citywide. She ran the multi-agency Zero Waste Steering Committee, co-lead the OneNYC Water Fountain and Bottle Refiller Task Force, developed and lead the Mayor’s Zero Waste Challenge, and pushed forward groundbreaking work around light pollution. Chair of the Manhattan Solid Waste Advisory Board (SWAB) and a Board Member of Earth Day New York and the R Baby Foundation, Sarah is deeply committed to environmental and social advocacy. A vegetarian since childhood and nature lover, she has a lifelong passion for environmental preservation, waste reduction and diversion, community service, yoga and meditation, habitat conservation, traveling and the arts.

Moderated by:


Representative, World Information Transfer, United Nations Economic and Social Council

Modou Cham is a Masters of Science in Sustainability Management student at Columbia University’s Earth Institute and School of Professional Studies. Prior to studying at Columbia University, Modou worked as the Chief Administrative Officer for World Information Transfer (WIT). WIT is an NGO in general consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council, promoting environmental health, literacy and sustainable development. He was responsible for assisting the CEO in all functional and organizational matters, including office, personnel, information, and conference management. While working for WIT, Modou served as the Executive Secretary on the board of the NGO Committee on Sustainable Development from December 2013 to December 2016, through which he helped influence the Post-2015 Sustainable Development negotiation to mainstream climate change in the agenda. Modou currently serves as an adviser to the CEO and a United Nations Economic and Social Council Representative at WIT. Modou holds a Bachelors of Arts in Political Science and International Relations from West Chester University of Pennsylvania.

Panel: Innovations that are Changing the World – Examples of Resilience


Director of Environmental Transactions, Quantified Ventures

Carolyn duPont is a Boston-area native who is the Director of environmental transactions at Quantified Ventures. Prior to this role, she served on the investments team at Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, making early-stage debt and equity investments in clean energy and water companies. Previously, she worked in San Francisco as a manager for the geopolitical strategy consulting firm Monitor 360, part of the Monitor Group. Before Monitor, she worked in executive search and recruiting for environmentally-oriented companies, social enterprises, and foundations. In graduate school, she published research on green bonds and land conservation, as well as strategies for financing climate resilience investments. She worked with Encourage Capital on green infrastructure investments across U.S. cities and with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. She serves on the board of the Trust for Public Land in Massachusetts and on the finance committee for the Conservation Law Foundation. Carolyn holds an MBA from MIT Sloan School of Management, an MPA from the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government, and a BA in Anthropology from Stanford University.


Investment Officer, Closed Loop Partners

Danielle is an Investment Officer with Closed Loop Partners, responsible for managing the Closed Loop Ventures Pipeline and supporting underwriting, investment activities, and portfolio management across Closed Loop funds.  Danielle has four years of experience in environmental-sector growth equity investing with NewWorld Capital Group. At NewWorld, Danielle worked on a range of topics, spanning business development, research on disruptive environmental technologies, and analyzing opportunities for growth equity and project finance investments across clean energy, energy efficiency, waste-to-value, water resources and reclamation, and environmental services. Danielle earned her MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business where she participated in and led, as Chief Investment Officer, the inaugural years of the GSB Impact Fund, an early stage investing platform for impact-driven companies.  Danielle earned her BA from Pomona College.


Global Resilience Director, Principal, Perkins+Will

Janice works with public and private clients to identify their risks and vulnerabilities and to meet their resilience goals. With nearly 30 years of design experience ridging practical applications with empirical research, Janice recognizes critical organizational processes and links these to appropriate design responses. Janice co-chairs the firm’s Resilience Task Force linking environmental, social and economic indicators. She also oversees the Resilience Lab of AREA, a 501(c)(3) focused on integrating research into design practice. She has worked extensively with the Rockefeller Foundation, beginning with the National Disaster Resilience Competition and then Global Resilience Academy. Janice has vast experience in the development of different cities’ resilience strategies and climate adaptation plans. Janice also participates on the board of several organizations focused on improving overall resilience and sustainability. She received her bachelor’s degree in Architecture from the University of Tennessee, her master’s degree in Architecture from Tulane University and she took her M.S. and her Doctorate from the University of Michigan.


Managing Director, Center for Resilient Cities and Landscapes

Thaddeus Pawlowski is the managing director of the Center for Resilient Cities and Landscapes at Columbia University where he seeks to integrate adaptation and resilience into the long term development patterns of the cities through the design of projects, policies and programs. In a partnership with 100 Resilient Cities and the Rockefeller Foundation, the Center brings together local leaders and global experts to drive the implementation of resilient projects around the world.  Prior to the founding CRCL, Thaddeus planned for disasters at NYC Office of Emergency Management, worked to reduce the likelihood and impact of disasters at NYC Planning, and then helped the City recover from Hurricane Sandy at the NYC Mayor’s Office. He also has extensive experience working as a subject matter expert in cities facing the hazards of climate change including Sao Paolo, Houston, and Boston. He has a Masters in Architecture from University of Pennsylvania and was a 2015 Loeb Fellow at Harvard University.

Moderated by:


Strategy and Finance Professional, M.S. in Sustainability Management Student, Columbia University

Karen is a strategy and finance professional with experience spanning governmental and non-governmental organizations such as the World Bank, the Commission of the European Union, the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. She has worked in the private sector for Fortune500 companies such as VeriSign. Her doctoral studies focused on international political economy and environmental economics. Her consulting experience includes the Corporate Executive Board and Strategy Execution Consulting. She has worked with a number of startups in the tech sector in Silicon Valley in crucial roles that included strategy implementation, sales and customer success responsibilities. She is passionate about clean tech and is currently completing a certificate in sustainable finance at Columbia University with a focus on funding renewable energy.



Strategic Adviser for Environmental and Science Journalism, National Geographic Society

Andrew Revkin is one of America’s most honored and experienced journalists and authors focused on environmental and human sustainability and an innovator in using new communication tools to foster progress on a finite, fast-forward planet.

He has written on global environmental change and risk for more than 30 years, mainly for The New York Times, reporting from the North Pole to the White House, the Amazon rainforest to the Vatican. From 2016 through early 2018, he was the senior reporter for climate change at the nonprofit investigative newsroom ProPublica. From 2010 through 2016 he wrote his award-winning Dot Earth blog for The New York Times Opinion section and was the Senior Fellow for Environmental Understanding at Pace University. There, he developed and taught a graduate course called “Blogging a Better Planet” and co-created an award-winning field course on environmental filmmaking.

He was a staff reporter at The Times from 1995 through 2009, covering issues ranging from threats to New York City’s water supply and the Y2K computer challenge to the Indian Ocean tsunami and — of course climate science and policy. In the mid 2000s, he exposed political suppression of climate findings at NASA and editing of federal climate reports by political appointees with ties to the petroleum industry. He made three Arctic reporting trips and was the first Times reporter to file stories, video and photos from the sea ice around the North Pole.

Revkin began reporting on climate change in the 1980s in magazines and never stopped. He has won the top awards in science journalism multiple times, along with a Guggenheim Fellowship and Investigative Reporters & Editors Award. He has written acclaimed and award-winning books on the history of humanity’s relationship with weather, global warming, the changing Arctic and the assault on the Amazon rainforest, as well as three book chapters on science communication.

Revkin has crossed over into scientific scholarship. He played an early role in the evolution of the hypothesis that humans have triggered a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene. In his 1992 climate book, he wrote: “Perhaps earth scientists of the future will name this new post-Holocene period for its causative element—for us. We are entering an age that might someday be referred to as, say, the Anthrocene [sic]. After all, it is a geological age of our own making.” That future arrived just eight years later, in 2000, when scientists formally proposed such an epoch. Revkin was invited to join the Anthropocene Working Group and served from 2011 until he returned to full-time journalism in 2016. He is a co-author on a series of related peer-reviewed papers.

He speaks frequently about environmental science and policy and sustainability challenges. Drawing on his experience with his Dot Earth blog, which Time Magazine named one of the Web’s top 25 blogs in 2013, Revkin also speaks about the opportunities and pitfalls in navigating the fast-changing online communication climate.

He is also a performing songwriter and leads a Hudson Valley roots band, Breakneck Ridge Revue. He was a longtime accompanist of Pete Seeger and released his first album of original songs in 2013. Two films have been based on his work: “Rock Star” (Warner Brothers, 2001) and “The Burning Season” (HBO, 1994). He lives in the Hudson Valley with his wife, Lisa Mechaley, an environmental educator. They have two sons.

Introduced by:


Adjunct Professor of International Affairs and Media, Instructor of Practice, the Earth Institute at Columbia University, Writer, New York Times/Science Times

Claudia Dreifus writes about the lives of American and international scientists in her popular interview column in the Science Times section of The New York Times, “A Conversation with…” When the scientific honor society Sigma Xi made her an honorary member, they described her as “a pioneering and original force in making science accessible.”

Ms. Dreifus’ interviews with leading figures in world politics, particularly with emerging women leaders, have appeared in The New York Times Sunday Magazine, Ms., The Nation, Playboy, The Progressive, Mother Jones, Premiere, Town and Country, TV Guide, Scientific American and AARP’s The Magazine.  Currently, she is also the interviewer with the New York Review of Books/Daily.

Two collections of her interviews, Scientific Conversations: Interviews on Science from the New York Times, and Interview, are used as texts in journalism classes throughout the world. The American Society of Journalists and Authors awarded her its prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award. She is an adjunct professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, and at the Sustainability Management M.S. program at the Earth Institute. Claudia is also a  senior fellow at the World Policy Institute. Her much reviewed book, Higher Education? How Our Colleges Are Wasting Our Money And Failing Our Kids, co-authored with her husband Andrew Hacker, is now available.

Closing Remarks


President, World Development Foundation and Former Ambassador & Permanent Representative of Suriname to the United Nations

Ambassador Mac Donald received his legal education at the Law Faculty of the Anton de Kom University in Paramaribo (1994,) and at the American University in Washington DC, where he obtained an additional Masters of Law in “Law and Government” at the Washington College of Law (2003). He acquired Post-Doctoral honors from the United Nations Institute for Training and Research,, the International Labor Organization, the Universities of Utrecht and Amsterdam in the Netherlands, and the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium. Dr. Henry Mac Donald received an Honorary Degree in Doctorate for Philosophy in Humanities and the Golden Rule International Award from the College of Christian Education Department, for his international work on gender equality and women’s empowerment at the United Nations, in the R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He is also a “Romulo Gallegos Scholar” of the Inter American Commission on Human Rights at the Organization of American States. Before Ambassador Mac Donald joined the Foreign Service of the Republic of Suriname in 1998, firstly as the Deputy Chief of Mission at the Permanent Mission of his country to the Organization of American States en thereafter as the Charge d’ Affairs a.i. at the Embassy in Washington DC, he served at the Ministry of Justice and Police as coordinator of the Unit for International Affairs and Human Rights.
He worked as a senior lecturer at the University of Suriname and served his country in the capacity as Coordinator to the Summit of the Americas Implementation Process and represented Suriname in this regard as its Chief Negotiator from 2002 until 2007. He is passionately advocating for the eradication of all forms of violence against women and girls and uses his mien at the United Nations and other national, regional and international institutions, by calling for the direct involvement of males in the global fight against this menace. Ambassador Mac Donald departed the Permanent Mission of Suriname to the United Nations in December 2015, to take up the position of Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Paramaribo, Suriname. After helping with the reorganization of the Ministry he returned in August 2016 as the new Permanent Representative to the United Nations. Dr. Henry Mac Donald is a PHD Candidate at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands. In October 2017, Dr. Mac Donald was named President of the World Development Foundation (a USA based Not-for-Profit), where he synchronizes his passion and theoretical, as well practical knowledge about the implementation of the Sustainable Development by concentrating strongly on SGD -17.