Opening Remarks

Steven Cohen, Executive Director, Columbia University’s Earth Institute 


Steven 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. From 2002 to 2006, he directed education programs at the Earth Institute. From 1998 to 2001, Cohen was Vice Dean of Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. From 1985 to 1998, he was the Director of Columbia’s Graduate Program in Public Policy and Administration. From 1987-1998, Cohen was Associate Dean for Faculty and Curriculum at SIPA.

Dr. Cohen has taught courses in public management, policy analysis, environmental policy, management innovation, and sustainability management. In 1982 Cohen developed, and until 2001, directed Columbia’s Workshops in Applied Public Management and Applied Policy Analysis; bringing practical professional education into the center of Columbia’s Public Administration curriculum. He has conducted professional training seminars in total quality management, strategic planning, project management and management innovation.

Keynote Speaker

Nilda Mesa, Director
NYC Mayor’s Office of Sustainability


Nilda Mesa is Director of the NYC Mayor’s Office of Sustainability. Prior to joining the de Blasio administration, Mesa worked at Columbia University in several roles, including as the Assistant Vice President of Environmental Stewardship, Adjunct Professor at the School of International and Public Affairs, and as the Associate Dean of Administrative Affairs at the Graduate School of Journalism. Previously, Mesa served in the Clinton Administration in key environmental policy roles at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the US Air Force, and at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as Counsel to the NAFTA Taskforce, where she led U.S. legal negotiations with Canada and Mexico and implemented legislation related to trade and the environment. Mesa began her career at the California Attorney General’s Office enforcing toxic waste and natural resources laws. She is a graduate of Harvard Law School and Northwestern University. She was born in Cuba, and has lived in Harlem since 2001.

Featured Speaker

Matthew Ketschke, VP of Distributed Resource Integration
Con Edison Company of New York

Matthew Ketschke
Matt Ketschke is currently Con Edison’s vice president of Distributed Resource Integration where he is responsible for the planning and integration efforts related to grid edge customer sided resources and non-traditional utility solutions.  Before assuming the newly established position with responsibility for distributed resource integration, Matt was the vice president of Manhattan Electric Operations. Matt has been with Con Edison for 20 years and has held various positions of increasing responsibility in operations, construction, and engineering. He is a graduate of Stevens Institute of Technology (Bachelor of Engineering in Mechanical Engineering, Master of Science in Management) and Columbia University (MBA).

Master of Ceremony

Brian E. Wennersten, Director, Project Management & Design, Global Real Estate NBC Universal Media, LL

Brian E. Wennersten1

Brian Wennersten is an experienced LEED® Accredited Professional who has worked as a consultant on projects ranging from commercial office buildings, an airport tower, retail centers, to higher education buildings.  Brian holds an M.S. in Sustainability Management from Columbia University in New York and has a B.S. in Environmental & Business Economics from Rutgers University and is a member elect of the Rutgers University Alumni Association Board.

Closing Remarks

Sharyn O’Halloran, Senior Vice Dean & Chief Academic Officer
Columbia University’s School of Professional Studies


Sharyn O’Halloran is the George Blumenthal Professor of Political Economy and Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University in New York City A political scientist and economist by training, O’Halloran has written extensively on issues related to the political economy of international trade and finance, regulation and institutional reform, economic growth and democratic transitions, and the political representation of minorities.    O’Halloran received a BA degree in economics and political science from University of California San Diego. O’Halloran then went on to receive her MA and PhD, also from University of California San Diego. Her work focuses on formal and quantitative methods and their application to politics, economics, and public policy.

Reshaping Corporate Innovation Panel

Celine Ruben-Salama, Corporate Sustainability Consultant, CBRE, moderator


Celine is a business strategist focused on long-term value creation through innovation, risk reduction, efficiency, and long-term oriented sustainability planning. As American Express’ first Director of Sustainability/CSR, Celine was responsible for environmental affairs including strategy setting, implementation, and communications for the enterprise globally.

She grew up in a zero-waste household with geothermal heaters, recycling and composting in Nairobi Kenya, Stockholm, Sweden, and New York, NY, USA. Today, Celine advises large organizations on efficiency, strategic IT implementation, communications and environmental, social and governance issues including: climate change management, opportunity and risk identification, resilience planning, supply-chain engagement and ESG/CSR reporting. Her clients include Fortune 100 companies, public sector institutions such as the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA), as well as non-profit organizations/NGOs such as the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) and the United Nations (UN). To date, over 80 of her articles have appeared in publications such as: Consilience, the Journal of Sustainable Development; Yahoo Green; treehugger.com; Inhabitat.com; Ecogeek.org; and CSR Now!.

Ralph Bianculli, Jr., Managing Director, Emerald Brand

RJ_headshotRalph Bianculli Jr., LEED GA, is the Managing Director of Emerald Brand, a leading provider of everyday sustainable disposable products. From an early age, Bianculli Jr. has been dedicated to sustainability and global conservation. He began his career at Emerald Brand while still in high school as a driver’s assistant and warehouse worker in the company’s operations department. Shortly thereafter Bianculli Jr. was promoted to the Director of Sales where he then led the company to substantial national growth and assisted in opening Emerald’s west coast distribution center. Today he remains dedicated to saving the planet and educating the public about living healthy sustainable lives.

Ellen Kondracki, Senior Director, Becton, Dickinson and Company 

Ellen Kondracki

Ellen leads BD’s Office of Global Sustainability and the company’s efforts toward its 2020 Sustainability Goals, working closely with leaders across the company’s business units, regions and functions to integrate sustainability the company’s strategy and culture. She is responsible for monitoring emerging ESG (environmental, social, governance) trends and ensuring policies, management systems and processes are in place to meet new and emerging requirements. Ellen is also responsible for BD’s Global Product Stewardship function and the programs, data systems and processes to ensure compliance with environmental regulations affecting the products placed on the market.

Ellen has been a part of BD’s Office of Global Sustainability since the Company formed the department in 2009.   Prior to her current role, she held positions of increasing responsibility within Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) and Sustainability at BD. Before joining BD, she held an EHS role at a specialty chemicals company. Ellen is holds an M.S. in Sustainability Management from Columbia University in New York and obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Science from Cook College of Rutgers University in New Jersey. She is based in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey.

Peter B. Smith, VP of Delos Solutions, Delos Living

Peter_FULLPeter B. Smith, LEED AP Homes, Provisional WELL AP, is Vice President of Delos Solutions, leading a team of experts incorporating health and wellness strategies into commercial offices, schools and residential projects across the world. As the pioneer of Wellness Real Estate™, Delos is transforming our indoor environments by placing health and wellness at the center of design and construction decisions. Delos helps create spaces that actively contribute to human health, performance and well-being by marrying the best innovations in technology, health, science, and real estate.

Peter is engaged with leading financial institutions, global commercial real estate firms and multifamily developers pursuing WELL Certification for their projects and portfolios. Working closely with Delos Labs, an internal research group, he identifies best-in-class design solutions, products and technologies to improve the built environment and optimize occupant comfort and well-being. Peter is also a speaker and educator promoting WELL through industry events and technical workshops.

Marisa Buchanan, Executive Director, Sustainable Finance, JP Morgan Chase & Co

marisaMarisa plays an integral role in developing environmental guidance for the business, engaging with clients on sustainability-related risks and opportunities, and maintaining ongoing dialogue with a wide range of stakeholders including environmental organizations and investors. She has also built the firm’s knowledge and leadership on climate change and carbon asset risk, and is responsible for the firm’s carbon disclosure and ESG reporting.

She has 15 years of experience working on energy and environmental issues in the private and nonprofit sectors. Prior to joining JP Morgan Chase, Marisa was an analyst with Bloomberg, where her research focused on assessing the impacts of U.S. policy on the energy sector. She also spent several years developing methane reduction projects in the mining and oil & gas sectors with Verdeo Group, and developed renewable energy and methane reduction projects with Econergy International, an independent power producer subsequently acquired by GDF Suez. She began her career with the Surdna Foundation’s environmental team, which made grants to nonprofit organizations supporting sustainable forestry, smart growth, renewable energy and market-based solutions to climate change.

Advancing Resilient Cities Panel

Steve Clemons, Editor-at-Large, The Atlantic, moderator

Steve ClemonsSteve Clemons is Washington Editor-At-Large for The Atlantic. He is also a national security and foreign policy contributor to MSNBC. Clemons joined The Atlantic in June 2011 from the New America Foundation where he served as Executive Vice President.  He continues as a Senior Fellow and Founder of the American Strategy Program of New America. Clemons also served as Executive Vice President of the Economic Strategy Institute, as Senior Policy Advisor on Economic and International Affairs to Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), and as the first Executive Director of the Nixon Center. He is also a member of the World Economic Forum Council on Geopolitical Risk and serves on the Board of the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience at Washington College. He frequently writes about topics related to foreign policy, defense, and international economic policy. Clemons’ work appears in many of the major leading op-ed pages, journals, and magazines around the world.

Collette Ericsson, CSO & Enterprise Asset Management Lead New York Metropolitan Transportation Bus Operations

Collette EricssonCollette Ericsson is the Chief Sustainability Officer and the Enterprise Asset Management Lead for New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) Bus Operations where she leads the organization to achieve more sustainable operations and more effective lifecycle strategies and plans for its assets.  Her work impacts all facets of this multi-billion dollar enterprise that serves 2.5 million bus customers each weekday with 18,000 employees, a fleet of 5,700 buses and almost 40 facilities.  Ms. Ericsson’s responsibilities include the evaluation of bus propulsion technologies, alternative fuels and infrastructure, and the improvement of the environmental management system for Bus Operations.  Before joining MTA’s Bus Operations in 2008, she contributed to many of the major capital projects at New York City Transit including the rebuilding of systems and stations in Lower Manhattan after 9/11.  She was a founding member of the Systems Engineering practice in the agency, establishing formal lifecycle processes for complex projects. Before joining the public sector in 1999, Ms. Ericsson worked in consulting and for the oil and gas industry in design and construction management of major capital projects and programs in California and Hawaii.

Allen Hershkowitz, President, 

Green Sports Alliance

Allen HershkowitzDr. Allen Hershkowitz is the co-founder and President of the Green Sports Alliance, an international coalition of hundreds of sports teams, leagues and venues committed to using the market and cultural influence of the sports industry to protect the conditions that make life on Earth possible. Dr. Hershkowitz is also co-founder of the Green Sports Alliance-Europe. Dr. Hershkowitz served as a Senior Scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council for 26 years, between 1988 and 2014, helping to grow NRDC into one of the most influential and largest environmental organizations in the world.

Amanda Stevens, Project Manager, Environmental Research Program, NYSERDA

amanda stevensAmanda has worked in the Environmental Research Program at the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA) since 2006. There, she manages the program’s climate change adaptation research projects. Before beginning work at NYSERDA, Amanda was an intern in the Environmental Protection Bureau of the NYS Attorney General’s Office. She has a Bachelor’s degree in geology from Hartwick College.

Miguel Sossa, Co-Lead, Accenture Digital IOT Smart Cities; Strategy Partner Lead, Rockefeller Foundation 100 Resilient Cities

miguel_sossa.jpgGiven the name “El Eterno Viajero” by his family, friends, and peers, Miguel Sossa is a true student of the world’s great cities, with proud Latin American roots in Medellin and Havana. Based in Vancouver, Mr. Sossa’s core focus is identifying roles that cities can play in positively shaping humanity. His focus has been shaped by his travels and professional experiences in inspiring cities from Santiago, Chile to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. In particular, he has enjoyed developing strategies to close the opportunity/economic divide for youth, designing community engagement and city innovation hubs, leading resilience efforts for the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities programs in Latin America, and most recently co-launching and now co-leading Accenture’s Digital IOT Smart Cities business. Mr. Sossa has concentrated his professional and academic background on exploring the intersection of Smart Cities, Human Behavior Change, Sustainability, and Global Business Development.  He was also a former ambassador to the UNFCCC for the University of Michigan where he received an MBA and MS in sustainable enterprise from the prestigious Erb Institute. Finally, outside of work, Mr. Sossa serves on the board of Washington’s leading environmental think tank, EarthShare, and passionately enjoys the rich culture of futbol, food, and music from around the world.