December 14, 2011
By Sarah Tweedie
Patricia Grossi Reis was working in London, England, for ChildrensAid, a non-profit organization that supports projects for at-risk children in her home country of Brazil. As a member of SIPA's MPA in Environmental Science & Policy Class of 2012, Patricia plans to combine her experience in direct marketing for a non-profit organization with her new knowledge of environmental policy to make a career change she has long been considering. For Patricia, her time in the classroom has just been a small part of her educational experience.
Students in the MPA in Environmental Science & Policy program enroll in a year-long, 54-credit program offered by SIPA in partnership with the Earth Institute. Throughout this 12-month program, students are immersed in courses that combine Columbia University’s hands-on approach to teaching public policy and administration with pioneering thinking about the environment. During the summer semester, students learn the fundamentals of environmental science, while the fall and spring semesters focus on teaching the policy and economics necessary to becoming successful environmental analysts and managers. The 62 students come from a wide variety of backgrounds ranging from sociology to environmental studies and come to us from 17 different countries.
A Conversation with Patricia Grossi Reis
What drew you to the Master of Public Administration in Environmental Science and Policy program?
The program’s hands-on, interdisciplinary approach to tackling environmental issues was definitely one of the key aspects that grabbed my attention. When I was researching my options, I found other programs that offered either policy or science, but never both. This program, on the other hand, offered an integrated curriculum of science, policy and quantitative analysis subjects, which greatly complemented my business background.
What were you doing before you started the program?
I was living in London and working as a Direct Marketing Manager at Breakthrough Breast Cancer, the leading UK non-profit in breast cancer research. I this role I managed a team of three full-time staff, and was responsible for designing and leading an integrated communications program to inspire thousands of UK citizens to start and continue to support the organization financially. I worked closely with the organization’s research department in translating key scientific findings into simple and compelling messages that communicated to donors how their donations were being put to great use. I also had the opportunity to meet people who benefited directly from the work the organization did. It was a fantastic experience working for such a worthy cause, and I felt both humbled and honored that my work has impact in the lives of people affected by breast cancer.
What area of environmental policy and management are you most interested in?
The program has really opened my eyes to a number of areas which I didn’t know much about before. There are so many fascinating paths that one could get involved in and make an impact! The two broad areas I am most interested in are energy (in particular renewable energy and energy efficiency) and climate change, both of which are very much related. I see myself combining my business background, my experience in both commercial and non-profit sectors and the learning from this program and working in the environmental division of a private corporation. I would like to work on incorporating sustainability into a company’s business strategy, including improving energy efficiency across its operations (reducing its carbon footprint) and raising environmental standards in its supply chain.
What skills and tools do you hope to acquire through the program?
I hope to further my analytical, managerial, and communication skills and to get a better understanding of how environmental policies are formulated and implemented. I also hope to improve my problem-solving skills, something I believe is key in addressing the increasingly complex environmental issues we are faced with today.
What is your favorite class in the MPA-ESP program so far, and why?
My favorite science class was Climatology. It was fascinating to learn about how the different systems like the oceans and the atmosphere interact to affect climate, and the role that humans play in maintaining (or disrupting) this balance. I was also very excited to work with “real-life” data, which scientists use to develop climate models and to understand how the planet’s climate has changed over time. The Workshop is another favorite. This class gives me the opportunity to be more hands-on, collaborate with my fellow colleagues and “learn by doing”.
How has collaborating with your fellow students in class projects benefitted you professionally and personally?
I have learned so much from my colleagues without even realizing it! The variety of backgrounds in this program means that everyone has something a little bit different to offer and the result is a very enriching experience all around. I cherish the spirit of collaboration and partnership that exists, and the fact that everyone works really hard towards a common goal. From a professional perspective, I have learned to be a better listener, a better manager and a better public speaker, all thanks to the support of my colleagues.
Beyond the classroom, what, if any, extracurricular sustainability-related activities have you engaged in with your fellow Environmental Science and Policy students?
I have joined the School of International and Public Affairs Energy Club with some of my colleagues, and I have also become a research assistant to one of our Professors, working in tandem with other fellow students on mapping out renewable energy industries across the globe.
How do you intend to utilize your degree from the MPA-ESP program to further your career?
For a while I have been considering a career change, and this degree is the perfect way to make the transition into the environmental arena. I hope to use the knowledge and skills acquired in this program to further my career as an enabler and effective manager of critically important environmental issues.