February 27, 2014

SIPA and the Earth Institute are celebrating the 10th anniversary of the PhD program in sustainable development — the first of its kind.

The program was established in 2004 with an eye to training scholars to deal with an evolving challenge: While economic progress and technology have driven astounding gains in health, wealth, and population, it has also left billions of people in poverty and subjected our planet to unprecedented damage.

Ten years on, the program is “adding to our understanding of the complex economic and natural dynamics, and contributing to problem solving of some of the world’s most pressing economic, social, and environmental challenges,” writes Professor Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute.

At its outset, the program envisioned a new generation of scholars who could see beyond traditional boundaries to find fresh solutions. Today’s PhD students in sustainable development embody that promise — bringing experience in academia, the public sector, and the private sectors  to Columbia from every region on earth. They bridge the natural and social sciences, exploring how we can maintain prosperity, preserve the natural environment, and extend the promise of a better life to every human on the planet, both today and in the future.

“I congratulate the success of the first decade of the program, including the important role and impact of its graduates,” writes Dean Merit E. Janow of SIPA. The School, she said, will continue to support the program “as it evolves, advances, and defines the science of sustainable development.”

“Columbia’s Sustainable Development PhD program is an outstanding success,” write Professors John Mutter and Douglas Almond, who are, respectively, the program’s director of graduate studies and economics advisor. “Our remarkable students have the courage and dedication to build a new field of inquiry that generates fundamental insights in to the key challenges human societies face.”

As part of the two-day celebration, a public event in Low Library on February 27 will feature a discussion between two of the University’s most distinguished faculty — Sachs and Professor Joseph Stiglitz, who are co-directors of the PhD program. Dean Janow of SIPA will moderate.

Professor Scott Barrett and Provost John Coatsworth will make welcoming remarks at the event, which will also feature research presentations by three alumni: Ram Fishman of George Washington University, Marta Vicarelli of UMass Amherst, and Solomon Hsiang of UC Berkeley.

A celebratory dinner will follow with additional remarks by Dean Janow, Professors Barrett and Mutter, and current PhD student Anna Tompsett.

On Friday, a research conference at the International Affairs Building will feature presentations by nine senior students and alumni.


Public Forum, February 27, 5-7 p.m.

Brochure: Celebrating 10 Years of the First PhD in Sustainable Development