June 30, 2012

Dean Robert Lieberman recently announced the appointment of a pair of new concentration and specialization leaders for 2012-13. Ellen Morris (pictured) has been appointed as the director of the Energy and Environment concentration, while Ben Orlove will be the new director of SIPA’s specialization in Applied Science.

Morris and Orlove each follow in the footsteps of Steven Cohen, who stepped down from the two positions in order to launch the new EMPA Concentration in Environmental Policy and Sustainability Management. Cohen also continues to serve as director of the MPA-ESP program; Dean Lieberman thanked him “for his skillful work shepherding all these programs in recent years.”

Morris — an associate professor of professional practice — is also the president and founder of Sustainable Energy Solutions, a consulting company that focuses on international development, policy analysis, and research on energy and finance issues for national governments, development agencies, foundations, and the private sector. She teaches a course entitled Energy, Business, and Economic Development and leads Energy and Development capstone workshops in Africa and Latin America.

A conversation with Professor Morris follows. 

What is your vision for the Energy and Environment (EE) concentration?

In the EE concentration, we aim to give students a broad and balanced view of energy and environment. This covers everything from sustainability, economics, development, technologies, business models, management, policies, and regulatory frameworks in the context of national, international, and regional issues. We think that the SIPA program is shaped both by the highly qualified and dedicated faculty as well as the talented and motivated students who come from around the world. The SIPA students and the faculty are the main asset of the EE program, and I think it is essential to create strong links between them through mentoring, exchange of ideas, collaboration, and networking.

What will SIPA students get out of the EE concentration?

We aim to approach environmental and energy issues in a holistic way that gives SIPA students experience and skills across a range of subjects, in different market economies and in different contexts. We want the students to come out of SIPA with strong technical, analytical, and writing skills in order to prepare them to be the enlightened leaders of the next generation. Most importantly, I want students to gain critical thinking skills that foster creativity and independent thinking to tackle pressing issues related to energy and environmental policy, technology innovations , environmental and economic sustainability, and the role of business at all scales. Students graduate from SIPA with a set of analytic and decision-making tools along with a  broadened perspective that allows them to tackle any number of issues in the public and private sectors.

How will you run the EE program?

I have been running the International Energy Management and Policy and the Sustainable Energy Policy tracks for the last two years. Now, I will be adding the Environmental Policy track to my portfolio as the director of the EE concentration. I will continue working with students and faculty in a very collaborative and transparent way to ensure that I am continually checking in to see how things are going and taking suggestions on how to improve the program. Students regularly stop by my office for advice and guidance, and I use that opportunity to get feedback on the courses and their overall SIPA experience. Since we have so many adjunct faculty, I have started a tradition of convening an annual faculty retreat to foster collaboration and create a sense of community for all our faculty. I see one of my important roles is to be an advocate and voice for EE students and faculty with the administration and outside stakeholders, and in doing so use a balanced and fair-minded approach to present and discuss current issues.

What are the leading issues being addressed through the EE concentration?

One of today’s leading issues is the role of emerging economies relative to the use and management of natural resources. This means pursuing economic development in line with environmental protection while addressing the concerns of local and multi-national businesses. Because energy and the environment are intimately connected to society's productivity and sustainability, our ability to properly protect, develop and manage our natural assets is at the core of the program.

Where are EE students going when they graduate?

My experience thus far has been with the energy students, and I am looking forward to learning more about the environment side of the house. In general, we see students working across a range of fields in the public, private, and non-profit sectors in emerging and industrialized countries. In the private sector, energy graduates lean toward finance, management consulting, risk management, corporate and social responsibility, government relations, and business development for start-ups. In public sector, we see graduates working for government agencies in the U.S. and in the home countries of our students, multi-lateral development organizations, international finance institutions, and regional energy and environmental policy bodies. In the non-profit sector we see people going into advocacy, policy analysis or research with a range of organizations, both large and small, that focus on all aspects of energy and environmental issues.