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Going Green

The Environmental Policy & Politics curriculum provides graduates the foundation they need for careers in conservation, environmental planning, or energy and climate change. Students gain skills and knowledge in environmental science, policy analytics, and the politics of environmental policy and advocacy.

Through campus-wide programming, course work led by environmental experts, and grassroots initiatives, the University at Albany and Rockefeller College are committed to preparing the future leaders in conservation and sustainability. Rockefeller’s Environmental Policy & Politics concentration provides graduates the foundation they need for careers in conservation, environmental planning, energy policy, and climate change.

Within the coursework, Master of Public Administration students examine environmental issues confronting local, state, and federal environmental agencies, as well as study today’s complex political climate and its impact on environmental policy, and the intersection of science and policy to promote environmental advocacy and develop climate change policy.

The interdisciplinary curriculum is led not only by Rockefeller’s faculty experts, including Associate Professors Jennifer Dodge and Brian Greenhill , but also adjunct faculty members with decades of experience in environmental policy — Eleanor Stein, Bill Saxonis '79, and Peter Iwanowicz.

Professor Stein — a former administrative law judge and adjunct professor at Albany Law School — recently retired after 27 years with the New York State Public Service Commission. There, she last served as project manager for Reforming the Energy Vision (REV), an initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build a cleaner, greener, and more affordable energy system for New York.

Professor Saxonis, a Rockefeller College alumnus, has been actively engaged in New York’s energy related policies, programs, and regulations throughout his career spanning four decades, including leadership roles at the New York State Energy Office and New York State Department of Public Service.

Professor Iwanowicz is currently the executive director of Environmental Advocates of New York and served as the acting commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and as deputy secretary for the environment during the Spitzer and Paterson administrations.

Recent Rockefeller alumni have successfully gone on to careers in environmental policy, including Zack Dufresne, BA ’15, MPA ’17 who works for the Alliance for Clean Energy New York. In addition, current MPA student Rachel Genzer, BA ’18 is serving as a project management intern on the Clean Heating and Cooling team at the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).

"The Environmental Policy and Politics concentration has helped me to understand that there are many ways to affect the sustainability of a community," said Genzer. "I’ve developed an interest in promoting “green” building codes in communities, as these take a more holistic approach to encouraging sustainability in communities. Green building codes can be used to incentivize installations of fossil-fuel-free heating and cooling systems, tighten building envelopes though increased insulation, locate new construction projects near public transit, and generally promote dense and walkable communities."

Rachel was selected for the Student Scholar Program for the Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships (NEEP) Summit in Newport, Rhode Island in fall 2018.

“My experience in the NEEP Student Scholar Program was fantastic," said Genzer. "There were people from the entire New England area, and I learned so much about the environmental and efficiency work going on in other states. The experience helped me expand my network and to start thinking about the variety of ways that policy mechanisms can support and incentivize energy efficiency.”

This spring, Rockefeller College and its partner institutions hosted an array of climate-based events for the university and local communities, including the Institute of Nonprofit Leadership and Community Development’s Leading Green series that focused on the impact climate change will have on nonprofits and the populations they serve. In addition, Professor Dodge invited Maya K. van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper, to campus to serve as the keynote speaker in the event, “Going Green in New York: A Conversation About the Proposed New York Environmental Bill of Rights,” on April 24th.

Meanwhile at the campus level, UAlbany is in the final stages of creating a Climate Action and Sustainability Plan. In February, the Office of Sustainability held a kick-off event to update the campus community on the University’s current state of sustainability, and to launch the four working committees that will be developing the Action Plan.

“We’re creating a strategic plan for sustainability and we want it to be an inclusive community engagement process,” said Director of Sustainability Mary Ellen Mallia. “We’re responding to the urgency for action, as indicated by our climate scientists. We have numerous ideas on how to be more sustainable, but we need a plan to aggregate these under our campus goals, and to prioritize actions.”

UAlbany is rated a Gold institution through STARS, the Sustainability Tracking and Assessment Rating System, and has been listed as a Green School by the Princeton Review. There are nine LEED-certified buildings on campus, a robust recycling program, and composting stations in the dining halls. Since 2005, the University has reduced carbon emissions 19 percent and waste sent to the landfill by 20 percent — despite an eight percent increase in square-footage.

The new Climate Action and Sustainability Plan aims to improve on these gains and align with the key goals of the University’s Strategic Plan, the SUNY Chancellor’s sustainability goals, New York State Executive Orders, and the U.N. Global Goals for Sustainable Development.

SUNY Chancellor Kristina Johnson has called for the entire SUNY System to move toward zero-carbon electricity sources by retrofitting existing buildings and designing new buildings with net-zero carbon emissions. Governor Andrew Cuomo’s goal is to have all state buildings carbon-free by 2040.

UAlbany’s plan is being drafted by four working groups, each concentrating on one aspect of the University: curriculum, operations, research and development, and engagement and planning. A draft of the plan is expected to be completed and submitted to President Rodríguez for review by this summer. After any needed refinement, the plan should be put into action by the end of 2019.

Through these green initiatives and curriculum, UAlbany and Rockefeller College are dedicated to preparing the next generation of environmental changemakers.

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2019 Rockefeller College News Magazine.