Congratulations to the 2024 Graduates of the Columbia Climate School – State of the Planet

Congratulations to the 2024 Graduates of the Columbia Climate School – State of the Planet

Columbia Climate School Class of 2024 at Class Day on May 10th. Credit: Jennifer Genrich⁠

On May 10, Columbia Climate School’s third class of graduating students gathered to celebrate their accomplishments in the 2024 Class Day ceremony. Students in the M.A. in Climate and Society program hail from all over the world, with academic backgrounds as diverse as anthropology, astrophysics, biochemistry, engineering, finance, hotels and tourism, international relations, sociology, theater and environmental science.

“It goes without saying that this has been a challenging academic year,” Jeffrey Shaman, interim dean of the Climate School, said in his opening remarks to the graduates and their families. “Yet it is all too human and vital that we come together despite the tension to celebrate what you, the Climate School, Climate and Society program students, have accomplished individually and collectively.” Even in difficult times—or perhaps especially then—community, culture and connection remain fundamental for human wellbeing, he said.

“It inspires me to know that the Class of 2024 will be agents of change for our planet in the years to come. Your achievements across all sectors will be an essential and needed beacon for society, one to which I will look in the years to come,” Shaman added.

Although most of the students won’t officially graduate until they complete their summer internships in August, May represents the culmination of their coursework and an opportunity to celebrate with their peers.

“It’s been an absolute joy watching you all grow and develop over the past year,” said Mingfang Ting, co-director of the Climate and Society program. “Climate change is keenly felt by everyone, and everywhere. But I firmly believe our future is bright,” she said. “We are definitely much stronger together, and together we can overcome any challenges, including this enormous challenge that we face called the climate change crisis.”

Lisa Dale, co-director of the Climate and Society program, said: “Our students are showing us a path toward a transformed status quo on campus, in our classrooms, at the Climate School and across the country and around the world. What does that look like? What will it feel like in that future? I can’t wait to find out.”

In this celebration of both individual and cooperative achievements, Class Day speakers acknowledged the tremendous difficulties the world faces when it comes to climate change and environmental justice, but also championed the enormous opportunities for adaptation, resilience and collective action, which were recurrent themes throughout the ceremony.

“We know the irreversible damage that’s been done, and we know how to address some of these challenges and synthesize them, in large part thanks to the Climate School,” Tamara Rasamny, the 2024 student speaker from the M.A. in Climate and Society program, told her peers. “All of us have decided to be here because we have set our aims extremely high in tackling one of the largest existential threats of our time. So I just want to thank you for your courage in tackling these challenges.”

The keynote address was given by Catherine Coleman Flowers, founder and director of the Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice, where she works to build solutions through partnerships that address the overlapping challenges of water and sanitation infrastructure, economic development and public health. She told graduates the message she wanted to leave them with was one of hope.

“If you don’t remember anything else that I say tonight, it’s to always fight for justice,” said Flowers. “I am so glad to be here to hear your fervor, to hear your commitment. I know that the world is going to be a better place because of you.” 

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