Faculty Spotlight: Rhiannon Gulick

Faculty Spotlight: Rhiannon Gulick

By Emily Tenaglia
|August 15, 2022

Rhiannon Gulick, Assistant Professor in the Sustainability Management Program, will teach ‘Energy and Sustainable Development’ this fall.

Assistant Professor Rhiannon Gulick works for a large international development contractor as part of the environmental team at DAI. Her work combines technical expertise in climate change and natural resource management with experience in developing integrated programs. She currently works on two USAID projects, one focused on integrated natural resource management, overseeing portfolios of activities focused on gender equality and social inclusion and land and resource management. And the other focused on small enterprise recovery in the West Bank and Gaza, where she serves as a climate change consultant.

Her previous work included research and program design for an energy security program in Vietnam and clean fuel transition research in Zambia. Gulick is an alumnus of Columbia University’s Sustainability Management (SUMA) program, and also holds a BS in Foreign Service from Georgetown University.

What inspired you to pursue the field of sustainability in the first place?

I’ve worked in international development for about 20 years, and the first part of my career was in business development (a lot of proposal writing). Over time, I gravitated more and more to working with a group that focused specifically on environmental issues. When a job opened up in that group, I moved into a technical role. Coincidentally, the day I found out about the job, I found out that I had also been accepted into the SUMA program!

What drew you to Columbia Climate School/SPS?

I am a student of the SUMA program. At first, I wanted a program geared toward working professionals—I had to look for evening classes—and I also wanted a program that was flexible and would allow me to focus specifically on issues related to my career. When I came back, I really enjoyed being a part of this faculty – I had some amazing professors. I am very interested to see how Climate School grows and improves.

What course are you teaching this fall and what are you most excited about?

This fall I will be teaching a class on Energy and Sustainable Development. It’s a class I took as a student, and I think one of the most interesting things about the class is energy, but also how to think about sustainable development and ask good questions. I think good questions are the foundation of good programs.

What changes do you hope to see in the future in the field of sustainability?

I hope we will look more into integrated programming. I think it will be more interesting and effective when we can develop programs that look at sustainable resource use, livelihoods, climate resilience, energy…all of them as a whole, and how to take into account the competition for resources.

What advice do you have for students pursuing a career in sustainability?

There are many different aspects to sustainability – from corporate initiatives to working on the ground with forest communities, from someone who loves the big picture to the data. I think knowing which pieces really speak to you can help narrow down your options. And don’t be afraid to take “hard” science and quantitative courses; They will be completely useful in the long run.


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